Wicklow let Kildare off the hook in madcap and frantic finale

Injury-time Jack Sargent point sends lucky Kildare into Leinster semi-finals

Leinster SFC quarter-final: Kildare 0-16 Wicklow 1-12

Oisín McConville called it gutting while Glenn Ryan wasn’t quite sure how to sum it up. In a manic endgame, Jack Sargent proved to be the calmest man at O’Moore Park as his point in the fifth minute of injury time won this Leinster SFC quarter-final for 13-man Kildare.

Sargent’s score came just seconds after Wicklow had squandered a glorious opportunity, with Matt Nolan kicking wide of an open goal at the other end of the pitch.

Kildare, who had Kevin Flynn sent off in the 30th minute, led 0-15 to 0-12 with the encounter in the second added minute of the four announced when Eoin Doyle was turned over in defence and the dispossession sent Kevin Quinn straight through on goal.

Doyle scampered back and cynically rugby tackled the Wicklow forward. In doing so the Kildare centre back conceded a penalty and received a black card.


Oisín McGraynor made no mistake with the penalty, drilling it beyond Mark Donnellan. Draw game, Kildare down to 13, and the wind in Wicklow’s sails as they searched for back-to-back Leinster SFC victories for the first time since 1989.

Wicklow turned Kildare over again moments later, further out the field this time, and as they broke wing back Nolan carried possession forward. History beckoned. Donnellan was way out of goal while Kildare were light on numbers back. But rather than carry the ball further forward, Nolan attempted to shoot for a goal from 45 metres out, only for his effort to bounce agonisingly wide of the right post.

“In hindsight, we’d all work it [in], but we had the same opportunity against Down, carried it and we butchered it,” said McConville. “We said the next time we have the opportunity that if we turned the ball over would we have a go, so we’ll all take responsibility for that one, it’s not just one player.”

Alex Beirne won the resulting kick-out and the passage of play finished with a Kevin Feely skied shot, his first mis-hit of the day, but the ball dropped dangerously in front of the Wicklow goal. Niall Kelly won it, offloaded to Sargent and the Kildare wing back fisted over from close range. Game over. The Wicklow players reacted to the final whistle with a synchronised collapse to the ground.

“It’s gutting,” added McConville. “It’s very difficult to know what to say to players.”

It was a game Kildare had led from the eighth minute until McGraynor’s injury-time penalty, and yet at the final whistle it felt like a win they had snatched.

“Hard to put into words really,” stated a relieved Ryan. “But the one thing you’d take out of it is that it could have been very easy after the few months we’ve had, and after the way the last couple of minutes went from our own perspective, for fellahs to sit back and say, ‘Well, not again, here we go’ and let it happen.”

The Lilywhites played with the wind in the first half and their high press on Shane Doyle’s kick-outs had Wicklow struggling to retain possession on their restarts.

Feely was hugely influential, he brought a calmness to Kildare’s play and finished the game with 0-7, four off his left, three off his right.

The impressive Niall Kelly floated over a couple of neat points midway through the half and Kildare led 0-8 to 0-5 in the 30th minute when they were reduced to 14 men.

Kevin Flynn arrived late and with a high elbow to catch Patrick O’Keane on the left side of his face, leaving referee Seán Lonergan with little option but to brandish a red card.

Kildare were 0-9 to 0-7 ahead at the break but Wicklow appeared to have taken the momentum. However, to Kildare’s credit they grabbed the initiative back by scoring the first three points of the second half with Paddy Woodgate, Feely and Kelly all on target.

Woodgate had replaced the injured Daniel Flynn just before the break, and Kildare also lost their captain Mick O’Grady to injury during the opening period. Unfortunately for Wicklow, a heavy shower during half-time saw the wind fade away, but they did rally to keep it a one-score game entering injury time when in a madcap finale Sargent had the last word.

“We do not want any more moral victories or pats on the back,” said McConville. “We want to win games. We want to progress.”

But it is Kildare who progress.

“I’m just so bloody happy for these fellahs,” said Ryan. “They wouldn’t have deserved to lose that.”

This was their first win of the season having lost all seven league matches and it’s a result that now leaves them just one victory away from the Leinster final, and thus a place in the All-Ireland SFC. In a manic instant, Kildare’s season has opened up.

KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Ryan Burke, Shea Ryan, Mick O’Grady; Jack Sargent (0-1), Eoin Doyle, Paddy McDermott; Aaron Masterson (0-1), Kevin Flynn; Shane Farrell, Niall Kelly (0-3), Alex Beirne; Kevin Feely (0-7, 0-5f), Darragh Kirwan (0-2), Daniel Flynn.

Subs: Brian Byrne for O’Grady (inj, 24 mins); Paddy Woodgate (0-2, 0-1f) for D Flynn (inj, 35+3); Tony Archbold for McDermott (61); Harry O’Neill for Byrne (inj, 64); Shane O’Sullivan for Farrell (70).

WICKLOW: Shane Doyle; Tom Moran (0-1), Malachy Stone, Cillian McDonald; Darragh Fee (0-1), Patrick O’Keane (0-1), Matt Nolan; Craig Maguire, Jack Kirwan; Jonathan Carlin, Dean Healy (0-2), Gavin Fogarty; John Paul Nolan (0-1), Kevin Quinn (0-2, 2f), Christopher O’Brien (0-2).

Subs: Gearóid Murphy (0-1) for Carlin (33 mins); Oisín McGraynor (1-1, 1-0 penalty, 0-1f) for Maguire (62); Joe Prendergast for Kirwan (70).;

Referee: Seán Lonergan (Tipperary).

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times