Kildare hang tough to see off Wexford
Cian O’Neill’s side only manage two points in second half but do just about enough
Wexford’s Simon Donohoe and Michael Furlong tackle Neil Flynn of Kildare. Photo: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Kildare 0-9 Wexford 0-8
Kildare are through to a Leinster semi-final but there was no hiding the disappointment with the manner of victory.
As a team that spent the spring in Division 3, thoughts that they could steamroll Wexford always seemed farfetched but it was the manner in which they failed to execute even the basic of skills in the second half that betrayed the fear that almost reduced them to paralysis.
Cian O’Neill made no bones about it when asked if it felt like a win. “No” said the boss with disarming openness. “It feels like we’re still in the Championship. But win or lose, we still would have been in the Championship.”
Apart from offering an insight into the standing of the provincial competition, it was unusual to see a victorious manager so downbeat.
While Wexford should be credited with an improved second-half showing that deserved a replay, the manner of Kildare’s drop in standards was startling. That they only managed two points in the second half, registered in two minutes at the beginning of the fourth quarter by substitutes Eamonn Callaghan and Cian O’Donoghue after Wexford had drawn level with four unanswered point, was a fair indication of their lack of thrust.
“The second half was hugely disappointing because we just seemed like we went into ourselves. We stopped doing the things that were working for us in the first half and were working quite effectively. And when Wexford got a run on us in the second half, as all good teams do, we just went into ourselves even more.
“Our turnover rate, our fouls conceded stats were way up in the second half, which is a sure sign that you’re not performing at your best.”
That those two points were enough to edge Kildare over the line told of Wexford’s lack of attacking danger. Forced to kick from distance as their opponents used any two of Doyle, Morgan O’Flaherty, Ryan Houlihan and Emmet Bolton as sweepers, David Power’s men were not up to the task.
And yet the Wexford manager appeared more positive than his victorious counterpart.
“The bottom line that cost us is that we weren’t able to put the ball over the bar,” said Power. “We have to be self-critical there. The simple facts are we created the chances and we didn’t put the ball over the bar.
“A lot of people have been doubting Wexford football. When I got the job Wexford was on a downward curve but I think we’ve shown it there tonight that we’re getting it back up, maybe not where it was yet but we’re getting there.”
Kildare lost Kevin Feely with what O’Neill reckoned initially was a separated AC joint in his shoulder but by that stage Wexford had wrested control of the middle third anyway.
Without being outstanding, Kildare looked relatively comfortable at half time, leading 0-7 to 0-3 despite conceding a point in the first attack to John Tubritt.
Wexford only managed a pointed free from Donal Shanley and a towering effort by Colm Kehoe for the remainder of the first half as Tubritt and Ciarán Lyng struggled to gain any traction. In contrast, Alan Smith and Neil Fynn were getting on plenty of ball and managed two points each from play in that opening period.
Apparently Kildare spoke of needing to do more in an offensive sense at the interval but it was like they ended up not doing much of anything.
Shanley halved the deficit with a couple of frees and excellent scores from Shane Roche and Kevin Grady brought the sides level. Callaghan restored Kildare’s lead with his first touch, and O’Donoghue followed up with a brilliant solo score. Shanley landed another free but despite having plenty of possession and five minutes of injury time, Wexford could not find an equaliser.
Kildare: M Donnellan, P Kelly, D Hyland, O Lyons, E Doyle, F Conway, R Houlihan, K Feely, T Moolick, M O’Flaherty, E O’Flaherty, E Bolton, P Cribbin, A Smith, N Flynn. Subs: A Tyrrell for Cribbin (47), C O’Donoghue for Bolton (50), E Callaghan for Smith (54), P O’Neill for E O’Flaherty (59), F Dowling for Feely (61), K Murnaghan for M O’Flaherty (70+2)
Scorers for Kildare: N Flynn 0-3(1f); A Smith 0-2; M O’Flaherty, O Lyons, C O’Donoghue, E Callaghan 0-1 each
Wexford: A Masterson, S Donohoe, J Wadding, J Rossiter, E Nolan, M Furlong, B Malone, C Kehoe, D Waters, K O’Grady, PJ Banville, B Brosnan, D Shanley, C Lyng, J Tubritt. Subs: A Flynn for Shanley blood (16-19), K Butler for Furlong (31), S Roche for Tubritt (ht), Flynn for Banville (47), R Tierney for Kehoe (57), S Byrne for Malone (64)
Scorers for Wexford: D Shanley 0-4(fs); C Kehoe, K O’Grady, J Tubritt, S Roche 0-1 each
Referee: R Hickey (Clare)