Kildare learn their lesson to put mediocre Meath side to the sword
Cian O’Neill’s side conjure an excellent response to O’Byrne Cup defeat to Dublin
Kildare manager Cian O’Neill will want his team to build on Sunday’s win. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Kildare 3-17 Meath 0-16
It’s all about the alternative facts these days. Meath manager Andy McEntee said a couple of times afterwards that the difference between the sides here was that Kildare took three of their goal chances while Meath took none.
But even if he’s right on the numbers, you’d have been hard-pressed to find anyone in Páirc Tailteann to go along with the sentiment. This was a hiding from the moment debutant Ben McCormack rounded Donal Keogan and banged home Kildare’s first goal after 16 seconds.
Meath looked at times like they were lost deep in the forest and even the feeblest animals had made merry with the breadcrumbs. They repeatedly ran into problems on both 45-metre lines, neither able to shut down space around their own nor come up with anything creative when they made it as far as Kildare’s.
Just for a bonus, they gave Tommy Moolick and especially mark-hungry Kevin Feely the freedom of the skies around midfield.
Kildare had nine different scorers and the 3-17 they put together (3-15 of it from play) was their biggest single-game total in the league since 2012. McCormack, Niall Kelly and Daniel Flynn had barely a finger laid on them all afternoon and with the Cribbin brothers potting scores from distance at will, Meath were never able to staunch the bleeding for long enough to make this a game.
“We were exposed at the back a bit but I think that was down to not putting enough pressure on the ball,” McEntee said. “The quality of the ball that was going into their full-forward line was good. We weren’t putting enough pressure on it to make it a 50-50 ball, it was always a forward’s ball. I don’t want to name anybody without looking at the video but it looked like they had players getting forward too easily.”
That was putting it mildly. Kildare were sharp here, interchanging slickly and running well-drilled loops off each other to take passes and create space. But they faced little more than token resistance throughout. Keogan is Meath’s best defender and he was cleaned out; Shane McEntee was caught between going to the ball-carrier and defending the D all afternoon. Only Graham Reilly and Donal Lenihan made any shape in attack – and only then when the game was more or less gone.
For Kildare, this was a fine response to losing the O’Byrne Cup semi-final a fortnight ago. They followed up McCormack’s goal with five points from their next five shots, all from play. They kicked on into a 10-point lead when Niall Kelly stroked home their second goal as most of the Meath team seemed to stall in protest at the non-award of a penalty for a foul on Cillian O’Sullivan at the other end.
Even if they did look hard done by, the 2-6 to 0-2 scoreline after 23 minutes left limited room for blaming the referee. To their credit, they knuckled down for the rest of the half and kicked five points on the bounce, turning a forlorn hope into a mere five-point margin early in the second half.
But Kildare had spent two weeks learning the lessons of the Dublin game and they weren’t letting this one go as handy. Points from McCormack, Eoin Doyle and Paul Cribbin pushed them further ahead and when Kelly swivelled to plant home his second goal on 46 minutes, the day was done.
“It wasn’t just the Dublin game,” said manager Cian O’Neill afterwards. “What happened in that game happened in the Leinster semi-final last year as well. It happened in for nine minutes of madness in Castlebar. That was our big issue – a barrage of scores that overwhelmed us.”
Didn’t happen here. For this week at least, Kildare are on an upward curve.
MEATH: J Hannigan; D Keogan, C McGill, M Burke; B Power, S McEntee, A Forde (0-2); C O’Brien, B Menton (0-1); C O’Sullivan (0-2), G Reilly (0-4), A Douglas; E Wallace, B Sheridan, D Lenihan (0-7, 0-5 frees). Subs: S Lavin for Burke (bc, 22 mins); A Flanagan for Douglas (h-t); R Ó Coileán for Power (h-t); B O’Brien for Sheridan (47 mins); Conor Downey for Wallace (52 mins); Willie Carry for McEntee (65 mins).
KILDARE: M Donnellan; M O’Grady, D Hyland, O Lyons (0-1); J Byrne, E Doyle (0-1), K Cribbin (0-2); K Feely (0-1), T Moolick; F Conway, N Kelly (2-2), P Cribbin (0-3); N Flynn (0-3, 0-2 frees), D Flynn (0-1), B McCormack (1-3). Subs: C McNally for Conway (61 mins); P Kelly for O’Grady (63 mins); S Ryan for Byrne (65 mins); E Callaghan for Kelly (68 mins); D Slattery for McCormack; C Hartley for D Flynn.
Referee: Conor Branagan (Down)