Kildare see off Westmeath to set up Dublin showdown

Kildare’s forwards catch fire as Glenn Ryan’s side reach Leinster final

Kildare 1-21 Westmeath 2-15

You could argue that Kildare began this game with a three-point handicap by conceding a goal after just 12 seconds to Westmeath's Ronan O'Toole. It didn't prevent them from winning and returning to the Leinster final, however, with Glenn Ryan's side giving what was at times an attacking masterclass to secure back-to-back final berths.

Daniel Flynn only scored two points but was at his creative best and provided the ammunition for the likes of Jimmy Hyland, Darragh Kirwan and Ben McCormack to shoot down Westmeath, sending the Division 3 team into the Tailteann Cup.

Flynn played the ball across for Hyland to palm in Kildare’s eighth minute goal, a score that moved them into the lead for the first time and they remained in front from there on. Hyland finished with 1-4 while McCormack and Kirwan split 10 points evenly between them.

Westmeath to their credit, didn’t lay down and were still there battling hard at the death with five of the game’s last six points to leave just three points in it.

Westmeath manager Jack Cooney argued that referee Sean Hurson was a little miserly with his stoppage time allowance and that if another minute or so had been played, the 2004 Leinster champions may very well have pinched an equalising goal given their momentum.

It’s all ifs and buts though and, in truth, Kildare were pretty good value for their progression.

The bigger issue is whether Ryan and his management team have moved Kildare on enough to potentially compete with Dublin on May 28th.

“Do I think that performance will win us the Leinster final?” asked Ryan. “I doubt it. It was a performance that got us over the line. We kicked some good scores but I’d still be expecting an improvement in all areas for the next day.

“I’d be happy enough, to a degree, that we got ourselves back in the position we did considering the start but there were probably areas that we need to improve upon.”

The positives for Kildare were that their forward unit caught fire. Between the six that started, they contributed 1-18. According to Westmeath manager Cooney his side conceded 1-8 off turnovers in the first-half alone, underlining just how hard the Kildare forwards were working.

The chief downside from Kildare’s perspective is the 2-15 they conceded, 2-14 of which was from play. At times, it was like a hurling game as the sides traded scores and blows.

On the early goal concession, Kildare manager Ryan shrugged.

“I suppose if you’re going to concede a goal, it’s the best time to do it,” he said. “You can look at the videos and the whole lot I suppose but at the end of the day, you have to say they took their goal chance very well. The opportunity was there, they smelt blood and they went for it and took it brilliantly.”

Kildare steadied themselves and built on Hyland's goal to twice open up six-point leads before Jamie Gonoud pounced for Westmeath's second major after 33 minutes.

There was a touch of fortune as Gonoud's initial handpass to Ronan Wallace, who also set up the first goal, broke favourably into his path and allowed him to kick to an empty net. Kevin Flynn and McCormack responded with points, steadying Kildare and leaving them 1-13 to 2-6 clear at half-time.

They would increase that lead to seven following a strong third quarter, Hyland’s 49th minute point leaving them 1-19 to 2-9 ahead.

Kildare didn’t score from play again though and Westmeath found an extra gear to outscore the Lilies 0-5 to 0-1 in the run in, perhaps providing momentum ahead of the Tailteann Cup.

"It's just a matter of us refocusing now," said Cooney. "We totally respect the Tailteann Cup competition. And if we can get back up here to play in Croke Park, it means we're in the Tailteann final and we'll be pushing for that."

Kildare: M Donnellan; M Joyce, S Ryan, M O'Grady; T Archbold (0-1), J Murray, K Flynn (0-1); K Feely, K O'Callaghan; A Beirne (0-1), B McCormack (0-5, 1m), P Cribbin (0-1); D Kirwan (0-5, 1f), D Flynn (0-2, 1m), J Hyland (1-4, 0-1f). Subs: P McDermott for Cribbin (49 mins), D Hyland for Joyce (54), F Conway for O'Callaghan (58), N Flynn (0-1, 1f) for Hyland (61), A Masterson for Feely (49).

Westmeath: J Daly; J Smith, K Maguire, D Giles; N Harte (0-1), R Wallace, J Gonoud (1-0); R Connellan (0-2), S McCartan (0-4); J Lynam, R O'Toole (1-3), D Lynch; G Egan, J Heslin (0-4, 1f), A Gardiner. Subs: L Loughlin (0-1) for Lynam (34 mins), S Duncan for Gardiner (49), J Dolan for Lynch (55), K Martin for Egan (62), R Forde for Giles (68).

Ref: S Hurson (Tyrone).

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