Meath left spitting mad after Kildare defeat

Kildare and Mayo join top flight as teams feel the heat in promotion and relegation battles

With most of the country being irradiated on the hottest weekend of the year, what would normally have been a torrid championship afternoon was instead borrowed from central casting for the league’s denouement.

Over two days all manner of issues were advanced: relegation, promotion, pre-championship injury scares and the almost metaphysical concept of this year’s hurling league final.

More concrete and more real were the weekend’s promotion and relegation battles.

Meath and Kildare’s Division Two semi-final - or, promotion eliminator - ended in controversy with Meath manager Andy McEntee claiming that one of his players had been spat at, causing a late fracas that saw a number of players shown cards.


“Don’t talk to me about the sendings off,” said McEntee. “We had a player who got spat on in the face and he ends up getting sent off so I mean . . . how many players were involved in that? A) how many players were involved in it, and B) who started it? And what was the outcome? It seems slightly imbalanced to me. But obviously I’m biased.

“Conor McGill is not a fighter. Somebody spits in your face, what are you going to do? There’s no appealing it, you’re wasting your time appealing. That’s always been my experience. If the referee says he struck, he struck.”

Jack O'Connor's Kildare won by three points and they will play at the top level in 2022. He declined to join the discussion on the unruly scenes at the end.

A place in the top flight was also on offer in the weekend’s epic in Clones where Monaghan were one-point winners 1-21 to 2-18 over Galway after extra time.

It was a sickener for the Westerners who lead by three points going into injury-time and even after a Darren Hughes goal had levelled it, Mattie Tierney kicked a 45 to edge them ahead. It took one of those Conor McManus points when surrounding defenders have all but handcuffed him to take the match to extra time. Even then it wasn't until the fourth minute of injury time that Jack McCarron finally kicked Monaghan clear.

Galway will pass neighbours Mayo on the way down. The Connacht champions edged Clare in a close than expected match and have now made an immediate return to the top. In the other match relevant to the division, Armagh defeated Roscommon to condemn the latter to a third relegation from the top flight in five seasons.

The Division One football title will be shared between Kerry and Dublin, who both won their Saturday semi-finals but once the holders had walloped Tyrone in Killarney, no final could take place as the Munster championship starts in two weeks and the counties must have a fortnight's preparation.

Because of this provision, none of the divisional finals will take place, as championship moves seamlessly into view.

Dublin and Donegal went through the motions in Cavan later on Saturday evening and the All-Ireland champions duly progressed to the theoretical final.

One of the most eye-opening outcomes of the weekend came in Division Three - whence Derry and Offaly have been promoted - of the AFL where two of 2020's most celebrated teams, Cavan and Tipperary, who won historic provincial titles and picked up four All Stars between them, both ended up relegated to Division Four after defeats by Wicklow and Longford, respectively.

Passing them in the other direction will be Antrim and Louth, both managed by former Tyrone All-Ireland winners, Enda McGinley and Mickey Harte respectively.

Hurling had less dramatic prospects to offer. Tipperary fell away dramatically in the second half against Waterford to lose their chance to qualify for a final against Kilkenny. Instead they were overtaken by Galway, whose late surge took the points in Cork.

That opens up the possibility that the league final will be added as a prize on the side to this summer's Leinster final should both Galway and Kilkenny win their semi-finals.

Of great concern to Liam Cahill, Waterford's manager were injuries to key players Austin Gleeson (ankle), Shane Fives (quad) and Conor Prunty (quad). He has two weeks to get them back for the championship opener against Clare. Brian Lohan's team staged a strong finish to beat Kilkenny for a third successive win - not bad considering they opened with two defeats.