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Aaron O'Neill and Tony Archbold celebrate at Bord Na Mona O'Connor Park.
Aaron O'Neill and Tony Archbold celebrate at Bord Na Mona O'Connor Park.

EirGrid Leinster U20 Final: Kildare claim title

EirGrid Leinster Under 20 Championship Final


By Kevin Egan at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, Tullamore

An incredible fortnight for Kildare football that has seen the county enjoy minor success over Longford and a memorable senior victory over Mayo was crowned in spectacular fashion at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park in Tullamore as their U-20 footballers delivered a scintillating all round performance that outclassed Dublin ensuring that they will go down in history as the first ever Leinster champions at this new age grade.

Despite earning provincial glory at minor level two years ago, Dublin’s comprehensive win over Meath at the semi-final stage of this competition ensured that the boys in blue travelled to the midlands as favourites to write their names onto this trophy, and for the first 25 minutes, that script was followed.

Kildare played with the aid of a deceptively strong breeze, but never took the lead, as Dublin used the ball intelligently, creating scoring chances from good positions with patient, accurate build-up play. Kildare, in contrast, seemed hugely dependent on the mercurial brilliance of Jimmy Hyland to keep the scoreboard moving. Five different players in blue jerseys as Tom Gray’s side edged themselves into an 0-5 to 0-4 lead, seemingly very well-poised to kick on and drive for victory after half time.

In the 26th minute, the gave turned decisively. Cormac Howley fed Tom Keane on the edge of the Kildare square, but the angle was acute as the Naomh Olaf man tried to pick out the bottom corner of the net. Kildare goalkeeper Aaron O’Neill got down very well to deny Keane’s shot and less than ten seconds later Kildare had worked down the field to set up Tony Archbold for the equalising point, and for the rest of the first half, the Lily Whites were simply superb.

Jimmy Hyland continued to fire over points from all angles and he hit two wonderful scores, one from a long-range free and one from play. Brian McLoughlin split the uprights from out on the stand-side touchline and Padraig Nash, who was effervescent at centre forward throughout, added two equally impressive scores to make it 0-10 to 0-5 at the break.

Nathan Doran, Dublin, and Brian McLoughlin, Kildare, in EirGrid Leinster Under 20 Final action at Bord Na Mona O'Connor Park, Tullamore.
Nathan Doran, Dublin, and Brian McLoughlin, Kildare, in EirGrid Leinster Under 20 Final action at Bord Na Mona O'Connor Park, Tullamore.

Dublin needed a fast start after half time to make meaningful inroads into that gap, but in order to do that they needed the ball and Kildare’s midfield were imperious, led by captain Aaron Masterson. They controlled possession and while Dublin kicked points from Tom Keane and Ross McGarry, Kildare were always able to reply and maintained their five-point lead.

After 41 minutes, substitute Shane O’Sullivan kicked a point that epitomised everything that was best about Kildare’s performance on the night. For over a minute Kildare retained possession, moving the ball across the line and trying to pick out an opening. Twice it looked as if the ball had been turned over, but first Brian McLoughlin and then Jimmy Hyland got a vital touch, denied Dublin a clean ball and kept the move going. Eventually the ball was recycled and David Marnell found O’Sullivan for a crucial point.

In that 10-minute spell right in the middle of the half, Kildare held Dublin scoreless and added two points of their own, forcing Dublin to chase goals in the closing stages. Keane had one chance from 15 metres, but his effort was partially blocked and fizzed over the bar thanks to great work by Mark Barrett.

A foul on Hyland allowed Kildare to crown their win with a penalty goal from Tony Archbold, perfectly placed into the top corner, and while Dublin tacked on the last two points of the game, they couldn’t mask the comprehensive manner of the Lily Whites’ famous win.

Scorers for Kildare: Jimmy Hyland 0-8 (6fs), Tony Archbold 1-1 (1-0 pen), Padraig Nash 0-3, Paddy Woodgate, Brian McLoughlin, Shane O’Sullivan 0-1 each.

Dublin: Tom Keane 0-4 (1f), Seán Bugler 0-3, James Doran, Cormac Howley & Ross McGarry 0-1 each

KILDARE: Aaron O’Neill; Mark Dempsey, Mark Barrett, DJ Earley; Tony Archbold, Jack Bambrick, Jason Gibbons; Aaron Masterson, David Marnell; Darragh Ryan, Padraig Nash, Ruadhán O’Giolláin; Paddy Woodgate, Brian McLoughlin, Jimmy Hyland.

Subs: Matthew Betts Symonds for Bambrick (14, blood), Shane O’Sullivan for Nash (38) Cian Costigan for Marnell (49), Sam Doran for Woodgate (53), Niall Murphy for McLoughlin (60), Jack Barrett for Earley (60+3), Matthew Betts Symonds for Murphy (60+3, black card).

DUBLIN: David O’Hanlon; Ciaran Smith, Nathan Doran, Nathan Nolan; Kieran Kennedy, Neil Matthews, Eoin O’Dea; Donal Ryan, Sean Bugler; Tom Keane, James Madden, Ross McGarry; Dan O’Brien, James Doran, Cormac Howley.

Subs: Karl Lynch Bissett for Howley (34), James Holland for O’Brien (43), Simon King for McGarry (52), Eoghan Fitzpatrick for Ryan (56), Daniel Brennan for Doran (58).

REFEREE: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).

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