EirGrid Leinster U20: Kildare march on
EirGrid Leinster Under 20 Football Championship Semi-Final
KILDARE 3-14 OFFALY 2-5
By Kevin Egan at Bord Na Mona O’Connor Park
A ruthlessly efficient performance from Kildare’s U-20 footballers, kickstarted by a truly stunning burst of scoring power in the opening minutes, easily accounted for Offaly in the Leinster Under 20 Championship semi-final, played in searing hot conditions at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park in Tullamore.
For most of this game, Kildare’s performance was controlled, purposeful and impressive. For the first eight minutes, it was utterly irresistible as they moved the ball short and long, but always at pace, always hitting the target and always setting up high quality chances for their inside forward line.
The foundations for their superiority were firmly rooted at midfield, where captain Aaron Masterson put in an incredible performance in the air and on the ground, winning ball and using it brilliantly.
The visitors’ kick passing was precise and well-judged, and within 90 seconds points from Padraig Nash and Brian McLoughlin got them off the mark. The third minute of the game still hadn’t fully expired when Paddy Woodgate got on the end of a move involving those two players and lashed the ball across Barry Rohan into the Offaly net to push the lead out to five – and it didn’t stop there.
A simple high ball into McLoughlin yielded a second goal after seven minutes as the 2016 Leinster minor champions continue to pile on the pressure, while Nash and Jimmy Hyland kicked some glorious points into the glare of the low sun, beaming in from the Arden road end of the Tullamore field.
Cian Johnson and Conor Dunne combined for the latter to whip in a goal in response but Offaly’s forays forward were all too rare, even when the tempo of Kildare’s play dropped after their whirlwind start.
Yet when Kevin McDermott goaled to make it 2-7 to 2-1 at half time, rattling the top corner from 18 metres after Kildare backed off expecting a pass, Offaly had the wind to come and were entitled to believe that a win was still on the table for them.
They needed a fast start to the second half however and instead their free-scoring forward line, who shot 5-52 in their three previous games in the championship, was utterly shut out as Kildare continued to monopolise possession, slowly turning the screw.
Jimmy Hyland (twice), Aaron Masterson, and Brian McLoughlin all pointed before McLoughlin got on the end of a good team move to palm in their third goal and reduce the closing minutes to a pedestrian affair.
Offaly fought hard in those closing minutes and a point from Cian Johnson, as well as scores from substitutes Jack Darcy and Robin Galbraith, took the bare look off the scoreboard, but there was no doubting that they were second best to a Kildare side that will now contest a Leinster final against the winners of tomorrow night’s clash between Meath and Dublin.
Scorers for Kildare: Brian McLoughlin 2-2, Padraig Nash and Jimmy Hyland (0-1f) 0-3 each, Paddy Woodgate 1-0, Aaron Masterson, Stephen Comerford, Ruadhán Ó’Giolláin, Cian Costigan, Niall Murphy and Tony Archbold 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: Conor Dunne 1-1, Kevin McDermott 1-0, Jack Darcy, Cian Farrell (f), Cian Johnson & Robin Galbraith 0-1 each.
KILDARE: Aaron O’Neill; Mark Dempsey, Jason Gibbons, DJ Earley; Tony Archbold, Mark Barrett, Stephen Comerford; Aaron Masterson, David Marnell; Ruadhan O’Giollain, Padraig Nash, Darragh Ryan; Paddy Woodgate, Jimmy Hyland, Brian McLoughlin.
Subs: Cian Costigan for Woodgate (44), Sam Doran for McLoughlin (47, black card), Niall Murphy for Hyland (49), Matthew Betts Symonds for Ryan (52), Shane O’Sullivan for Marnell (52), Jack Barrett for Comerford (52).
OFFALY: Barry Rohan; Ronan Hynes, Pa Robilliard, Aidan Bracken; Jack O’Brien, Stefan Geoghegan, Jack Quinn; Kyle Higgins, Sean Ibbotson; Kevin McDermott Cian Johnson, Dan Wyer; Conor Dunne, Cian Farrell, Shane O’Brien.
Subs: Ed Bennett for Bracken (39), Jack Darcy for O’Brien (39), Robin Galbraith for Wyer (42), Andrew Delaney for Ibbotson (47), Seamus O’Brien for J O’Brien (54).
REFEREE: John Hickey (Carlow).