3 Jan 2018 – Kildare 0-9 Louth 2-11 (O’Byrne Cup, Hawkfield)

The one-hour tailback at the Red Cow should have been our sign. But no. Starved of inter-county action for nearly six months, we ploughed on regardless.

We’re not really allowed to criticise an O’Byrne Cup performance apparently. Funnily enough we’re still asked to pay €11 into it (including €1 for a team sheet – we won’t call it a programme – that was essential given the absurdity of unlimited and revolving substitutions). Is it a match or a training session?

We’ll try to stick to the facts for the enlightenment of those sensible enough to stick to the couch.

Kildare were leaden-footed, defensively at sea, devoid of attacking ideas and their shooting was appalling. Fact.

Louth were spritely all over the field, defended in numbers when they had to, marked tightly, clever tactically and seemed to have footballers rather than athletes particularly in attacking areas. Fact.

They also had the benefit of a few extra weeks’ training and a run out against Longford on Saturday. Fact.

A lady near me referred to a certain Kildare player as Kim Kardashian. Fact. I’m assuming she was referring to his well-wintered derrière as I haven’t come across his reality TV show.

Kildare lined out with Peter Kelly replacing Mick O’Grady at full back and in all 22 of the listed match-day panel got a run out. None will take any great satisfaction from it.

While all of the newcomers and returnees had a moment or two that showcased the reason for their call-up, it was never sustained and on this evidence a very different team will line out on the 27th of January.

Louth had the game pretty much wrapped up inside the first quarter. Three early points playing up the hill settled them while Kildare were getting their passing wires crossed and kickouts were going astray as Carbury minor Aaron O’Neill was “enjoying” a baptism of fire at senior level.

Some defensive looseness was understandable with four new backs on show but you wouldn’t expect Louth to waltz through players trying to make an impression for two goals and crash another chance off the cross bar within the first 11 minutes.

Tadhg McEneaney scored both goals, the first when he judged the flight of a ball better than Eoin Powderly to steal behind the Kilcock man and coolly bury his chance past O’Neill on 6 minutes.

He then rattled the cross-bar on the 10th minute before making amends a minute later, taking advantage of a Johnny Byrne pass going astray to fire home at the second attempt after O’Neill’s save. 2-3 to 0-1 at that stage with Brian McLoughlin grabbing the sole reply for Kildare from a free.

It was hardly in the script but Cian O’Neill called for the cavalry as early as the 15th minute with Eoin Doyle summoned from the bench to replace Byrne at no.6. That did improve things but Kildare were still looser than you’d like.

Kildare’s attacking play was actually the root cause of their defensive woes. In the pre-match warm-up the usual game of backs and forwards invariably saw three Kildare players hand-pass their way through a defensive line to score a picturebook goal.

Reality bites though when a dozen Louth men are lined up inside their 45 metre line while Kildaremen plough a furrow width-ways across the pitch hand-passing back and forth before the inevitably the move breaks down and with inexperienced wing-backs caught forward Louth create an overlap that even the covering Doyle can do little to counteract. Finger in the dyke stuff.

Mark Sherry, in glimpses, had looked the liveliest of Kildare’s forwards, but even his attempts to break through the cover at pace were relatively short-lived.

It was only really the arrival of Neil Flynn from the bench that spurred a revival towards half-time. Luke Flynn had grabbed the home team’s first point from play after 24 minutes and Kevin Flynn had another five minutes later, but Flynn looked like he could turn the screw on Louth with three fine points in a purple patch in the last four minutes of the half.

Kildare were down to a five point gap – 0-7 to 2-6 at the break.

You felt we’d make a go of it in the second-half, although the wind advantage we were expecting didn’t materialise as Storm Eleanor had clearly had enough of Leinster pre-season football and slipped quietly out the Hawkfield gate.

The second-half was more turgid than the first. Louth were not going to lie down and tacked on three points in the opening 15 minutes of the half to effectively seal the deal.

Kildare meanwhile deteriorated further in an attacking sense, with Flynn failing to maintain his influence. Kevin Feely’s black card for a needless obstruction on Jim McEneaney on 42 minutes was a further blow, although the Athy man was having one of those frustrating nights when nothing seems to go for him.

Whether that black card has repercussions given it’s his third in a year (we’ve been here before) is one I’ll leave up to the disciplinary experts. Presumably it would only mean he can’t play against Longford?

With benches emptying (ridiculous) the game disintegrated further as it went on with Kildare not getting onto the scoreboard in the second period until Byrne, back on the field after his earlier embarrassment, fired over on 62 minutes. Chris Healy added a second right on full time but Louth had followed Eleanor out the gate at the stage and were worthy 8 points winners.

Kildare’s efforts to make a game of it were largely thwarted by (to be polite) erratic shooting. We won’t name player names here but there must be a blacksmith or two up the road in the Curragh who could re-shoe a few before the serious business starts?

The Player Ratings make grim reading. Opinion not facts so straying somewhat from the mantra but one way to give those not present a sense of it:

Aaron O’Neill – 6 – very tough debut for the teenager. Couldn’t do much about the goals. Struggled with his kick outs early on. Head didn’t drop though and was solid as the game went on.

Mickey Kelly – 6 – for someone known to be one of the “stickiest” backs in the club game, he must have found this disconcerting. Struggled to contain his man early on but grew into the game and got on some good ball at times. Has good attributes and may get another chance.

Peter Kelly – 5 – at sea during that disastrous opening quarter. Got a nose bleed when put through on goal in second half and shovelled the ball over the end line.

Eoin Powderly – 5 – horrible return for the Kilcock man who never got going really. His man had something of a field day. Seemingly injured when going off.

Daniel Courtney – 6 – lovely footballer who looked stylish coming forward in possession but part of an over-run half back line in first half.

Johnny Byrne – 5 – presumably his role was to bring experience and defensive organisation to the half back line. Didn’t happen and got an early and curly finger.

Kevin Flynn – 6 – worked hard up and down the field, scored a good point, and didn’t look out of place in general. Like Kelly he probably warrants another go but nothing conclusive on this display.

Kevin Feely – 5 – Kildare struggled at midfield in the first half and while Feely worked hard he was involved in a passing mix-up for one of the goals and his shooting was off-cue all day. Discipline remains a problem with another unnecessary black card.

Luke Flynn – 6 – decent showing without rising to great heights. Louth’s Durnin had the better of him in general and Flynn struggled with the Louth man’s extra height. Mobile though and could yet be a decent foil for Feely.

Fergal Conway – 5 – this was more the Leinster Final Conway. No impact in the first half, did a little better in the second half but with no end product.

David Slattery – 6 – ran fast. Ran a lot. Seemed to be playing on a different wavelength to most of his colleagues though. Perhaps less his fault and more theirs but nothing really came off for him.

Mark Sherry – 6 – good start. Powerful runner who was able to break the cover a couple of times. Faded though.

Brian McLoughlin – 5 – rather anonymous from general play. Tough debut. Very closely marked and swallowed up whenever he got possession. Scored a couple of frees.

Chris Healy – 6 – drifted out particularly in second half and while he got on quite a lot of ball it was generally to little effect and you’d probably prefer to see him closer to goal.

Cathal McNally – 5 – looked lean and fit but no real impact on the game before he went off after a heavy knock. Louth full back line were very tight and inside forwards struggled to get possession.


Eoin Doyle 6 – brought some improvement but horse had bolted even at that early stage. Drove team forward at times. Shouted a lot.

Neil Flynn 6 – a brilliant but short spell on introduction with fine scores. Faded though. No second half impact.

Keith Cribbin – 5 – came on twice as sub but rarely involved.

Tommy Moolick – 6 – plenty of possession but wasteful at times. Not at his best this time of year.

Cian O’Donoghue – 5 – struggling to make an impact of late at this level. Not very involved here.

Paschal Connell – 6 – struggling to make an impression at senior level. Shooting let him down a couple of times.

Fionn Dowling – 5 – no real impact.

Scorers for Kildare: Neil Flynn 0-3, Brian McLoughlin (2f) 0-2, Luke Flynn, Kevin Flynn, Johnny Byrne, Chris Healy 0-1

Kildare Line Up:

Pos Player Sub Sub
1 Aaron O’Neill
2 Mikey Kelly
3 Peter Kelly
4 Eoin Powderly Cian O’Donoghue (47)
5 Daniel Courtney Johnny Byrne (43)
6 Johnny Byrne Eoin Doyle (15)
7 Kevin Flynn
8 Kevin Feely Tommy Moolick (43)
9 Luke Flynn Pascal Connell (48)
10 Fergal Conway
11 David Slattery
12 Mark Sherry Keith Cribbin (43)
13 Brian McLoughlin Fionn Dowling (48)
14 Chris Healy Keith Cribbin (30) Chris Healy (HT)
15 Cathal McNally Neil Flynn (22)