KILDARE 2-29 MAYO 0-19
By Richard Commins
A voracious Kildare side made light work of first-time finalists Mayo to secure their fourth (and most comfortable) Christy Ring Cup in nine years at a sparsely attended Croke Park this evening. The win puts them on top of the roll of honour in the competition, but they will hope not to have the opportunity to add to their tally over the next few years as they attempt to consolidate Joe McDonagh Cup status after one year away.
Kildare, who reached the final with an unblemished record of five wins and an average margin of nineteen points, proved far too good for a Mayo side they had beaten by thirty points in Ballina in their opening round robin game.
It was a case of men against boys at times, Kildare building an almost impenetrable blockade across their half-back line in the first half, keeping their hands around Mayo throats with absolute dominance of the underdogs’ puck outs, while the Lilywhite forward line were in sparkling form despite talisman Jack Sheridan starting on the bench after indifferent recent form.
With eight players from each team representing Naas and Toureen respectively, and the All-Ireland Intermediate Club semi-final between those sides having been as close as five points, it was a little disappointing that Mayo, who recovered from that opening day drubbing to win four on the trot, couldn’t produce a more competitive performance.
Kildare deserve plenty of credit for that, though. They won an incredible sixteen Mayo puckouts in the first half and with that sort of possession their forward power was always going to hold sway.
David Herity’s side almost got in for a goal in the opening minute, but Brian Byrne, playing in a more attacking role than of late from the start, found his way blocked but had the vision to spot Gerry Keegan free outside him. The Celbridge man split the posts, not for the final time by any means.
A long-range free from Shane Boland brought Mayo level before James Burke pointed at the other end. But after Eoin Delaney scored a fine point for Mayo, Kildare moved into overdrive.
Keegan and the hard-working Cathal McCabe registered two exquisite points before they struck for their first goal after ten minutes. Byrne got behind the cover in the left corner again and although his first effort was saved down low and Shane Ryan’s follow up was also blocked, captain Byrne picked up the pieces to fire home the loose ball.
Burke and McCabe tagged on two further points to leave Kildare ahead by 1-6 to 0-2 but Mayo Boland’s hit two points in a minute to give them hope.
It didn’t last long with Burke taking a firm hand on proceedings. Kildare scored six points in eight minutes to only one in return for Mayo, Burke scoring four of those, the others from Ryan and Keegan with Boland replying. That made it 1-12 to 0-5 after 26 minutes.
After Joe Mooney expertly cut over a sideline, McCabe’s exquisite cross field ball to Conan Byrne was the prelude for Byrne to score a fine team point and Keegan followed that up with another fine finish from 45 metres out.
Any hope of a Mayo comeback was put to bed on 31 minutes when Cathal Dowling shrugged off Mayo full-back Stephen Coyne to bury the ball to the net for the second goal.
Two further points from Burke and another from Keegan, with two from Boland in reply saw Kildare go into the half-time break with a lead of fifteen points (2-17 to 0-8).
The game needed a couple of early goals in the second half. That didn’t happen but Mayo were much more competitive after the break and regained some pride with Kildare adding twelve points to their eleven with the game played out with little more intensity than a challenge game.
Burke and Keegan stretched the lead to seventeen and after another Boland free, a brilliant pass from Byrne, now playing deeper, set up a Keegan score and young McCabe showed confidence beyond his years to score a fine point from a narrow angle. The young Maynooth man has had an outstanding first full year in senior ranks.
Joe McManus pulled one back for Mayo, but the lead moved out to nineteen by the 49th minute with Dowling and Keegan adding points. With Herity running his bench, and the game effectively won, the Westerners began to find scoring a little easier. They registered four of the next five through Keith Freeney, Sean Kenny, Boland and Keith Higgins, Keegan replying for Kildare.
After Byrne’s 58th minute effort, Mayo outscored Kildare by five points to four coming down the home stretch. Burke and Keegan (2) rounded off their scoring with substitute Paul Dolan also getting in on the act, with McManus, Boland (2) and substitute Freeney pointing for Mayo.
For Kildare, Burke and Keegan were outstanding, scoring 21 points between them, while Byrne was always in the thick of the action. Simon Leacy and the two Boran brothers were the pick of a defence which laid such a solid foundation, particularly under the Mayo puckout.
Keegan was the star turn in the second half for the Lilies, scoring six excellent points from play to bring his tally to ten while Burke finished with eleven, eight from placed balls.
KILDARE: Paddy McKenna; Niall Ó Muineacháin, Simon Leacy, Cathal Derivan; Kevin Whelan, Rian Boran, Conan Boran; Cathal McCabe 0-3, Paul Divilly; Gerry Keegan 0-10, James Burke 0-11 (7fs, 1’65), Johnny Byrne; Brian Byrne 1-2, Shane Ryan 0-1, Cathal Dowling 1-1. Subs: Jack Travers for Derivan 43, Mark Delaney for Divilly 44, Jack Sheridan for Ryan 47, Sean Christianseen for Whelan 56, Paul Dolan 0-1 for Dowling 62, Tom Finnerty for C. Boran (b/s 63).
MAYO: Bobby Douglas; Gary Nolan, Stephen Coyne, Paul Kirwan; Mark Phillips, Gerard McManus, David Kenny; Keith Higgins 0-1, Daniel Huane; Seán Kenny 0-1 (f), Joe Mooney 0-1 (s/l), Adrian Phillips; Eoin Delaney 0-1, Joe McManus 0-2, Shane Boland 0-10 (7fs). Subs: Kenny Freeney 0-3 (1f) for Kirwan 30, Eoghan Roe for M. Phillips HT, Conal Hession for Huane 49, Patrick Lyons for Delaney 62, Brian Hunt for S. Kenny 67.
REFEREE: Michael Kennedy (Tipperary).