Match Report from the Kildare Nationalist:


By Richard Commins

The harsh realities of Division 1 football hit home hard as Kildare went down to a five-point defeat in stormy Ballybofey on Sunday with a performance that was something of a throw-back to the bad old days after the positivity of the previous weekend’s draw with Kerry.

The most vivid flashbacks involved Donegal’s Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Ryan McHugh slicing seemingly at will through the heart of the defence with Kildare players failing to track their runs. Time and again a simple hand-pass opened up the path to Aaron O’Neill’s goal.

That sort of defensive laxness is surely anathema to a man like Glenn Ryan and will need to be sorted out quickly if Kildare are to have a chance of retaining their topflight status.

That weakness led to the concession of two goals in the run-up to half-time that left the visitors playing catch-up, six points behind and with the tricky crosswind they’d faced in the opening period waning in ferocity.

While it might have been harsh on Donegal, Kildare might still have rescued the game, and had the chances to do so but they shot eight wides in the second half and failed to create a real goal-scoring opportunity with long-balls into a tightly marked Daniel Flynn invariably escaping the clutches of the frustrated Johnstownbridge man. The words ‘bar’ and ‘soap’ sprang to mind one more than one occasion.

Donegal were ominously dominant early on, gobbling up possession around midfield. After a poor wide from Paddy McBrearty, the impressive Conor O’Donnell opened their account in the third minute.

Kildare’s first attack came a minute later and pocket dynamo Jimmy Hyland, by a country mile their most dangerous forward on the day, won and converted a mark in front of the posts to level things up.

Donegal had already turned over two of O’Neill’s long kick-outs at that stage and went on to do so six times in the opening half whenever the Carbury man was forced long. Whether this was the day to re-introduce him between the posts is open to question. He certainly got a searching examination in the conditions on his first start for four years.

O’Neill got his hands to a Jason McGee effort but failed to prevent it going over the bar after five minutes before Hyland took possession from a pinpoint Jack Sargent pass, spun, and fired over a good score to leave it two points apiece.

A turnover led to McBrearty pointing before the dangerous Michael Langan scored a fine Donegal point after a patient spell of possession to give them a two-point lead for the first time.

Kildare, though, were starting to find gaps in the home defence. Shea Ryan and Tony Archbold combined to set up a goal chance for Padraic Tuohy but the Eadestown man took the safer option to fire over a point and an offload from Daniel Flynn almost sent Paddy Woodgate in on goal.

But O’Donnell found himself with too much room in the ‘D’ to send Donegal back into a two-point lead after thirteen minutes (0-5 to 0-3).

The teams both suffered blows in the 19th minute with Kevin Feely and Michael Murphy departing with leg injuries, the Athy man looking extremely frustrated leaving the field having worked his way back from injury lately.

The Donegal men seemed to lose concentration with the loss of talisman Murphy and Hyland got on the end of a Ben McCormack ball into the goalmouth to palm home a goal his industry deserved in the 21st minute, handing the Lilywhites a one-point advantage.

How Kildare could have done with Feely’s leadership around the middle though. Donegal took the rest of the first half by the scruff of the neck and after drawing level through a Langan free, Gallagher got through far too easily to set up McBrearty for a clinical finish to the net on 26 minutes.

If Kildare had dug in at that point, they could have been reasonably well set up for the second half but after Woodgate from a free and McHugh swapped points a Langan pass sent McHugh in for another Donegal goal on the stroke of half-time.

Half-Time: Donegal 2-7 Kildare 1-4

With the wind favouring Kildare but reducing in ferocity, the home side lost another key player in midfielder McGee to injury, and without ever looking as dangerous as Donegal had with ball in hand, the Lilywhites ate into the deficit.

Ryan Houlihan scored a fine point from long range before Woodgate’s second free and when Kevin Flynn fired over Kildare’s best score of the game from near the stand sideline, the gap was down to three.

Conor O’Donnell put Donegal four ahead on 45 minutes, Donegal’s only score in the first 26 minutes of the second half, but Kildare had plenty of opportunities to draw level. Unfortunately, chances for McCormack from play and frees from substitute Neil Flynn and Hyland went abegging before Hyland stopped the rot with a close range placed ball.

With fifteen minutes left and only three points between them, Kildare still might have rescued it but further wides from play from Tuohy, Neil Flynn and Hyland gave Donegal encouragement. Langan and Shane O’Donnell scored assurance points in the 63rd and 64th minutes before Hyland and Langan exchanged injury time points.

It doesn’t get any easier for Kildare, although they get a two-week break before an away trip to Omagh to face the reigning All-Ireland champions Tyrone, who will have a few selection headaches after four of their side were sent off on straight red cards against Kieran McGeeney’s table-topping Armagh.

KILDARE: Aaron O’Neill; Mick O’Grady (capt), Shea Ryan, Ryan Houlihan 0-1; Jack Sargent, James Murray, Tony Archbold; Kevin Feely, Kevin Flynn 0-1; Padraic Touhy 0-1, Paul Cribbin, Ben McCormack; Paddy Woodgate 0-2 (2fs), Daniel Flynn, Jimmy Hyland 1-4 (1m, 1f). Subs: Neil Flynn b/s for Tuohy 19-30, Aaron Masterson for Feely 19, Neil Flynn for McCormack 50, Paddy McDermott for Tuohy 58, Brian McLoughlin for Woodgate 59, Fergal Conway for Cribbin 64.

DONEGAL: Shaun Patton; Caolan Ward, Brendan McCole, Odhran McFadden Ferry; Ryan McHugh 1-1, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Paul Brennan; Jason McGee 0-1, Caolan McGonagle; Peadar Mogan, Conor O’Donnell 0-3, Michael Langan 0-4 (1f); Paddy McBrearty 1-1, Michael Murphy, Tony McClenaghan. Subs: Charles McGuinness for Murphy 19, Shane O’Donnell 0-1 for McGee 37, Ethan McDonnell for McCleneghan 51, Mark Curran for Brennan 60, Stephen McMenamin for McFadden Ferry 69.                                                      

REFEREE: Barry Cassidy (Derry)

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