By Richard Commins

A relentless, powerful display of front-foot football propelled an impressive young Kildare side to a deserved nine-point win over Monaghan in front of a large and appreciative crowd at St Conleth’s Park on Sunday.

We’ll be taking the calculator to Carrick-on-Shannon for the denouement with Mayo next weekend, such are the permutations at both ends of the table. All the talk has been about avoiding relegation and that goal has to remain uppermost going into that one but there is also an outside chance of sneaking into the League Final with a win over the All-Ireland finalists.

Kildare were dealt a pre-match blow with the news that Daniel Flynn would miss out through illness but the selected full-forward line gave an exhibition of score-taking from first minute to last that Monaghan simply couldn’t live with. Between them Paddy Woodgate (4), Darragh Kirwan (5) and Jimmy Hyland (6) accounted for fifteen of Kildare’s points tally.

The Lilies roared into the game from the off and had six points on the board before Monaghan realised the game had started. A confident strike from Woodgate, his place in the starting fifteen reprieved by Flynn’s absence, put the home side ahead in the first minute and Kirwan was off the mark two minutes later, calmly waiting for a gap to appear after a one-two with the influential Kevin Feely.

When Mick O’Grady raced forward to win a free, Woodgate converted to make it three points in four minutes, to be followed shortly afterwards by Feely catching a Rory Beggan kicking out and scoring from all of 45 metres into the town end.

His midfield partner Kevin Flynn was next to influence proceedings, racing through from the stand sideline and drawing the foul on the endline, a soft one it has to be said, but one that gave Hyland the chance to open his account.

Kirwan picked up a yellow for a high challenge but Kildare remained in the groove and a magnificent cross field pass from Ben McCormack was caught superbly by the smallest man on the field, Hyland, for a mark which the Ballyteague man converted. That made it 0-6 to 0-0 with eleven minutes gone.

Monaghan finally stirred after twelve minutes when Gary Mohan, their most dangerous player on the day, swung over a good point from the left corner and when Feely picked up a yellow for a collision with Darren Hughes, Conor McManus pointed from distance.

Paul Cribbin took advantage of a poor clearance to kick Kildare’s seventh point but Monaghan started to edge back into it with Feely, Hyland and Flynn hitting wides and two frees from McManus bringing the score back to 0-7 to 0-4 after 21 minutes.

McCormack, having a wonderful game in the pivotal centre-forward position, created Kildare’s first score for eleven minutes when his effort was short but Hyland was quickest to the rebound off Rory Beggan and he swivelled and shot over from close range.

It was end-to-end as we headed towards half-time. O’Grady became the third Kildare player to see yellow for something off-the-ball and the sides shared four points, Hyland from play once more and Kirwan for the Lilies and McManus with two for Monaghan.

Kildare finished the half the stronger, though. McCormack scored from a mark after an excellent O’Grady pass and the Sarsfields man then chipped over his second of the game from a central position just outside the ‘D’. O’Grady then got a hand in to deny McManus a goalscoring chance before Mohan and Kirwan swapped points to leave it 0-12 to 0-7 at half-time.

Kildare started the second half as they had started the first, and five points in a row left Monaghan chasing a miracle and becoming increasingly bedraggled and frustrated. Hyland popped over a free, Feely provided the finish to a fine break from attacking wing-back Tony Archbold and Kirwan and Hyland combined to provide Woodgate with another point from a free to stretch the gap to eight on 41 minutes.

Three wides in a row from Monaghan, including two uncharacteristic ones from McManus, were followed by a goal chance for McManus’ marker, Ryan Houlihan. The Moorefield man took the opportunity to drive through the middle of the Farney defence but saw his drive tipped over by Beggan.

Monaghan were granted a lifeline in the 49th minute when an overlap on the right ended with Conor McCarthy free in front of the goal and he had plenty of time to pick his spot for the game’s only goal. A black card for Andrew Woods for dragging down Archbold took a lot of the good away from that score though.

McCormack scored his third point straight afterwards, a well-taken score despite being hit as he kicked, but there might have been a jangle of nerves in the big Kildare crowd when points from Mohan and McManus reduced the arrears to six points (0-18 to 1-9) with 53 minutes on the clock.

They needn’t have worried. Hyland and Woodgate combined down the left for the Raheens man to angle over an exquisite point off the outside of his left boot and Hyland then pointed from Paddy McDermott’s pass after Kirwan’s goal attempt was pushed out by Beggan.

O’Grady picked up a second yellow with twelve minutes remaining for a push on Ryan McAnespie just outside the area but it had little impact on the outcome. McManus pointed the resultant free but two fine Kirwan points brought his individual tally to five from play.

Dessie Ward and McManus (free) pointed for Monaghan to bring the score to 0-22 to 1-12 with five minutes remaining but it was Kildare who finished the strongest, with substitutes Alex Beirne and Brian McLoughlin making it nine different scorers for the Lilies.

Kirwan followed O’Grady to the sideline with his own second yellow card four minutes into injury time but Kildare were home and hosed after by some distance the most impressive performance under Glenn Ryan to date.

KILDARE: Aaron O’Neill; Mick O’Grady, Shea Ryan, Ryan Houlihan 0-1; Tony Archbold, James Murray, Daragh Ryan; Kevin Feely 0-2, Kevin Flynn; Kevin O’Callaghan, Ben McCormack 0-3 (1m), Paul Cribbin 0-1; Paddy Woodgate 0-4 (2fs), Darragh Kirwan 0-5, Jimmy Hyland 0-6 (2fs 2ms). Subs: Paddy McDermott for O’Callaghan 54, Brian McLoughlin 0-1 for Cribbin 60, Darragh Malone for D Ryan 64, Alex Beirne 0-1 for McCormack 64, Tadhg Hoey for Feely 71.

MONAGHAN: Rory Beggan; Kieran Duffy, Conor Boyle, Ryan Wylie; Ryan McAnespie, Killian Lavelle, Gary Mohan 0-3; Darren Hughes, Dessie Ward 0-1; Conor McCarthy 1-0, Micheal Bannigan, Shane Carey; Andrew Woods, Kieran Hughes, Conor McManus 0-8 (7FS). Subs: Drew Wylie for Boyle HT, Niall Kearns for K Hughes 40, Colin Walshe for Bannigan 43, Fintan Kelly for D Hughes 47, Sean Jones for Woods 62.

REFEREE: Conor Lane (Cork)

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