By Richard Commins

There was disappointment but no shame in defeat for a relatively young Kildare side in Saturday evening’s Eirgrid All Ireland Under 20 final in Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada, Carrick-on-Shannon.

The latest Canavan to roll off the Errigal Ciarán production line proved too hot to handle as Tyrone captured their first title since the introduction of the grade five years ago.

As much as we hoped for a repeat of our own 2018 success, this was a relatively young Lilywhite outfit, many of the starters being eligible for a second tilt at the competition next year. It was the fourth defeat in six finals for Kildare at the under-20/21 grade since the competition started in 1964.

They came up against an exceptional Tyrone outfit for whom Ruarí Canavan, son of Peter, earned the headlines and the official man-of-the-match award with a personal tally of 1-7, for a side which produced a near-perfect execution of the Red Hands style of football. It wasn’t a bad return considering his marker Harry O’Neill kept him relatively quiet for much of the first half.

Whether the heavy schedule of five games in thirty days ultimately told on Kildare, particularly in the warm sunny conditions, it is hard to say but after falling adrift in the second quarter, Brian Flanagan’s side fought an uphill battle after half-time and in truth they never replicated their best form and had no complaints with the outcome.

The game got off to an astonishing start with Canavan goaling within 21 seconds only for Kildare to repeat the act within a minute. Tyrone won a free straight from the throw-in and Ciarán Bogue’s low ball into Conor Cush was deftly transferred on to Canavan who burst through the cover of Harry O’Neill and Mark Maguire and shot high and handsome into Cormac Barker’s goal.

Within sixty seconds Kildare were level. O’Neill broke through the middle of Tyrone’s defence and passed to Aaron Browne who offloaded to Shane Farrell in the left corner. He broke through Michael Rafferty’s challenge before slipping a lovely handpass over the covering man to Eoin Bagnall, the Allenwood man coolly handpassing across goal for Daniel Lynam to palm home to an empty net.

A case of take your goals and the points will come.

Kildare won more than their share of possession in the opening quarter with their midfield having plenty of joy from the Tyrone kick-out, but the Red Hands were more clinical with their possession. Points from Bogue and Dan Muldoon saw the Ulster champions go 1-2 to 1-0 clear before Niall O’Regan and Ciarán Daly exchanged points.

The Lilywhites hit a purple patch between the 12th and 17th minutes and points from the busy O’Regan and Dean O’Donoghue brought them level before Bagnall kicked a superb 46-metre free to send them into a 1-4 to 1-3 lead.

Tyrone, though, went into overdrive with five scores in a six-minute spell and although Bagnall’s free ended twelve minutes without a score for the Kildaremen, impressive wing back Niall Devlin rounded off the half with another point to leave the Lilywhites trailing at half-time by four points (1-9 to 1-5).

Flanagan admitted afterwards that his side really needed a strong start to the second period, but it didn’t happen, a couple of wides from Barker’s ’45 and Brendan Gibbons from play draining confidence perhaps and instead it was Canavan who pounced to stretch their lead.

A low-scoring third quarter played largely on Tyrone’s terms saw Bagnall and Tommy Gill register for Kildare and Devlin add another for Tyrone but as the game wore on the Lilywhites wilted somewhat, and as they chased the opening that might lead to a goal, they ran into a well-marshalled red wall on too many occasions.

Kildare persisted with long balls into a somewhat isolated and well-marked Browne, a tactic that had served them well early on, but one Tyrone soon got to grips with. The captain and Celbridge clubman fought for every ball but when he did get it, he struggled to connect with colleagues or make room for his own score.

Browne finished the day scoreless and was called ashore after 42 minutes. Five minutes earlier they had, curiously perhaps, withdrawn Lynam, despite him showing well and winning plenty of possession despite Kildare persisting with low ball into the biggest aerial threat.

To be fair there was no lack of effort on the part of Flanagan’s side and if they could have got to within a score it might have given them more encouragement. The closest they came was in the 45th minute when Adam Fanning won a free in the left corner but Bagnall’s effort from a tricky angle tailed just left and wide. That would have closed the gap to three.

Kildare being forced to chase the game played into Tyrone hands, allowing them to hit the Lilies on the counter-attack in the final quarter and with Canavan moving into exhibition mode they hit nine points in the final fifteen minutes, including injury time, to run out clear-cut six-point winners, Canavan contributing five of those white flags.

Sallins midfielder Luke Killian, Kildare’s best performer on the day, and impressive all through the campaign, drove his side on to the end, scoring three late points himself; Bagnall adding two more frees and Darragh Swords and Fanning getting on the scoresheet as well.

The result, though, had been well sign-posted from early in the second half with Tyrone’s three-point wing-back Devlin deservedly lifting the Tim Clarke Cup, named after the former Kildare County Board Treasurer and Secretary.

KILDARE: Cormac Barker; Harry O’Neill, Dean O’Donoghue 0-1, Mark Maguire; Tommy Gill 0-1, James McGrath, Ryan Burke; Brendan Gibbons, Luke Killian 0-3; Niall O’Regan 0-2, Daniel Lynam 1-0, Shane Farrell; Aaron Browne, Adam Fanning 0-1, Eoin Bagnall 0-5 (4fs). Subs: Darragh Swords 0-1 for Lynam 37, Jack McKevitt for Gibbons 39, James Dalton for Browne 42, Aedan Boyle for O’Neill 52, Adam Conneely for O’Regan 57.

TYRONE: Stephen McMenamin; Michael Rafferty, Brian Conway, Eoin Corry; James Donaghy 0-1, Steve Donaghy, Niall Devlin 0-3; Ruairí McHugh 0-1, Ciarán Daly 0-2; Conor Cush 0-1, Ciarán Bogue 0-1, Ruairí Canavan 1-7 (3fs); Seán O’Donnell, Michael McGleenan 0-1, Dan Muldoon 0-1. Subs: Gavin Potter 0-1 for Muldoon 48, Fionnbharr Taggart for O’Donnell 52, Shea Daly for Cush 59, Luke Donnelly 0-1 for Bogue 59, Lorcan McGarrity for Canavan 65.

REFEREE: Liam Devenney (Mayo).

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