U21FC Semi Final: Lilywhites
beat Down in tight encounter
20 April 2008
For the first time since 1976, Kildare will
contest a Cadbury’s All-Ireland under-21
final after they defeated Down by three points
in a thrilling contest at Pairc Tailteann, Navan
on Saturday evening.
Kildare 1-10 Down 0-10
The Leinster side, who are
managed by former Kildare star Glen Ryan were
worthy victors of a game that in fairness could
have gone either way.
Down hopes where shattered
by Kildare in this fiercely contested Cadbury’s
All Ireland semi-final at Pairc Tailteann, Navan,
on Saturday. The vital goal came against the
run of play late in the first half when a defensive
mistake let in Kildare full forward Gavin Smullen
to round two defenders and shoot to the net.
Down were much the better side in the opening
half. Defenders Mark Digney, Colm Murney, Conor
Garvey and the outstanding Kevin Duffin at centre
half back were most prominent. But it was at
midfield where Down were found wanting. Only
occasionally did James Colgan and John Caldwell
get the better of Mark Watters and Niall Higgins.
Up front the Down attack was
devoid of ideas. There didn’t seem to
be a plan B. Apart from Paul McComiskey and,
to a lesser extent, Kevin McKernan, they were
always struggling against the quick tackling
and covering of Gary White, Tom Byrne and Dave
Brennan in the Kildare rearguard. The sides
were level after five minutes at 0-1 each after
Alan Smith and Ciaran Brannigan, from a free,
exchanged points. They were level again midway
through the half with Mark Watters and Paul
McComiskey exchanging points.
It was in the second quarter
that Down took complete control. Points flowed
with McComiskey and Brannigan, who scored two
each as Down led by 0-6 to 0-2 with seven minutes
of the half remaining.
Suddenly Kildare sprang to life. Gavin Smullen
intercepted a defensive pass, rounded two players
and shot to the net. Two minutes later Alan
Smith levelled with a point, but Down had the
last say of the half when McComiskey pointed
to leave a half time scoreline of Down 0-7 Kildare
1-3. Within minutes of the restart Sean Fahy
and Kevin McKernan exchanged points while Kevin
Duffin brought off a brilliant tackle to deny
Smullen a second Kildare goal. Alan Smith levelled
the game in the eighth minute but again Down
fought back for McComiskey to point a free midway
through the half to regain the lead.
Kildare’s response was
immediate and Alan Smith set up Eoin O’Flaitheartaigh
to leave the sides level again. Kildare produced
a masterstroke when they introduced Joe Cocoman,
who, with his first touch of the ball shot Kildare
ahead for a lead they were never to lose.
Scenting victory the Leinster
champions lobbed over points from Alan Smith,
Sean Fahy and Gavin Smullen. In added time McComiskey
pointed a Down free, but Kildare held out for
Down: M. McAllister; M. Digney,
C. Murney, J. Murphy; C. Garvey, K. Duffin,
T. Hanna; J. Colgan, J. Caldwell; C. Maginn,
K. McKernan (0-1), P. McComiskey (0-6); C. Brannigan
(0-3), C. Magee, R. Kelly. Subs: B. Rooney for
Murphy, P. Downey for Magee, C. Killen for Maginn,
K. Anderson for Caldwell; J. O’Reilly
Kildare: N. McConnell; C. Brophy,
D. Brennan, S. Murphy; J. Browne, G. White,
T. Byrne; M. Watters (0-1), N. Higgins; D. White,
E. O’Flaitheartaigh (0-1), K. Kelly; S.
Fahy (0-2), A. Smith (0-3), G. Smullen (1-2).
Subs: J. Cocoman (0-1) for Kelly, H. McGrillen
Referee: P. McGovern (Galway).