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Injury-time point denies Meath a share of the spoils

Story by Fergal Lynch

Wednesday, 7th March, 2012 4:54pm

Injury-time point denies Meath a share of the spoils

Meath's Shane McAnarney tests the defensive qualities of Kildare's Morgan O'Flaherty during Saturday night's NFL Div 2 thriller at Páirc Táilteann.

Meath's NFL Div 2 promotion ambitions suffered a minor setback at Páirc Táilteann on Saturday night when an injury-time Ollie Lyons point gifted Kildare a narrow victory.

But it wasn't all doom and gloom for Meath as they deserved so much more from a game that was played with championship intensity.

Glory in defeat has been the crux of many nearly-men, but last Saturday night's setback was one occasion when Meath could reflect with a certain amount of confidence that things will get better. They pushed a hugely improved Kildare side to their limits.

Kildare came to Navan with eveything to lose after defeats by Tyrone and Monaghan. A third reversal would have cemented their place in a relegation scrap, but they played with the type of vigour, determination and pace that has set them aside as one of the top six counties in the country.

This contest was played at an unforgiving, unrelenting championship pace. The dark evening and scattered showers weren't the normal back drop for the white heat of championship football, but every other element was evident as both sides went hammer and tongs in the quest for victory.

Meath felt aggrieved at the final whistle. They believed that referee Michael Collins should have awarded Shane McAnarney a free after his second-minute-of-added-time effort had struck the woodwork, there were also strong shouts for a free after Joe Sheridan had apparently been upended by Shane Connolly.

To make matters worse there was a hint of over-carrying attached to Lyons' run before he fisted the match-winning point.

All those claims had justification, but Meath will also have to reflect on missed opportunities.

They created at least four decent goal chances and only took two, they also selected several poor shot options, kicked six first-half wides and dropped a few efforts well short of the target.

There was also the failure to secure sufficent primary possession around midfield. On countless occasions Mark Ward broke the ball from kick-outs, but the possession was gathered by an opponent.

There were also gaping holes through the middle of the defence as Thomas O'Connor, Eoghan O'Flaherty and Mikey Conway exploited the gaps created by the stretched Meath rearguard.

With a game played at such relentless pace, there were always going to be errors and Kildare won this battle by making fewer mistakes.

However, Meath will have learned much and by the time the war is over the Kildare monkey could well be shaken off their backs.

This defeat is Meath's fifth in succession against Kildare, but manager Seamus McEnaney will take away plenty of positives as his side prepare for the second of their four games in 21 days against Galway next Sunday.

The hunger, commitment and passion of the Meath players cannot be called into question.

Mickey Burke had an exceptional game at wing back while Kevin Reilly marked his first start with a tough, but satisfactory performance.

Stephen Bray proved his value with some outstanding creativity.

The determination of Chris O'Connor, Seamus Kenny, Paddy Gilsenan, Cormac McGuinness and substitute Donncha Tobin epitomised the Meath spirit that kept dragging the home side back into a game that looked to be getting away from them on several occasions.

The contest ebbed and flowed throughout with Kildare holding the early initiative before Meath moved into pole position on two occasions with goals from Gilsenan and Tobin.

Kildare started well, but posted a couple of wides before Gilsenan snapped up a loose ball and tapped over the bar after Brian Meade had struck the upright.

O'Connor levelled matters three minutes later with a fisted effort before Eoghan O'Flaherty's free, after Meade had fouled Conway, gave the visitors their first lead of the evening.

Superb play from Burke saw him combine with Cian Ward before the Longwood man clipped over the equaliser.

Kildare stole the initiative again as Eamonn Callaghan ghosted through the Meath defence to set up Conway for a simple point and then a poor kick-out resulted in a simple fisted effort from Daryl Flynn.

After Bray had kicked wide from a decent free opportunity it was Cian Ward who narrowed the gap after great play from Gilsenan, but Kildare were still in command and Hugh McGrillen galloped forward to lash over the bar. Callaghan tagged on a point to make it 0-6 to 0-3 early in the second quarter.

Meath quickly settled with McAnarney, O'Connor and Bray (free) restoring parity, but Kildare ensured a 0-8 to 0-6 interval lead as Eoghan O'Flaherty and Callaghan closed the first-half scoring.

Untroubled by that deficit Bray levelled the contest with a brace of points within three minutes of the restart. Kildare piled forward and continued to find space with their outstanding running game causing problems.

Two from Eoghan O'Flaherty (one free) and an all-too-simple score from Padraig O'Neill restored Kildare's three-point cushion, 0-11 to 0-8, after 43 minutes.

Just as the game seemed to be getting away from Meath, Burke started an excellent move with a brilliant ball from defence to Gilsenan. The Oldcastle man laid off to Bray and substitute Joe Sheridan executed the return to Gilsenan who powered to the net from close range.

Another substitute, Tom Walsh followed up with a point to give Meath the lead for the first time since the second minute. Gilsenan cancelled out an Eoghan O'Flaherty free to maintain Meath's advantage 1-10 to 0-12 with less than a quarter of the game to go, but there was still plenty more drama.

Lyons gave an example of what he was capable of by slotting over and after another Meath attack broke down Eoghan O'Flaherty capitalised to edge Kildare into a 0-14 to 1-10 lead with just 12 minutes left.

Another Bray free tied the scores again, but when O'Neill and Morgan O'Flaherty found their range Kildare looked set for the win.

However Tobin got on the end of a Walsh pass and netted a brilliant goal to give his side a 2-11 to 0-16 lead, but that proved to be Meath's last score as they failed to find their range in the closing nine minutes.

Alan Smith came off the bench to tie the contest in the 66th minute and after McAnarney hit the upright and Sheridan had claims for a free waved away, it was Lyons who was left to break Meath hearts with a simple fisted point.

SCORERS

Kildare - E O'Flaherty 0-6 three frees; E Callaghan 0-2; P O'Neill 0-2; O Lyons 0-2; T O'Connor 0-1; M Conway 0-1; D Flynn 0-1; H McGrillen 0-1; M O'Flaherty 0-1; A Smith 0-1.

Meath - P Gilsenan 1-2; S Bray 0-4 three frees; D Tobin 1-0; C Ward 0-1; M Burke 0-1; S McAnarney 0-1; C O'Connor 0-1; T Walsh 0-1

THE TEAMS

Kildare - S Connolly; A McLoughlin, H McGrillen, O Lyons; E Bolton, M O'Flaherty, E O'Flaherty; D Flynn, J Doyle; J Kavanagh, M Conway, P O'Neill; E Callaghan, T O'Connor, M Foley. Subs - P Kelly for Foley 33 mins, R Sweeney for Flynn 40m, A Smith for Kavanagh 51m, C Fitzpatrick for McLoughlin 56m, K Ennis for Doyle 66m.

Meath - David Gallagher; Mickey Burke, Kevin Reilly, Bryan Menton; Gary O'Brien, Shane McAnarney, Cormac McGuinness; Brian Meade, Mark Ward; Seamus Kenny, Graham Reilly, Chris O'Connor; Paddy Gilsenan, Stephen Bray, Cian Ward. Subs - Donncha Tobin for O'Brien 24 mins, Joe Sheridan for C Ward 38m, Caoimhin King for Meade, Tom Walsh for McGuinness both 47m, G Geraghty for G Reilly 66m.

REFEREE

Michael Collins (Cork).

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