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Down's craft cannot stop Kildare powering home

Down 0-22 Kildare 3-16


Kildare’s Jack Sheridan manages to get the ball away, despite coming under pressure from two Down defenders

Kildare’s Jack Sheridan manages to get the ball away, despite coming under pressure from two Down defenders

�INPHO/Lorraine OSullivan

Kildare’s Jack Sheridan manages to get the ball away, despite coming under pressure from two Down defenders

Down had the craft and the skill, Kildare had the power and the penetration close to goal.

A gross over-simplification of yesterday's Christy Ring Cup decider perhaps, but still a reasonable summary of a contest where Kildare were the better team for the first eight minutes, then survived thanks to two crucial goals either side of half time.

"We've hardly conceded goals all year, the whole way through the league or even the Christy Ring we've been excellent," lamented Down manager Ronan Sheehan afterwards.

"I think goals are worth more than three points, I know they're only worth three points on the scoreboard but it's the psychological aspect. Every time we got back into the game we seemed to give them a goal which gave them a lift again".

Kildare came into this contest on the back of a landslide win over Roscommon in the semi-final a week ago and they carried that free-scoring form into the early stages of this contest, pointing through David Slattery after 14 seconds and then adding their first goal from Tadhg Forde.

Defensively, their decision to drop a sweeper into the full back line greatly curtailed the influence of Daithí and Eoghan Sands, but Down made do by picking off scores from distance. Pearse Óg McCrickard and Tim Prenter were in sublime form in the half forward line and they helped Down to draw level, with Kildare heavily reliant on Brian Byrne frees to stay in the game.

"They were out in front from the start, they came with a game plan to try and stop us getting the ball into the dangermen" said Sheehan.

"We didn't move the ball through the lines as much as I would have liked. When we did, we got good scores, but we panicked at times and struck long ball into their sweeper, which was disappointing."

A crucial break saw Paul Divilly fire in a goal just before the interval to make it 2-7 to 0-10, and after the first four points of the second half were shared an incredibly precise finish from Jack Sheridan in the 40th minute doubled that advantage.

Kildare needed every bit of that lead as Down took over, in no small part because of strong performances from substitutes Phelim Savage and Paul Sheehan. Six of the next seven points went their way to cut the gap to the bare minimum, and it took an inspirational score from substitute Shane Ryan to stem the bleeding and keep Kildare in control of the tie.

A series of late frees from distance were enough to just about carry the Lily Whites over the line, with Down finishing strongly despite the handicap of Conor Woods' red card.

So, promotion to Joe McDonagh hurling, but without silverware to back it up. Despite this, Sheehan believes that his players will be able to hold their own at the higher level next year.

"Yes of course, I think we showed that last week" he said.

"Kildare are a very good team. They don't get enough credit.

"And we'd have no fear of playing in 2A and McDonagh Cup.

"Now, don't get me wrong we'd have lessons to learn to get to the McDonagh Cup but I have a team that's average age is 23 and a half".

"When Offaly were in the Christy Ring, I think everybody was kind of envisioning them as winners. The sad thing is Offaly are still stuck in a division that they are too good for. I think it is something the GAA need to look at".

"Abandoning counties, which is sometimes what happens, is going to do them no good whatsoever. Hurling needs Offaly back as high as it can be. It needs the likes of Kildare which has massive commuter belts and populations and it need to be supporting the likes of Down and Antrim as well that are trying to make strides".

KILDARE: M Doyle; S Leacy, J Doran, C Shanahan; N Ó Muineacháin, R Boran, K Whelan; C Dowling, P Divilly (1-1); B Byrne (0-7, 0-6f), J Burke (0-2), C Dowling; T Forde (1-0), D Slattery (0-1), J Sheridan (1-4, 0-3f, 0-1 '65).

Subs: S Christanseen for Shanahan (43), S Ryan (0-1) for Dowling (51), K Aherne for Forde (54), C McCabe for Slattery (69)

DOWN: S Keith; M Hughes, C Taggart, T Murray; B Trainor, C Woods (0-1f), L Savage; M Conlon, J McManus; D Hughes (0-1), P Óg McCrickard (0-4, 0-1 sideline), T Prenter (0-4); O McManus (0-9, 0-7f), E Sands, D Sands (0-1).

Subs: G Hughes for Trainor (27), P Savage for M Hughes (HT), C Egan for D Hughes (53), Paul Sheehan (0-2, 0-1f) for O McManus (53), R McCusker for McCrickard (66).

Referee: C Mooney (Dublin)

Belfast Telegraph