Hurling and camogie

Sucker punch goals stun Down as Kildare lift Christy Ring Cup

Down's Tom Murray is forced into rearguard action as Kildare go on the attack during yesterday's Christy Ring Cup final at Croke Park. Picture by Philip Walsh
From Neil Loughran at Croke Park

Christy Ring Cup final: Down 0-22 Kildare 3-16

PROMOTION to Division 2A achieved at long last, Joe McDonagh Cup hurling to look forward to when spring turns to summer, Down have leapt over plenty of hurdles already this year – but they fell at the final one yesterday as Kildare’s killer instinct saw them cling on for Christy Ring glory.

The second and third goals from David Herity’s men couldn’t have come at better times for David Herity’s men, quelling mini-uprisings from a Down side who didn’t nudge their noses ahead all afternoon, and never quite threatened to scale the heights of eight days previously against Offaly.

Just as was the case when they last rocked up to Jones’s Road to face Meath 17 months ago, a slow start left the Ardsmen chasing early on.

The Croke Park factor may have got to some of their less experienced players as they were rumbled by the Royals then, but yesterday both sets of players had to contend with the oddness of only 80,000 empty seats and a flock of seagulls watching on.

Tadhg Forde was the first to find the net for Kildare, following in to finish after Stephen Keith had blocked Jack Sheridan’s effort back into the square.

Trailing by three, Down battled back to level it up at the water break.

They repeated the dose after falling behind again, the dead-eyed accuracy of free-taker Oisin Mac Manus and the pace and poise of Tim Prenter dragging them level, only for Paul Divilly to deliver another sucker-punch right on the stroke of half-time

.After picking up a break around the 40 he slipped between Caolan Taggart and John McManus before rifling low to Keith’s left to make it 2-7 to 0-10 at the break.

Ronan Sheehan brought in Phelim Savage for the yellow-carded Michael Hughes at the break, McManus dropping back into the full-back line as Savage settled quickly around the middle, bursting forward to win a free as another Down comeback commenced.

But Kildare’s crucial third goal was just around the corner as they finally managed to engineer some wriggle room heading towards the final 20 minutes.

This time it was Sheridan who profited from some confusion in the Down defence, nipping around the back as Taggart and McManus both moved in on David Slattery.

Neither came out with possession and it was Sheridan who bounded into the square before sending the sliothar past Keith from a narrow angle.

Ahead by six, Kildare looked in control. Barring a few sloppy frees conceded, they were defensively sound all day, stopping any meaningful possession coming into Down’s deadly duo, Daithi and Eoghan Sands.

With ball after ball finding its way into the hand of Kildare’s invisible wall Niall O Muineachain, the Portaferry brothers were feeding off scraps and finished up with just a point between them.Yet, despite those struggles,

Down didn’t give up and clawed their way back into the game again.

A beautifully disguised pass from Phelim Savage allowed fellow substitute Paul Sheehan to reduce the gap to two with 15 minutes left.

A Down goal would have given their challenge a serious shot in the arm but it just never looked like coming, Kildare’s clear size advantage key any time their opponents went direct as men in white jerseys always seemed to emerge from the square, ready to launch another attack.

The Lilywhites held their nerve when the pressure came on in the dying moments too – even after Hawkeye overturned a wide call on Prenter’s fantastic late score to leave two in it again, the superb Sheridan making no mistake with a late 65 and a free to get the Kildare party started.“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Herity, a five-time All-Ireland winner with his native Kilkenny.

“Even from where the whole thing was two years ago when they won the Christy Ring and so many lads left the panel, there was a bit of disappointment there that they weren’t going up.“

The whole panel was decimated so we were forced to go right down into the youth, into what the minor management had done over the last two years and bring in a lot of these players.

“They’re going up with a huge amount of youth in the team. I’m thrilled for them, they’re such a passionate bunch of lads for hurling.

”For Sheehan and Down, there is so much good to reflect upon from the past 12 months – but yesterday’s result, coming on the back of the previous year’s disappointment, will stick in the throat for a while.

“It’s disappointing, it takes the gloss a wee bit off promotion to the McDonagh Cup, but Kildare fully deserved their victory,” said the Newry man.

“Goals may only be worth three points on the scoreboard but it’s the psychological piece as well, and every time we got back into the game they got a goal and it gave them a lift again.

''They were out in front from the start, they came with a game-plan there to stop us getting the ball into the dangermen.

''Unfortunately we didn’t move the ball through the lines as much as I would’ve liked, when we did we got some good scores, but we panicked a wee bit at times.

“It’s a young team, as are Kildare.“We’ve a lot to learn but we will learn and we’ll go again.”

 

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

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

Yellow card: M Hughes (25)

Red card: C Woods (70+5)

Kildare: M Doyle; S Leacy, J Doran; N Ó Muineacháin; C Shanahan, R Boran, K Whelan; C Dowling, Paul Divilly (1-1); B Byrne (0-7, 0-6 frees), J Burke (0-2), C Dowling, T Forde (1-0); D Slattery (0-1), J Sheridan (1-4, 0-3 frees, 0-1 65).

Subs: S Christiansen for Shanahan (43), S Ryan (0-1) for Dowling (51), K Aherne for Forde (54), C McCabe for Slattery (69)Yellow cards: C Shanahan (37), 11 (62), S Christiansen (70+3)

Referee: Chris Mooney (Dublin).

STAR MAN

Jack Sheridan (Kildare)

TIM Prenter, Pearse Og McCrickard and Oisin Mac Manus all caught the eye in a battling Down performance, but it was Sheridan who made the most telling contributions.

Caolan Taggart started well on him but found the going tough as the game wore on, Sheridan having a hand in the first Kildare goal before clinically dispatching the crucial third.

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Hurling and camogie