Mervue United 2
Kildare County 2
This really was a curious contest. Though Mervue United squandered a two-goal lead, the Galway outfit could still trot off the Fahy’s Field content with their Tuesday evening’s endeavour. On another night a victory might have been chiseled out, but Kildare County had a string of chances to nick a winner too, so the final scoreline of this Eircom League relegation play-off was appropriate.
The Eircom League first division is one of the oddest sporting environments in this country simply because anything can happen there. Results can vary dramatically, and tracing Kildare County’s recent form offered a prime example of this.
A fortnight ago Limerick FC were in efficient form before stumbling under Kildare, who were showing signs of improvement. Then last Saturday Kildare were brought crashing back to reality when leaking a half dozen goals to Dundalk, who captured the title with a performance brimming with goals and positive football.
And within 28 minutes of starting this joust Kildare had conceded two as Mervue’s inventive start was rewarded. Gary Traynor provided the midfield enterprise, while out wide Mike Tierney and Alex Lee were earnest too as the hosts enjoyed a fruitful burst of pressure.
Still the opening strike was all about the individual talent of Ollie Keogh as the attacker crafted and finished a 20-yard shot that deceived Austin O’Neill. Then a second was struck just before the half hour mark when David O’Brien’s free kick was gathered by Tierney, who crossed for Dave Goldbey, who rattled the Kildare net with a blistering finish.
Goldbey thun spurned a gilt-edged chance after a slight delay due to difficulties with the floodlights prior to the inevitable Kildare rally. Ultimately manager Johnny Glynn was satisfied, acknowledging the role occupied by custodian Brian O’Donoghue, who made crucial interventions either side of the break.
"We could have been three up, but I thought a draw was a fair result in the end. Brian played very well in goals, he had a lot to do, but I don't think it is a bad result.
"To be honest I don't see much of a difference going up there at 2-2 than being a goal up so I am not displeased at all. Two u-17s came on, so it is just good from that point of view as well because lads are getting big game experience and it gives us more options for Friday.
"It is all to play for and I think it could be a great game on Friday night. We needed the match and I think we will improve. We haven't played in three weeks, and they have played every week.”
Former Galway United anchorman Colin Fortune entered the fray for Kildare in the second period and suddenly there was a stable appearance to the visitors’ midfield. Fortune cajoled his colleagues through a testing spell, and the deficit was halved in the 55th minute.
The goal was all about Philly Hughes’ cunning as the bustling frontrunner fastened onto Colin Murray’s hopeful punt from the back before clipping the ball expertly over the advancing O’Donoghue. Hughes’ relevance to the story didn’t waver and the merited leveller was lashed home from a 76th-minute free kick.
Tony Cousins was encouraged by the manner in which Kildare responded following their initial difficulties. “We were poor in first half, no tempo about us, and it probably sums up what they've been like all season, but there is enough ability in the team when they get at people and have a little bit more urgency, like they did in the second half, and I thought we deserved to get the two goals.
“The main objective is that we want to stay up, so we are still in the tie. We knew coming that with Johnny Glynn and Mark Herrick they would be well organised and fit and they didn't disappoint us tonight, they were like that.
“I wouldn't have been thinking 'oh it's Mervue and they are in the A League' and show them no respect, I have had them watched twice and have a dossier on every player, you have to show people respect.”
Mervue have earned it and tomorrow’s return tussle at Station Road should be similarly wild.
Mervue United: O’Donoghue; O’Brien, Conneely, E Browne, Farrell (Ryan 86 ); Tierney (Gaffney 67 ) R Browne, Traynor, Lee; Keogh (Huban 82 ), Goldbey.
Kildare County: O’Neill; Donnelly, Murray, O’Connell, Isaaka (Fortune 46 ); Brady (Cassidy 90 ), Osborne, Slattery, Powerdley; Kilduff, Hughes.
Referee: P Sutton (Clare ).