The Mayo hurlers finished their NHL Division 3A campaign on a downer, crashing to a six point defeat to the Lilywhites in Newbridge. Coming into the tie, both teams had ambitions of reaching the Division 3A final, but a slicker hurling ability along with a stronger physical presence and point taking ability, saw Kildare cruise home and book their place in the decider against their near neighbours Meath.
It was Kildare who really hit the ground running in this tie from the outset, as they raced into a 0-8 to 0-1 lead after only 17 minutes — despite playing into the breeze. Mayo were left in the starting blocks, as Kildare points from Adrian McAndrew (3 ), Mark Maloney (2 ), and three more from former Tipperary All-Ireland winner and All-star David Kennedy, rocked the Mayo defence. Mayo's only reply in this opening spell came courtesy of a point from Tooreen's Kenny Robinson, as Mayo struggled to get to the pace of the game. Mayo eventually found a rhythm to their game for the remainder of the opening half from an unlikely source, as centre forward Derek McDonnell dragged his side back into contention with three points from play - one of which could have finished in the Kildare net, but for the reactions of Kildare goalkeeper Paul Dermody.
Mayo's woes were further compounded in the 30th minute, as replacement full-back Paul Hunt was harshly yellow-carded for an incident which led to a Kildare penalty. Hunt was sent to the line and the resultant penalty was saved by a combination of Micheal Walsh and Derek Walsh. Mayo pushed on for the remainder of the half and further points from Stephen Broderick and Adrian Freeman brought the deficit back to three points, on a 0-9 to 0-6 scoreline in favour of the home-side.
Kildare started the second half in a sluggish manner, and the lads in green and red capitalised on this as they opened strongly, as a five minute spell of loose defending in around the Kildare square gave Mayo the lead. Firstly, a long range Pierse Higgins free found its way straight into the Kildare net on 41 minutes. Next up was a neatly taken point from Ballyhaunis youngster Stephen Hoban a minute later, while another long range Mayo free minutes later found its way to the Kildare net again, courtesy of a final touch from Derek McDonnell. Mayo now led by 2-7 to 0-11, and a shock result seemed imminent.
However the Kildare attack finally found their opening half form again, as a further eight points in succession without reply in the final quarter of the game showed the difference in quality at the business end of the field. McAndrew, Maloney, and Kennedy were again among the Kildare scorers, while Lorcan Harney and Joe Gleeson showed the strength and depth in the Kildare panel, as both recorded points after being introduced from the bench.
Mayo now finish their league campaign with two wins from five games. After their shaky start with losses to Derry and Meath, successive wins over Armagh and Wicklow gave their campaign direction. However this defeat to Kildare again shows Mayo's inability to win games at the shake-up of competitions. With the Christy Ring campaign beginning away to Kerry on May 9, a win over Kildare and a league final place would have given a perfect run-in to the tier two championship, instead manager Martin Brennan now faces a five week wait for the next competitive outing.
Having only conceded one goal in five league outings, a special mention must go to the Mayo rearguard and goalkeeper Micheal Walsh. Walsh was in excellent form again last Sunday in Newbridge, but Mayo's inconsistency at the other end of the field is what coach Pete Finnerty will be working on in the coming weeks. Also, the return of Keith Higgins from Australia in late April will come as a welcome boost for everyone in the camp ahead of Mayo's onslaught in the Christy Ring Cup campaign.
Kildare: Paul Dermody; Niall Doolan, John Doran, Kevin Chan; Paudie Reidy, David Kennedy (0-4,2f ), Richie Hoban (0-1 ); Kieran Divilly (0-2,1f ), Donal Moloney; Niall Goff, David Cafferty, David Harney (0-1 ); Adrian McAndrew (0-6 ), Mark Moloney (0-2 ), Paul Divilly. Subs: Joe Gleeson (0-2 ) for Divilly, Lorcan Harney (0-1 ) for Moloney.
Mayo: Micheal Walsh; Derek Walsh, Paul Hunt, Paul Lynch; Brian Higgins, Paddy Barrett, Conor Ryan; Pierse Higgins (1-0 ), Stephen Broderick (0-1 ); Adrian Freeman (0-1,f ), Derek McDonnell (1-3 ), Eoghan Madigan; Derek McConn, Kenneth Robinson (0-1 ), Martin Devaney. Subs: Stephen Hoban (0-1 ) for Devaney, Kieran Hynes for Hunt (Y ), Paul Broderick for Robinson.
Ref: Eamon Morris (Dublin ).