Mayo’s interest in this years Christy Ring Cup came to an end in James Stephens Park on Saturday afternoon, when a storming Kildare second half performance saw the Lilywhites turn around a nine point deficit into a comfortable five point win.
There was a surprise addition to the Mayo starting 15 before the game, with football captain Keith Higgins coming into the team. The availability of Higgins to JP Coen’s team had been the cause of plenty of headlines over the past few weeks, but the return of the Ballyhaunis was a huge boost to their chances against last years Christy Ring Cup winners.
Mayo played with the aid of a strong wind in the first half that was blowing towards the town end of the ground, but they still started the game with Kenny Feeney playing in a withdrawn role assisting the defence. Mayo’s inability to take the chances that presented themselves in the first half really cost them at the end of this game. The put the sliother wide on ten occasions in the opening 35 minutes and lacked the physicality in their inside line to win any of the ample ball that was dropped into that area with Fiachra Ó’Muineacháin and John Doran lording the battles in that sector for Kildare.
The first 20 minutes was a nip and tuck affair on the scoreboard, but Mayo were dominating the play and failing to make it count where it mattered. Willie Greene put Kildare into the lead after 21 minutes and that score stirred Mayo into action as the reeled off five six points on the bounce to go into a 0-9 to 0-4 lead three minutes before the break. That scoring burst was lead by wing-coward Fergal Boland who found his shooting range and landed some fantastic scores. Mayo had at this stage dispensed with the sweeper and moved Feeney back up the field and the Tooreen man also chipped in with a few points. Kildare also found themselves down to 14 men when centre-half-forward Johnny Byrne was shown a red card for an off the ball incident that left David Kenny in a heap on the ground. Mayo’s big break came a minute before the break. Keith Higgins picked up the slither 40 yards out and turned on the afterburners. There was no catching him and the Ballyhaunis man drove the ball to the back of the net. Feeney added on another point before the median whistle, which sent Mayo in leading by 1-11 to 0-5 at the break,
Playing into the strong breeze in the second half saw Mayo revert to playing a sweeper system even with the man advantage. That move just invited Kildare to take on shots from out the park from distance which paid rich dividends and just 12 minutes into the half they had the game level at 1-12 to 2-9. The two goals coming from the hurl of Willie Greene, the Kildare number 10’s first major came early in the second half at the end of a well worked move. His second goal was a lot more fortuitous as Mayo ‘keeper Donal O’Brien lost the flight of his dropping free and the ball went straight into the back of the net. Three more points in as many minutes had Kildare three points to the good.
Ten minutes from time Mayo were awarded a penalty, but Kenny Feeney’s effort blazed just over the bar and despite Mayo’s best efforts they were unable to find the goal the really needed as Kildare were able to reply to each point Mayo managed to find over the closing stages and in the end ran out five point winners thanks to a final flourish in injury time that also saw Mayo reduced to 14 men when Brian Hunt was shown a straight red card in the fading embers of the game.
Mayo: F Boland (0-7 ), K Feeney (0-7, 3f, 1 65 ), K Higgins (1-0 ), K McDermott (0-1 ), S Hoban (0-1 )
Kildare: W Greene (2-3 ), G Keegan (0-3 ), M Fitzgerald (0-2 ), B Deay (0-2 ), D Flaherty (0-1 )
Mayo: D O’Brien; B Hunt, A Connolly, E Collins; D Kenny, K Higgin, N Casey; K McDermott, P O’Flynn; F Boland, K Feeney, A Lyons; S Hoban, L Cribbin, D McTigue. Subs: S Boland, D Gallagher
Kildare: P Dermody; M Delaney, F O’Muinecháin, J Doran; D Stapleton, N O’Muinecháin, E O’Neill; M Fitzgerald, M Moloney; W Greene, J Byrne, L Quinnl D Flaherty, D Deay, E Dempsey. Subs: G Keegan, K Whelan
Ref: E Hassan