PREDICTABLE result but lacking the conviction you could expect from a team with serious claims to unseat Dublin from its Leinster senior football throne.
From the moment they first took the lead after seven minutes, Kildare never looked set to lose that provincial SFC semi-final to a struggling Westmeath at Croke Park.
And yet Kildare weaved through a disappointing fourth quarter, having led by four points after a hugely successful first half and then by seven when Ben McCormack scored his fifth goal in the 52nd minute.
So much so that they conceded five of the last six points. Additionally, two stoppage-time goals from John Heslin and Sam McCartan (a fourth point each for the Westmeath duo) cut Kildare’s lead to just one goal – but they managed to free Mark Donnellan’s final kickout and duly held on to hers Book a place in the final.
That much will please Glenn Ryan – but we suspect the Kildare boss will be far less enthusiastic about a defensive display that saw them go 2-15 against opponents who plied their craft in Division 3 this spring coughed.
The first half was a wonderful advertisement for free football – or a cruel indictment of how not to defend yourself in the modern era, take your pick.
The tone was set right from the throw-in as Kildare won the throw-in but only managed to slap the ball straight at Westmeath centre-back Ronan Wallace, who accelerated through an open channel and kept running until his perfectly weighted hand-pass found Ronan O ‘Toole. The Westmeath No.11 delivered a smart left-footed finish past Mark Donnellan and the underdogs incredibly led by a goal within 12 seconds.
Pretty soon, however, Wallace would have his hands full trying to stop the unruly Ben McCormack. The Kildare centre-forward had scored the first of his four first-half points within 50 seconds and although the livewire O’Toole was quick to point to the other end, the rift between the two sides became increasingly apparent as the half progressed.
Kildare had already reduced Westmeath’s lead to a point before Darragh Kirwan fired a scoring opportunity past the near post. Never mind: Kevin Flynn gobbled up Jason Daly’s resulting kickout, bursting through a tackle and feeding Daniel Flynn, whose selfless offload gave Jimmy Hyland an easy fist goal. They were two up after seven minutes.
Jonathan Lynam almost scored a second Westmeath goal soon after, only to be choked by Mark Donnellan. Shaken and touched, Kildare scored six of the next eight points to lead 9-1 to 3-1 after just 20 minutes. All six of Glenn Ryan’s forwards had already scored from open play.
To their credit, Westmeath fought their way back into a vague argument from there until half-time. John Heslin’s third point – and second out of the game – had left them five behind.
It was then thanks to Daly’s sharp reflexes to deny Beirne a second Kildare goal. Almost immediately, full-back Jamie Gonoud ran through a hole in the Kildare defense and fed his marauding defender Wallace. He was tackled by Donnellan but the ball broke kindly for Gonoud, who had continued his run and was left with a relatively easy tap-in as the clock struck 33 minutes.
However, the final two points of a breathless half came from Kevin Flynn and McCormack to leave the Lilies 1-13, 2-6 ahead.
Kildare: Hyland J. 1:4 (2f), McCormack B (1m), Kirwan D (1f) 0:5 each, Flynn D. 0:2 (1m), Cribbin P., Archbold T., Beirne A., Flynn K ., Flynn N. (f ) each 0:1.
Westmeath: R O’Toole 1-3, J Heslin (1f), S McCartan 0-4 each, J Gonoud 1-0, R Connellan 0-2, N Harte, L Loughlin 0-1 each.
KILDARE – M Donnellan; M O’Grady, S Ryan, M Joyce; Archbold T, Murray J, Flynn K; K Feely, K O’Callaghan; Beirne A, McCormack B, Cribbin P; D Kirwan, D Flynn, J Hyland.
Subtitle: P McDermott for Cribbin (49), D Hyland for Joyce (54), F Conway for O’Callaghan (58), N Flynn for Hyland (61), A Masterson for Feely (70).
WESTMEATH – J Daly; Smith J, Maguire K, Giles D; N Harte, R Wallace, N Gonoud; S McCartan, R Connellan; D Lynch, R O’Toole, J Lynam; G Egan, J Heslin, A Gardiner.
Subtitle: L Loughlin for Lynam (34), S Duncan for Gardiner (49), J Dolan for Lynch (55), K Martin for Egan (62), R Forde for Giles (67).
REF- S Hurson (Tyrone)
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/kildare-book-place-in-leinster-final-but-lack-conviction-in-win-over-westmeath-41652163.html Kildare book a place in the Leinster final but lack the conviction to beat Westmeath