Leinster MFC final: lively Lilies end 22-year wait

July 14, 2013

Westmeath's Alan Hughes with Jamie Connolly of Kildare.
©INPHO/Donall Farmer.
Kildare 2-15
Westmeath 2-7

Kildare captured their first Leinster minor football title since 1991 and sixth in all thanks to an impressive victory over 14-man Westmeath at Croke Park.

The pre-match favourites were much the better team, and could afford the luxury of 17 wides compared to just five for the Lake County, who were appearing in their first final since 2000. After falling two points adrift early on, the Lilywhites took control to lead by 0-8 to 0-3 at half-time. They would have been out sight but for 10 wides compared to just two for Tommy Carr's men.

Westmeath narrowed the gap to three points early in the second half, but goals in quick succession from Chris Healy and Mark Sherry propelled the Lilywhites into an unassailable lead.

They had stretched their advantage to a massive 14 points when Westmeath had substitute Darragh Clinton sent off on a second booking. To be fair to Westmeath, they plundered late goals through Luke Loughlin (penalty) and Andrew McCormack to put a better complexion on the scoreboard.

Kildare will now face the losers of next Sunday's Connacht final between Mayo and Roscommon in the All-Ireland quarter-final, while Westmeath will get a chance to redeem themselves against the winners of that game.

Luke Loughlin, who was a late replacement for Liam Cassidy on the Westmeath team, had two early wides before opening the scoring in the fifth minute. The Downs clubman doubled the Lake County's lead from an eighth-minute free, which was replied to immediately by Chris Healy. Wayne Fitzpatrick brought Kildare level in the 11th minute from a difficult free close to the Hogan Stand sideline.

From almost an identical position, Fitzpatrick landed his second free to give the Lilywhites the lead for the first time. The talented Monasterevin corner forward followed up with two superb scores from play to push the favourites into a 0-5 to 0-2 lead coming up to the end of the first quarter.

Kildare 'keeper Sean Dempsey prevented a point at the expense of a '45 which Loughlin failed to convert. Neil Flynn saw a shot come back off the Westmeath upright before Liam Varley became the first player to be yellow-carded. Wing back Ryan Houlihan had a bad wide, but Kildare didn't have to wait long for their sixth point from corner forward Healy.

Kildare were utterly dominant at this stage, prompting Westmeath to make a double substitution in their attack four minutes before the break. Neil Flynn added another point for Brian Murphy's men before substitute Liam Cassidy - with his first touch - registered the Lake County's first score in over 20 minutes after being set up by fellow St. Malachy's clubman Varley.

There was still time for Fitzpatrick to knock over his fifth, and third from play, in the second minute of injury-time to leave the Lilies five points clear at the break.

Ruairi Cunningham had an early second half wide for the Lake County before Luke Loughlin made it double scores, 0-4 to 0-8. Kildare introduced Brian Byrne for Tommy Cribbin, and the substitute could have had a goal with his first touch after being put through by Fitzpatrick, but Joe Hyland produced a brilliant save to deflect his shot over the bar.

A foul on Loughlin yielded a point from a Darren Giles free as Westmeath continued to cling onto Kildare's coat-tails. St. Paul's/Delvin clubman Clinton followed up with an inspirational score in the 38th minute to leave just a goal in it, but Kildare's response was immediate and emphatic as team captain Mark Sherry got on the end of a long ball and gave Westmea th 'keeper Hyland no chance.

Neil Flynn (free) and Cain McMonagle tagged on points before the game was well and truly ended as a contest when another high ball caused panic in the Westmeath defence and Chris Healy pounced for a second Kildare goal, which left the score reading 2-11 to 0-6 after 42 minutes.

The Twomilehouse player brought his tally to 1-3 from play with another sweet score as it became embarrassingly easy for the Lilywhites. Midfielder Luke Flynn got in on the scoring act to leave all of 13 points in it heading into the final quarter.

Fitzpatrick fisted another for the rampant Kildare boys before Israel Ilunga came up from full back to kick a long-overdue point for Tommy Carr's men, who were then reduced to 14 players when Clinton was sent off on a second yellow card.

To their credit, Westmeath responded with a goal from a Luke Loughlin penalty after sub Rob Hickey had been taken down in the 53rd minute. Pascal Connell replied to bring Kildare's tally to 2-15.

In the final minute or normal time, Luke Loughlin was denied a goal, but from the resultant '45, Westmeath worked a second three-pointer through wing back Andrew McCormack. Liam Cassidy could have had another in injury-time, but his shot was blocked and Kildare could celebrate.

Scorers - Kildare: Chris Healy 1-3, Wayne Fitzpatrick 0-6 (0-2 frees), Mark Sherry 1-0, Neil Flynn 0-2 (0-1 free), Pascal Connell, Luke Flynn, Cain McGonagle and Brian Byrne 0-1 each. Westmeath: Luke Loughlin 1-3 (1-0 penalty, 0-1 free), Andrew McCormack 1-0, Darren Giles (free), Liam Cassidy, Darragh Clinton and Israel Ilunga 0-1 each.

Kildare: Sean Dempsey; Cian McConnell, Niall Fleming, Jamie Connolly; Jamie Flynn, Paul Mescal, Ryan Houlihan; Pascal Connell, Luke Flynn; Neil Flynn, Mark Sherry, Tommy Cribbin; Wayne Fitzpatrick, Cain McMonagle, Chris Healy. Subs: Brian Byrne for Cribbin (35 min), Darren Maguire for Connolly (48 min), Michael Kelly for McMonagle (53 min), Rory McDermott for Houlihan (55 min), Mark Byrne for Sherry (57 min).

Westmeath: Joe Hyland; Matthew Darling, Israel Ilunga, Boidu Sayeh; Andrew McCormack, Bryan O'Donoghue, Darren Giles; Ryan Caffrey, Sam Omokuro; Ruairi Cunningham, Alan Hughes, Ciaran Shanley; John Corbally, Luke Loughlin, Liam Varley. Subs: Liam Cassidy for Corbally (26 min), Darragh Clinton for Hughes (26 min), Rob Hickey for Cunningham (48 min), Darragh Lyons for Shanley (48 min), Shane Clavin for O'Donoghue (52 min).

Referee: David Gough (Meath).

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