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Kildare withstand Longford rally to win Leinster U21 football title

Paddy Brophy’s second-half goal was the crucial score in tonight’s decider in O’Moore Park in Portlaoise.

Champions: The victorious Kildare team.
Champions: The victorious Kildare team.
Image: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan.

Kildare 1-12
Longford 0-12

KILDARE WITHSTOOD A strong late Longford rally as they swept to honours in the Cadbury’s Leinster U21 football final tonight.

Kieran McGeeney was at the helm as the Lilywhites had three points to spare over Longford before 5,759 spectators in O’Moore Park in Portlaoise.

But Kildare, who lead by 1-11 to 0-6 in the 36th minute, were forced to cling on for victory after Longford mounted a storming rally in the closing quarter.

Paddy Brophy, Niall Kelly and Daniel Flynn – who have all caught the eye for the senior side in this year’s Allianz football league – made important contributions to this victory.

Midfielder Sean Hurley also gave a towering display as Kildare claimed the county’s 10th title at this level and now go forward to an All-Ireland semi-final meeting on April 20th against the winners of next Saturday’s Connacht final between Roscommon and Galway.

The critical score in tonight’s encounter arrived just after the half-time when Brophy fired home the only goal of the match.

It arrived after Hurley galloped forward from midfield and was felled close to goal. Brophy held his nerve to despatch the ball to the back of the net from the resultant penalty and push Kildare ahead by 1-9 to 0-5.

It was a hugely disappointing evening for Longford as their search for a first title in this grade goes on. Hopes were high that would achieve glory after they had suffered defeats in recent deciders in 2006 and 2011 but they were forced to yield to superior opponents in the Lilywhites.

Kildare started extremely brightly and were 0-5 to 0-1 ahead by the 10th minute mark. Longford’s plight could have worsened in the 12th minute but Paddy Collum managed to block a close-range shot for goal from Padraig Fogarty.

Taking confidence from that save, Longford rallied and Paddy Thompson nearly rattled the net moments but his shot cannoned off the upright.

Yet Mark Hughes and Robbie Smyth both converted placed balls to leave them only 0-5 to 0-3 adrift and provide renewed hope for the Midlands County.

Yet Kildare continued to pose a threat up front and their forwards were fed a regular supply of possession. Mark Hughes may finally got Longford off the mark from open play when he split the posts in the 23rd minute yet Brophy, Dowling and Kelly all notched classy scores to leave Kildare with a four-point cushion, 0-9 to 0-5, at the break.

Their prospects were further boosted through Brophy’s goal after the interval and Kildare went eight points clear soon after. However Longford, inspired by Padraig McCormack, Mark Hughes and Darren Gallagher continued to pour forward.

Tommy Moolick grabbed Kildare’s only point in the last 25 minutes of the game and they also saw Mark Hughes denied a goal by a late block in the 51st minute. James McGivney’s injury-time point trimmed the margin to three points but Kildare managed to hold on to secure the spoils.

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Kildare’s Paddy Brophy scores a penalty
Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan
Scorers for Kildare: Paddy Brophy 1-2 (1-0 pen), Niall Kelly 0-3, Sean Hurley (0-1 ’45), Fionn Dowling, Padraig Fogarty 0-2 each, Thomas Moolick 0-1.
Scorers for Longford: Mark Hughes 0-5 (0-3f), Robbie Smyth (0-2f), Darren Gallagher 0-2 each, Daniel Mimnagh, James McGivney, Barry McKeon (0-1f) 0-1 each.

KILDARE: Mark Donnellan (Maynooth); Michael Konstantin (Celbridge), David Hyland (Athy), Seán Higgins (Maynooth); Paul Cribbin (Johnstownbridge), Fergal Conway (Celbridge), Jonathan Byrne (Allenwood); Tommy Moolick (Leixlip), Sean Hurley (Johnstownbridge); Liam McGovern (Athy), Niall Kelly (Athy), Daniel Flynn (Johnstownbridge); Paddy Brophy (Celbridge), Fionn Dowling (Suncroft), Pádraig Fogarty (St. Laurence’s).

Subs: Hugh Mahon (Athy) for Dowling (47), Tony Gibbons (Athy) for McGovern (61).

LONGFORD: Paddy Collum (Fr. Manning Gaels); Ronan Keogh (Emmett Og Killoe), Barry O’Farrell (Carrickedmond), Darragh Bennett (Emmett Og Killoe); Diarmuid Cooney (Fr. Manning Gaels), Padraig McCormack (Emmett Og Killoe), Darren Farrelly (Fr. Manning Gaels); Paddy Thopmson (Emmett Og Killoe), Darren Gallagher (St Mary’s); Daniel Mimnagh (Killoe Young Emmets), Barry McKeon (Colmcille), Rory O’Connor (Kenagh); Robbie Smyth (Abbeylara), Mark Hughes (Emmett Og Killoe), James McGivney (St Columba’s).

Subs: Cian Farrelly (Emmett Og Killoe) for Thompson (40), Andrew Dalton (Longford Slashers) for Connor (40), Cillian Lynn (Mostrim) for Smyth (inj) (57), Shane Clarke (Emmett Og Killoe) for Gallagher (59)

Referee: Brian O’Shea (Dublin)

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Fintan O'Toole

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