Glenn Ryan baffled by Sligo draw that feels like loss for Kildare
All-Ireland SFC Group 3 Round 1: Sligo 0-14, Kildare 0-14
When it was all over, the honours were shared but you’d never have guessed it. Glenn Ryan pronounced himself baffled. Tony McEntee, his opposite number, was buoyant.
Sligo had just secured a draw that felt like a victory, David Quinn’s equaliser arriving some seven minutes and 15 seconds into a bout of stoppage-time that had been flagged to last five.
There had been some further hold-ups and Ryan had “no crib” about the extra-time allowed by Joe McQuillan, adding: “If we manage it better, if we were playing for the next ten minutes it wouldn’t make any difference.”
But of all the deficiencies that irked the Kildare boss, coming after the positivity even in defeat to Dublin, poor game management in the home straight was by far the worst.
After an opening hour of parity, Kildare had come with a three-point burst between the 64th and 67th minute to establish a winning position. Sligo appeared to be physically flagging – perhaps no surprise for a team operating two divisions below their opponents this spring.
Worse still, they found themselves a man down on 67 minutes when Seán Carrabine blotted his previously productive 0-4 shift with a second yellow. Jack Robinson, the player he had fouled, picked himself up to knock over the free and Kildare led by three.
For the Markievicz Park faithful in a crowd of 2,933, it had all the appearances of a valiant ‘what might have been’. Instead, by the time McQuillan eventually called time, Kildare were the team in numerical deficit – after Kevin O’Callaghan’s 73rd-minute black card, and Darragh Kirwan’s second yellow four minutes later.
In the midst of all this, Niall Murphy’s latest talismanic contribution to the Sligo cause was crowned by his fifth and sixth points, the latter an inspirational effort from distance.
That set the stage for one final salvo and Quinn’s leveller. For their courage alone, not to mention defensive tenacity, they deserved it.
Even more fascinating is the potential impact. Everyone expects Dublin to run away with this group. The consensus that Roscommon should take second spot will only have been bolstered by this result. But that leaves Kildare and Sligo squabbling for the last qualification berth.
“We can still top the group,” insisted Ryan, his focus turning to a Nowlan Park Dublin rematch. “I still believe we’re good enough to have that ambition and have that as an aim for us. But, jeepers, we have to improve.”
For Sligo, the putative whipping boys, a trip to Roscommon looms next. “To beat them in Hyde Park is going to be a bit of a stretch, let’s be honest,” McEntee said. “And Dublin, wherever that ends up being. So, I think what we’re looking at here is probably a score difference issue between ourselves and Kildare.”
Nobody would have expected such a scenario given the contrasting form graphs of the Lilywhites (against Dublin) and Sligo’s Men in Black (against Galway). Instead, what transpired was yet another case study in Kildare’s incorrigible inconsistency.
They had lots of first-half possession but were far too lateral with it as they eked out a 0-7 to 0-6 interval lead. Kevin Flynn drove forward to win an early free converted by Paddy Woodgate and followed up with 0-2, but the No 6 jersey on their most penetrative player tells you something about the paucity of their attack.
“There were very few runners off the ball and the ball was going around in a horseshoe – but not even in a controlled manner,” Ryan noted. “We’d a stiff enough breeze and we knew at half-time that we had put ourselves in a position of having to be in a real, real battle.”
It became even more of a dogfight after Sligo hit three on the spin via a Carrabine brace and Darragh Cummins to lead by two after 40 minutes. From there to the finish, momentum swayed back and forth until a necklace of points from Aaron Masterson, Kirwan (with his third) and that Robinson free put three-point daylight between the sides. But Sligo refused to go away, and Quinn’s priceless contribution brought the sides level for a tenth time.
McEntee hailed the result as “massive” and also the “great character” that lay behind it.
“Keelan Cawley lost his place before the game; he came in at a stage when we needed that control, losing a man, and he did exactly that. He held ball; he recycled ball; and invariably took us into scoring positions. And David Quinn who played no football all year long scored that equalising point,” the Armagh man enthused.
“We’re playing up here,” he reminded. “It’s a great opportunity for this bunch of players to try and learn more about themselves … and to see where they are in relation to these higher division teams.”
Ryan didn’t sugarcoat his frustration. “Very disappointed with our efforts and the outcome of the game,” he concluded. “Baffling in some ways because I thought we prepared very well and I thought we were really at a pitch that we needed to be at coming down here. We expected what we got from Sligo; probably didn’t expect what we got from ourselves.”
SCORERS – Sligo: N Murphy 0-6 (2f); S Carrabine 0-4; F Cawley 0-2; D Cummins, D Quinn 0-1 each. Kildare: P Woodgate 0-4 (2f, 1 ‘45’); D Kirwan 0-3; K Flynn, A Beirne 0-2 each; K Feely (m), A Masterson, J Robinson (f) 0-1 each.
SLIGO – A Devaney 7; E Lyons 7, E McGuinness 6, N Mullen 7; L Towey 7, B Cox 6, P McNamara 6; C Lally 6, P Kilcoyne 7; F Cawley 7, A Reilly 6, D Cummins 6; S Carrabine 7, P O’Connor 6, N Murphy 8. Subs: P Spillane 6 for O’Connor (55), M Gordon 6 for F Cawley (63), K Cawley 7 for Cummins (66), D Quinn 7 for Lally (66), M Walsh for Reilly (74).
KILDARE – M Donnellan 6; E Doyle 6, S Ryan 7, M O’Grady 6; D Hyland 6, K Flynn 8, J Sargent 6; K O’Callaghan 7, A Masterson 6; P McDermott 6, P Cribbin 5, A Beirne 7; P Woodgate 7, D Kirwan 7, K Feely 6. Subs: J Robinson 6 for Feely (45), D Malone 5 for Cribbin (53), T Archbold 6 for McDermott (58), R Houlihan for Sargent (71).
REF – J McQuillan (Cavan).