BRAVE, brave Kilkenny bid adieu to the Leinster junior football championship with mixed feelings and a lot of regret.
They conceded that Cavan were the better team in this semi-final at Nowlan Park, but they felt they were worth a few more scores and now the challenge is how do they build on the progress made before next year’s National League commences.
“We are exploring a number of possibilities of how we might keep the panel together and active in terms of football over the coming months,” suggested Kilkenny manager, Dick Mullins, after the dust settled on what had been a very, very decent effort by the Cats.`”The County Board is giving us great support.”
A victory over Wexford was followed by a good showing against Cavan, when Kilkenny played a short, keep ball game like they have never played before. The team attacked and defended in numbers, knitting neat passages of hand-passing together as they adopted the new short ball philosophy and abandoned the long, hopeful kick and rush game.
Won’t progress in League
“This is our level, the level at which we can make progress,” Mr Mullins continued. “I am absolutely sure of that now. We won’t progress quickly, but over a number of years.
“The way the National League is set-up we won’t make progress in it because most of the teams are simply too good for us. Being constantly beaten just doesn’t help things. If there was a regular competition for junior or second teams from counties it would be tailor made for us.
“We didn’t let ourselves down, even if I felt we should have put a few more scores on the ’board,” he continued. “This wasn’t a raw, determined effort. The players were patient on the ball, and they used it intelligently. I was delighted for them. They can play the game and hold their own as their level, no doubt about that.”
Cavan were all action and full of running from the off. They were able to deliver long, aimed passes, and then the receiver had colleagues running at him to take off-loads at pace. They could hit, fairly it must be said, in the tackle too.
It all looked very impressive and threatening. The losers looked troubled, but they hung in and slowly they came to grips with the demands.
The visitors opened with unanswered points from Robert Maloney-Derham, Jack Brady, following a brilliant cross-field ball from main playmaker, Keith Fannin, and Declan Meehan during the opening quarter. Kilkenny’s lone effort at the target was from a free by David Prendergast following a foul on Emmet Vereker. The shot went wide.
Prendergast, a neat ball player, had better luck from a 25-metre free when he opened the Noresiders account in the 23rd minute (0-3 to 0-1). Within a minute Prendergast went close to grabbing a goal when out-running his man up the left towards the City end. His parting shot struck the bottom of the far post. When the ball rebounded out the field Robert Shore hit it first time on the volley and sent it over the bar (0-3 to 0-2).
Alas, that was as good as it was to get for Kilkenny in terms of being close to the opposition. Before the break Fannin and splendid midfielder, Niall McKiernan kicked points to leave Cavan leaders by 0-5 to 0-2 at half-way.
Cavan kept the opposition on a tighter rein after the turn, and closed them down quicker all over the field. Breeze assisted Kilkenny conceded early points to Declan Meehan and Niall McKiernan before Paul Donnelly converted a good free out of his hands from 45 metres following a foul on Prendergast.
A minute later the losers had a goal disallowed. Donnelly crashed a shot against the right upright, and it looked like it was Joe Fennelly who got the final touch to finish the ball to the net. The effort was disallowed for a ‘square ball’.
During the next five minutes the winners kicked points per McKiernan and Robert Maloney-Derham, against one reply from James Culleton, to extend their advantage to 0-9 to 0-4. The game belonged to Cavan after that as the opposition ran out of steam, but not the will to battle on.
The game was carried to the visitors all the way by terrific midfielder, Michael Mahony, who has made massive progress as a footballer over the past few years, David Prendergast, the stout-hearted Seoirse Kenny, Thomas Kehoe, Declan Grennan and Paddy Raftice. Midfielder and goal scorer in the win over Wexford, Michael Malone (he has gone to the US for the summer) and bustling attacker, J.J. Dunphy (he has a hand injury) were badly missed.
Along with the excelent Keith Fannin, the winners had good footballers in Niall McKiernan, Declan Meehan, Sean McCormack, Robert Maloney-Derham and Anton O’Reilly.
Scorers: Cavan - Niall McKiernan (0-3); Michael Brady, Declan Meehan, Robert Maloney-Derham, Keith Fannin (0-2 each); Jack Brady, Ryan McCormack (0-1 each). Kilkenny - James Culleton, Robert Shore (0-1 each); David Prendergast (0-1, free); Paul Donnelly (0-1, free).
Kilkenny - J.J. O’Sullivan (St Patrick’s), Declan Grennan (Tullogher-Rosbercon), Thomas Kehoe (James Stephens), James Mackey (Windgap), Sean Mahony (Thomastown), Seoirse Kenny (St Patrick’s), Paddy Raftice (Mullinavat), Emmet Vereker (Glenmore), Michael Mahony (Thomastown), James Culleton (Mullinavat), Michael Duggan (Mullinavat), Joe Fennelly (Mullinavat), David Prendergast (Thomastown), Paul Donnelly (Railyard), Robert Shore (Muckalee). Subs - Ciaran Foran (Glenmore) for M. Duggan; J.J. Grace (Grange Nolvin) for Fennelly; Aidan Mackey (Windgap) for S. Mahony; Michael Saunders (Danesfort) for Culleton; Tom Maher (Kilmoganny) for Vereker.
Cavan - A. O’Mara, T. Hyland, S. McCormack, M. Brady, T. Reilly, R. Maloney-Derham, S. Jordan, N. McKiernan, E. King, K. Fannin, A. O’Reilly, D. Meehan, F. O’Reilly, J. O’Reilly, J. Brady. Subs - B. Watters for F. O’Reilly; R. McCormack for A. O’Reilly; T. Wakely for E. King; C. Conroy for D. Meehan.
Referee - J. Hickey (Carlow).