HEADS I WIN! - Cillian O Conghaile (Kilkenny & DL) competes with Jonathan Deegan (North East FL) in this aerial duel during Sunday’s Oscar Traynor Trophy clash on the Fair Green. The Cats were represe
It may have been a different team, but it was the same old result for Kilkenny as the Oscar Traynor Trophy continues to haunt the Cats.
With Freebooters now at the helm it was all change as Kilkenny returned to the inter-league competition for Sunday’s meeting with the North East League, but it was the visitors who were by far the happier outfit after 90 minutes.
The reason - or should that be reasons - came in the form of two superb goals. The pair of first half strikes, both struck with some precision, proved to be the difference as the men from the Meath, Cavan, Louth and Monaghan region took charge of the game.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Kilkenny; a bright spell and a fine goal gave them hope of turning things around - but it all came to nothing.
The reason for Kilkenny’s gloom? It came from their own doing. The NEFL were quick to seize possession after putting the squeeze on the Kilkenny defence just two minutes before half-time. To an extent the Cats were victims of their own downfall, Owen McCormack was put under pressure by a cross-field pass from James Kelly, but there was little they could do about the rest.
David Bowens rushed in to snap up possession and then, from outside the box, he unleashed a crisp low drive that screamed inside Darren Rowe’s right hand post.
The NEFL were keen to stamp their authority on the game and moved smartly into attack mode quite quickly. William Woods looked to have dragged his sixth minute shot wide but Ryan Murphy refused to give up on the ball. Racing to the right he won possession, but fired his shot into the side netting.
Woods was a real thorn in Kilkenny’s side in the early stages and had another pop at the target soon after, this time with a quick snapshot, but Darren Rowe got down to push the ball away.
Kilkenny came into the game after that, with Cillian O Conghaile driving them from midfield. They tried to use the pace of Emmet Nugent and Henry O’Neill as the point of their attack, but couldn’t crack the NEFL defence.
That all changed when, eight minutes before half-time, everything clicked into place for the Cats. In a sweeping move that started at the back Owen McCormack surged out of defence with the ball, confidently striding forward. He moved play on with the help of O Conghaile before picking out Nugent on the edge of the box.
Yard of Space
Again, Nugent’s pace helped him gain a yard of space, enough room to shoot. Netminder Conor Gilsenan couldn’t hold the shot and paid the price when Kieran Moloney raced in to slam the rebound home.
Kilkenny looked to be riding high at that stage, but the NEFL quickly brought them back to earth with a bump - and what a bump!
The visitors began to press for an equaliser, forcing Kilkenny back on their heels. With Danny Coyle snapping at the Kilkenny midfield he helped force a loose ball to roll into Woods’ path.
Although some distance out (he was well outside the box) Woods saw his chance and took it. He unleashed a venomous shot that dipped and swerved its way into the top right corner the net. Rowe was left clawing at thin air as the ball flew past him, but there was little he could have done to prevent the goal - it was a cracker!
Worse was to follow for Kilkenny as, within three minutes of conceding that goal, they leaked another. It was a nasty end to a half which, for long spells, had seemed so promising.
Those late goals cooled a lot of Kilkenny’s momentum, but they worked hard to get back into the game. Emmet Nugent went close to making it 2-2 when he raced on to Henry O’Neill’s excellent 58th minute defence-splitting pass but, just as he was about to pull the trigger, Padraig Gilsenan dashed in to make a vital last-ditch tackle and nick the ball away.
Still, Kilkenny pushed on for that way back to parity. Another Henry O’Neill ball almost provided the opening, his excellent diagonal ball falling just right for Ger Hayes. He cut back inside his marker, making his way into the box, but his 60th minute shot failed to hit the target.
The North East League settled into the game after those scares, flooding midfield as they began to limit Kilkenny’s time in front of goal.
They had an extra gear about them too when they needed it, a point they proved when they almost added a third goal with 13 minutes to play. David Bowens was the creator, working his way in from the wing to tee up Danny Coyle for a long range strike. His effort took a deflection off a Kilkenny defender, enough to send the ball looping high over Darren Rowe but, to the ’keeper’s relief, the ball clipped the top of the bar and bounced over.
The visitors seemed happy to hold out for the final whistle after that, but there was still time for Kilkenny to make one last charge for a draw. Driving at the box Emmet Nugent found space to crack a shot at the target. A little flick from sub Ryan Maguire saw the ball spin into the path of Cillian O Conghaile but, agonisingly, the ball was just a hair’s breadth too far away to reach.
Kilkenny & DL: Darren Rowe; James Kelly, Steven Dawson (Ryan Maguire, 79 mins), David Rice (Chris Phelan, 67 mins), Owen McCormack (Karl Conlon, 79 mins); Kieran Moloney (Joey Walsh, 57 mins), Niall McEvoy (Shane Kelly, 88 mins), Cillian O Conghaile, Ger Hayes; Emmet Nugent, Henry O’Neill.
North East FL: Conor Gilsenan; Dara Corcoran, Dylan Doyle, Shaun Doyle, Padraig Gilsenan; Jonathan Deegan; David Bowens, Cormac Reid (Craig Dixon, 84 mins), Danny Coyle (Dean Brennan, 88 mins); Ryan Murphy (Arnold Ruskenas, 60 mins), William Woods (Tom Wynne, 76 mins).
Referee: Lee Kill. Assistants: Vinny Kiely, Tristan Eardley.