Three years ago Kildare declared, ‘Newbridge or Nowhere’ before their qualifier against Mayo and today, in a game at the same venue, that saw referee Barry Cassidy hand out three red cards, they were more comfortable than the scoreline suggested in ensuring Meath went nowhere and stayed in division 2 for another season.
Admittedly the goal that separated the sides at the finish had a huge slice of good fortune from a Kildare viewpoint while at the same time had an equally sizeable slice of slack defending and indecisive goalkeeping on the Meath side of the coin.
It arrived after just six minutes when a miscued effort for a point by Niall Flynn saw Seamus Lavin allow Jimmy Hyland to drift in behind him, and when the attacker got posession ‘keeper Andy Cogan was slow to get down to Hyland’s foot which let the corner forward just enough room to squeeze home his effort.
That was in sharp contrast to Mark Donnellan’s speed from his line to get down and block Darragh Campion’s late effort when the ball broke to him following a scramble.
Kildare started without Daniel Flynn, withdrawn before throw-in following his second hamstring setback in recent weeks.
After nine minutes a hamstrung Hyland hobbled out, to be replaced by Brian McLoughlin who hit the ground running with two points, from play and a free, before the first water-break.
Kildare led by 1-3 to 0-2 at that juncture, but by then they had also lost Paul Cribbin, who appeared to turn his ankle contesting a kickout and had to be stretchered off.
Cathal Hickey and Brian Menton shot over for Meath but they failed to score at all for the second half of the opening period.
The hosts landed the last four points of the half, via a Neil Flynn brace, McLoughlin and fellow sub Alex Beirne, to lead by 1-7 to 0-4 at the break.
The winners Luke Flynn was sent off for an off-the-ball incident involving Brian Conlon (who was booked) and because of the extra man Meath came into the contest.
They were eight down at the time, a deficit that stretched to ten soon after the second water break, but they were on top for most of the final quarter.
As they edged closer there was drama in the middle of the comeback when a melee broke out that saw the majority of players involved.
Two Meath men, Conor McGill and Conlon, saw red and yellows went to visiting goalkeeper Andrew Colgan, his teammate Ethan Devine and Kildare’s Alex Beirne.
Then came Donnellan’s intervention which illustrated that while goals win games sometimes goalies do as well/
Scorers – Kildare: B McLoughlin 0-5 (3f), J Hyland 1-0, N Flynn 0-3 (1f), K Feely (1m), D Kirwan 0-2, A Beirne, S Ryan 0-1 each. Meath: J Morris 0-4 (2f), C Hickey, M Newman (2f) 0-2 each, F Reilly, B McMahon, E Devine, C O’Sullivan, E Wallace, J Wallace 0-1 each.
KILDARE – M Donnellan; M Dempsey, M O’Grady, E Doyle; K Flynn, D Hyland, R Houlihan; L Flynn, A Masterson; N Flynn, F Conway, P Cribbin; D Kirwan, K Feely, J Hyland. Subs: B McLoughlin for Hyland (inj 9), A Beirne for Cribbin (inj 16), S O’Sullivan for Feely (inj 41), S Ryan for Conway (55), C Hartley for N Flynn (55), D Malone for Kirwan (71).
MEATH – A Colgan; S Lavin, D Keogan, C McGill; C Hickey, S McEntee, F Reilly; B Menton, E Devine; P Harnan, B McMahon, M Costello; C O’Sullivan, T O’Reilly, J Morris. Subs: B Conlon for Menton (inj 31), J Wallace for O’Reilly (ht), E Wallace for Costello (38), J Scully for Keogan (inj 44), R Ryan for Lavin (54), D Campion for Harnan (54), M Newman for McMahon (54).
REF – B Cassidy (Derry)