By Wayne ‘Bubba’ Doyle.
Georgina Donnelly Premier Cup Final.
Kildare Town AFC 3 4 Caragh Celtic FC
It somewhat adverse weather conditions the pitch in Rathangan looked immaculate ready to host Caragh Celtic and Kildare Town in the Premier Cup final.
Both team like to play attacking open football and that certainly was evident for the opening kick-off. With the first good chance falling to Caragh after two minutes when Owen Merriman put Ross Ward away down the right flank the pacey winger worked a decent opportunity for himself from an acute angle that just flew pass the post and wide. Both side's working hard to establish control of the midfield, with neither side gaining the upper hand in a tense opening. Stephen Riordan header whizzed just over the bar after a teasing freekick by Billy Martin of Caragh with ten gone on the clock. Kildare Town did find a rhythm with Dean Hill calming his side down from centre back. The next chance did fall to Kildare a powerful run by Killian Ryan got up the left flank and whipped a excellent cross into the Caragh penalty area with Keith Kinsella poised to capitalise, but for a last ditch defensive header by Seanie Leeson to overt the danger.
The game starting to shed that tense overtone with both sides creating good opportunities. Ross Ward now turning provider as he beat Ryan down the line and laid a ball into the path of Merriman who had his effort well saved by Kildare’s keeper. Dillion for Kildare producing a great mazy run through the middle before slipping a pass into Brandon o Keeffe who raced through on goal but Cassidy stood tall with a fine save ,O Keeffe again with a second effort off the rebound that was heading goal bound ,but for goal line clearance from Merriman to keep the game scoreless. The game wide open with both sides eager to grab the opener. Adam Gilligan’s pace for Kildare was huge threat and outlet which Kildare used to good effect. That man Dillion for Kildare was starting to pull the strings ,the adroit midfielder picked out Keith Kinsella who turned expertly in Caragh penalty area to work the clearest opening of the half, but his effort was saved again by Cassidy who could only parry it away ,but Brandon O Keeffe followed up and made no mistake from 12 yards to give Kildare the opening goal with A half hour on the clock. Caragh remained positive and were unlucky not to equaliser moments later after Merriman delivered another fine set-piece with Stephen Riordan directing it off the crossbar and over. Kildare should of Doubled their advantage after a brilliant long ball by Ryan Farrell found Kinsella’s feet the crafty playmaker just had a moment of indecision and misplaced his pass to the on running Dillon.
Caragh found that equaliser after a quality link-up play between Ross Ward who slipped a clever pass to Merriman and he kept his composure under pressure to fire Caragh on level terms with a tidy finish. The momentum definitely swung in Caragh favour just before the half a brilliant run by Garth Byrne who got to the endline and swung in a good cross that was taking down by Ross Ward and laid it into Danny Brady his first time effort was heading goal bound, but for an great block by Farrell. Young Mark Dunne of Caragh who was very influential produced an audacious first time strike from all of forty yards ,that was heading for the top corner but for Kildare Town keeper to produce a stunning save . The resulting corner gave Caragh the lead after Ross Ward set up Stephen Riordan who finished well from close range to close out the half.
Kildare Town came out with real impetus in the second half and were nearly back on level terms. Another well-crafted move with Ryan Farrell picking out O Keefe who's pace was causing havoc, O keeffe squared a neat little pass to Dillion who dragged his shot just wide of the post. Caragh won a throw deep In kildare Town half after a clever clipped pass by veteran Garth Byrne. Danny Brady delivered a long throw that was flicked on by Riordan and Billy Martin arrived right on queue in the six yard box with a beautifully guided header to double Caragh’s lead. Danny Brady of Caragh growing into game had his long range effort saved, Merriman whipped in the resulting corner and Seanie Leasson guided a side foot volley home to further extend Caraghs lead with an hour played.
Kildare Town now sensing the urgency made some tactical changes and proved dividends almost immediately. A driving Run by Nathan Gahan of Kildare who found himself inside Caragh penalty area and was about to pull the trigger, but for a perfectly timed tackle by Shane Taffe the rebound fell to Gilligan who finished emphatically to claw the deficit to two. Gilligan could of had another moments later after Ryan Burke drilled a low cross right across the six yard box, with Gilligan just arriving a split second later and couldn't provide the vital touch. Caragh now looking to counter nearly further extended their after a quick first time by ball by Merriman put Stephen Riordan away down the right flank, he powered his way pass to defender's and spotted the Town’s keeper off his line and send a delightful delicate chip which had the keeper beaten but came off the crossbar and wide. End to end at this stage with Brandon O Keeffe’s header just skinning the crossbar after another fantastic delivery by Dillion. That combination for Kildare was a real thorn in Caragh’s side and again them two provided the spark as O Keeffe prodded home another Dillion set-piece to cut the lead to one. Kildare really applying the pressure, with Burke, O Keeffe and Kinsella really pushing the pace. Kildare looking particularly dangerous on set-pieces and again that's where the chances seemed to fall, after another Kinsella corner. Burke got a shot away that was blocked by a wall of Caragh bodies. The danger eventually cleared, and Stephen Riordan raced after the ball got his head up a curled a cross field pass directly into Danny Brady’s path he took a decent first touch and got a good strike away that was brilliantly save by Kildare’s keeper. Kildare Town threw the house at Caragh in wave after wave of attack but couldn't find that breakthrough to get back on level terms after O Keefe, Kinsella ,Hill and Burke all going close. Caragh defensively had all hands-on deck and threw their bodies in front of the danger time and again to close the game out in a fantastic cup final that had a sprinkle of everything. Both committed side's with plenty of passion, excitement, goals, tackles a worthy advertisement for Kildare football.
Best For Kildare were Hill and Farrell at the back O keeffe, Dillon and Kinsella and Gilligan up top put in a shift. Best for Caragh Byrne, Leeson at the back Merriman, Ward, Dunne and Riordan up top was different class.
Barry Cassidy, Gareth Byrne, Shane Taffe, Seanie Leeson, Alan Campbell, Eoghan Merriman, Ross Ward, Mark Dunne, Stephen Riordan, Billy Martin, Daniel Brady.
Kildare Town AFC
Brendan Merrigan, Killian Ryan, Aaron Walsh, Dean Hill, Ryan Farrell, Conor Darby, Brandon O Keeffe, Nathan Gahan, Keith Kinsella, Adam Gilligan, Gareth Dillon.