They’ll have to play it in Croke Park, but this time they won’t mind.
Last time for Kildare v Mayo it was ‘Newbridge or nowhere’, but for the All-Ireland U20 final it’ll be ‘nowhere like Croker’.
That movement sparked something — something special. A shock senior win over Mayo and a feelgood factor which has snowballed to this — knocking out the title favourites in a 23-point turn-around from their meeting at minor level two years ago, albeit a Kerry side minus David Clifford and Seán O’Shea.
“They were embarrassed two years ago, let’s call a spade a spade. They’re too good to be beaten by 22 points. They were hurt and they came out and played like a team that was hurt and wanted to put it right,” said manager Davy Burke, who remained among the huddle of celebrating fans long after the final whistle.
“Fair play to Cian [O’Neill] and Ger [Donnelly] for the ‘Newbridge or nowhere’ mantra, it seems to have done something. I can’t put my finger on what it’s ignited but every Tuesday and Thursday in Hawkfield, you’d want to see the buzz around the place with us all training together.
“We’re on a roll and we’ll jump on the back of it, no problem.
“Dublin last week and Kerry this week, we’re happy enough!”
Even though Kerry played barely any of the best football, they could have, probably even should have, won this.
They missed five frees, two from the left-hand side early on, before Fiachra Clifford, five from five in the first half, missed all three of his straightforward second-half efforts, including one off the post from 21 yards out.
The goal was another present, but it shouldn’t be forgotten how Kildare were motoring through the gears at that stage. Not just the three points they scored before the goal but how they won all three Kerry kick-outs — two with clean fetches from Paddy Woodgate and captain Aaron Masterson — after each point.
And how about Jimmy Hyland?
The Ballyteague dynamo scored 1-8, 1-6 from play. But the more impressive stat is how he outscored his stronger right foot (0-5, 2 frees) with his ‘weaker’ left foot (1-3).
Neither corner-back Kerry assigned to mark him could win ball ahead of him nor get blocks in when he’d spin left or right.
Stefan Okunbor’s poor free, intercepted by the excellent Ruadhán Ó Giolláin, allowed Kildare in for Hyland’s 47th-minute goal but the moment which really underscored Kerry’s failure to contain Hyland came much earlier.
He’d already scored four points from play and shed one marker when Brian McLoughlin was able to pick a low, driven 50-yard pass from his own half into Hyland’s path for yet another point.
It was a quality of supply Kerry simply didn’t replicate.
“There was a lot of space in fairness so it did play into our hands. It was there and we took advantage of it,” said Hyland.
“There was very good ball kicked in by Podge Nash, Paddy, Masterson, the whole lot of them. Once the ball is any way low, it suits me.”
That Hyland point made it 0-9 to 0-5, although it was back to one at half-time after Bryan Sweeney’s late point — the only score from play by Kerry’s entire starting forward line.
They’d missed two chances to equalise and Eddie Horan drove a rare goal chance straight at Aaron O’Neill, but it must be said Mark Dempsey was excellent in silencing David Shaw and DJ Earley, and Mark Barrett impressed too.
Kildare had the Kerry kick-out under pressure as well. They won six of the nine balls kicked long and claimed their own first five long kick-outs before the Kingdom began to disrupt them.
When a Hyland free, won by the outstanding McLoughlin, made it 1-14 to 0-10 with four minutes to go, it looked over. But Kerry’s late raft of subs had their say. Michael Potts’ first involvement was to create and blast in a fine goal, and Brian Friel, Cormac Linnane, and Seán O’Leary supplemented with good points.
Diarmuid O’Connor claimed three late marks off the Kildare kick-out but six minutes of injury-time wasn’t enough for Kerry to create an equalising chance.
Scorers for Kildare: J Hyland (1-8, 2 frees); B McLoughlin (0-3, 1 free); P Woodgate (0-2); A Masterson (0-1).
Scorers for Kerry: F Clifford (0-5 frees); M Potts (1-0); D O’Sullivan (0-2 frees); G O’Sullivan, M Ryan, B Sweeney, B Friel, C Linnane, S O’Leary (0-1 each).
KILDARE: A O’Neill; M Dempsey, DJ Earley, M Barrett; T Archbold, J Gibbons, D Ryan; A Masterson, D Marnell; S Comerford, P Nash, R Ó Giolláin; P Woodgate, B McLoughlin, J Hyland.
Subs: S O’Sullivan for Marnell (ht), M Glynn for O’Sullivan (36, inj), J Bambrick for Ryan (38), C Costigan for Nash (44), S Doran for Masterson (49-51, blood), Doran for Woodgate (55), N Murphy for Hyland (60+2).
Unreplaced black card: M Glynn (60+4).
KERRY: B Lonergan; D Naughton, S Okunbor, M Reidy; M Breen, G O’Sullivan, D O’Brien; M Ryan, D O’Connor; F Clifford, E Horan, D Moynihan; D O’Sullivan, B Sweeney, D Shaw.
Subs: S O’Leary for Naughton (37), B Friel for Horan (44), C Linnane for Shaw (51), M Foley for Breen (53), M Potts for Clifford (55), C Gammell for Ryan (57).
Referee: J Molloy (Galway).
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