Dynamic Doyle lifts Lilywhites

Meath 1-12 Kildare 1-14

The Allenwood forward got married on Thursday, but decided to delay his honeymoon until after this league game in Navan and his seven points - six from play- were the difference between the sides.

Indeed the result may even save Kildare from relegation.

The perception is that, if you stop Doyle, you stop Kildare and the right half-forward needed to be on song in this Division 1B encounter with the rest of Crofton’s forward division again coming up short.

The ‘Doyle Theory’ will be tested when he misses next week’s game against Wexford but to dwell on such negatives would be unkind to two teams who served up a tremendous game of football.

Both can take positives out of the afternoon, not least Kildare who eased their relegation worries. Meath know that they too have some work to do before they can thumb their nose at the second tier for another year.

Yesterday seemed to offer a timely sneak preview of what to expect from these fallen giants come championship time.

On paper at least, Kildare looked the more settled, with only their full-back line of Andrew McLoughlin, Kevin O’Neill and Mark Hogarty appearing to be more experimental.

Eamon Barry has cast his net far wider this season and he continued to juggle his Meath resources with abandon yesterday. Three players were hauled off within the first 25 minutes with the withdrawals of Joe Sheridan and Brian Farrell, who already had 1-1 to his name, being particularly perplexing.

“I would just be disappointed with lads for not doing simple things right,” said an unapologetic Barry afterwards. “It was just the predicament we were in. We have strength in depth on the panel. Nobody is guaranteed a place on the first 15.”

Meath had thundered into an early four-point lead thanks to Farrell’s early goal, but they had surrendered the advantage within minutes, Ronan Sweeney finding the net after collecting a wayward point attempt from Michael Foley.

Kildare pushed on from there to boss the game for the majority of the first-half, playing a pleasing and effective brand of football, highlighted by Doyle’s point on 17 minutes, a score fashioned through four pairs of hands.

A pair of Peter Curran frees kept the home side in touch, but Meath’s hopes took a significant dent five minutes before the break when Peadar Byrne was shown a second yellow card for dissent.

The damage wasn’t as bad as first feared. Meath raised their game as 14 men often do and only Enda Murphy’s flying save from an Anthony Moyles shot prevented Kildare’s one-point deficit extending to a more worrying four.

Meath continued to turn the screw on the changeover and, by the time, Ger Robinson floated over his second score of the day after 47 minutes, Kildare were three points behind and in trouble.

Little did we know then that Robinson had just completed Meath’s scoring as the momentum once again decided to swap sides.

Kildare made hard work of it all the same, though Brendan Murphy in the Meath goal played his part as well. Twice the Trim man denied Tadhg Fennin a goal.

As the minutes ticked by, so Kildare’s tally of wides steadily stacked up. Fortunately, Meath were a shadow of their former selves and, with so much possession, the scores eventually began to arrive for the visitors.

Fittingly, Doyle put them in front for the first time in half an hour with five minutes to go before Fennin’s first of the afternoon seemed to cement the result. But there was more to come.

Meath raged against the dying of the light and, with almost three minutes of injury-time played, Nigel Crawford worked enough space for himself from the edge of a packed Kildare area to wallop a shot off Murphy’s crossbar. So near and yet so far.

“The thing is, our tackling had been so good up to that when we let him through,” said Crofton. “The game should have been out of their reach long before that. We could have had two goals and we tried to hit some points from bad angles. Still, 1-14 is the level we want to be at and, if we can manage that from now on, I’ll be happy enough.”

MEATH: B Murphy; C King, K Reilly, N McLoughlin; J Donoghue, A Moyles, S Kenny (0-1); B Lynch, N Crawford; P Curran (0-5f), J Sheridan, P Byrne (0-1); G Robinson (0-2), B Farrell (1-1), D Regan.

Subs: D Gallagher (0-1) for Donoghue 9, M Doran for Sheridan 20, C Ward (0-1f) for Farrell 25, S McAnarney for Gallagher 62.

KILDARE: E Murphy; A McLoughlin, K O’Neill, M Hogarty; P Mullarkey, G Ryan, D Lyons; M Foley (0-1), K Brennan, K Ennis, A Rainbow (0-1), J Doyle (0-7, 1f); T Fennin (0-2), R Sweeney (1-1), P O’Neill.

Subs: D Jordan (0-1) for Mullarkey 35, P Brennan for O’Neill 62, D McCormack for Jordan 65, T O’Neill for Brennan 69.

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).

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