While many counties — Kildare among them — go about aping the Kieran Donaghy experiment at full-forward, Galway had the smaller but more mobile Caltra man playing in the pivotal number 14 role.
His marker was Andrew McLoughlin, a corner-back by trade but a man whom Kieran McGeeney has earmarked for the full-back role. He coughed up 1-5 to Meehan, 1-2 from play, and yet his manager was still full of praise for him.
That is a measure of Meehan’s performance although McGeeney’s counterpart was eager to spread the credit around a forward line that boasts men of the calibre of Padraig Joyce, Matthew Clancy and Sean Armstrong.
“You have to credit the others too, the way that they played,” said Liam Sammon. “They put in a lot of ball for them, a lot of opportunities to score. We’re playing well enough but we still have a lot to do.”
Both sides had some improvements to make after a dire first half. Still level at two points apiece after a dozen minutes, the game lost its fizz for the guts of 15 minutes before Galway roused themselves to establish a six-point lead at the break.
A slew of stoppages and injuries was the main reason for the drop in standards but Kildare were complicit in the decline with some loose passing and dropped balls neutering their efforts.
The boredom was lifted when Kildare wing-back Gary White was shown a second yellow card after 26 minutes for his second off-the-ball misdemeanour and Galway took less than 60 seconds to get on the scoreboard after a 15 minute lull
The younger of the two Meehans on duty scored the visitors’ goal after 30 minutes when McLoughlin missed the dropping ball, leaving the Caltra man to round Enda Murphy and poke home. It was symbolic of Kildare’s clunky efforts that Galway’s one long ball into the full-forward line had delivered a goal while half a dozen such efforts in to Dermot Earley had coughed up just a solitary free.
“We started the game well but panicked when we went a man down,” said McGeeney. “They got six quick scores and there was a handling error in there for the goal as well.
“That was a pity because Andrew was doing well at full-back. Those are the things that happen in football.”
What with the raft of stoppages, the first-half crept over the 40-minute mark and the home side needed every last one of them to score another point, through a Doyle free, that left them six adrift on the turn around.
Any hope of a comeback seemed unlikely when an injured Doyle failed to reappear on the restart but the loss of their best marksman somehow worked in Kildare’s favour. McGeeney had rejigged during the interval, bringing Earley back to midfield and replacing him on the edge of the small square with James Kavanagh who duly scored a goal direct from the throw-in.
Galway’s ability to stem Kildare’s momentum was further compromised by Damien Burke’s sending off for a second yellow after 46 minutes. Just like that, the game opened up again.
Doyle’s ill-luck had another beneficial knock-on affect in the shape of his replacement Alan Smith who slotted over three frees, the third of which brought Kildare level with 12 minutes still to go.
As is often the case with teams chasing down large deficits, Kildare’s charge ran out of puff just as they drew level. Galway were soon two points ahead again and had stretched that to four before an injury-time Mark Conway penalty left the minimum in it at the end.
Kildare: M Conway 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), J Kavanagh 1-0, A Smith 0-3f, J Doyle 0-2 (1f), D Earley 0-1. Galway: M Meehan 1-5 (0-3f), C Bane 0-2, J Bergin 0-1, P Geraghty 0-1, M Clancy 0-1, F Breathnach 0-1, P Joyce 0-1, KILDARE: E Murphy; E Bolton, A McLoughlin, M O’Flaherty; A Rainbow, K O’Neill, G White; P Mullarkey, K Brennan; J Doyle, M Conway, J Kavanagh; R Sweeney, D Earley, K Donnelly.
A Smith for Doyle (35), T Fennin for Sweeney (65), N Browne for Brennan (66).
A Flaherty; A Burke, F Hanley,D Burke; G Sice, N Coyne, D Mullahy; J Bergin, P Geraghty; C Bane, P Joyce, D Meehan; M Clancy, M Meehan, S Armstrong.
M Gottsche for Burke 25, F Breathnach for Armstrong (35+2), D Finnegan for Hanley (55), B Cullinane for Gottsche (58).
M Hughes (Tyrone).