Cribbin strikes and Louth denied again

KEITH CRIBBIN struck at the death for Kildare to dramatically deny Louth silverware for the second time in six months.

The flame haired attacker proved Kildare’s super-sub with a 74th minute match winning goal.

It came just seconds after fellow sub Ronan Sweeney had levelled the game from the penalty spot in the most dramatic of finales. And, of course, it came just over six months after Louth were similarly robbed of a first Leinster title in 53 years by an illegal late goal.

Last July it was a combination of Joe Sheridan and Martin Sludden that did the damage on luckless Louth. But perhaps they can point the finger at themselves some more on this occasion as they failed to finish off the game when chances arose.

The Wee county were guilty of over-elaborating in front of goal in the second-half and, as a result, managed just two points in the closing 35 minutes.

Still, it was a painful defeat to take having led 0-8 to 0-1 at one stage as they looked set to finally get their hands on a cup.

“We’ve no-one to blame but ourselves,” said Louth boss Peter Fitzpatrick. “We were five or six points up and one or two more points wouldn’t have done any harm. We made a few silly errors but, in fairness to Kildare, their backs closed us down too, closed the options down. We just took the wrong options today.

“If we can go on from here I still maintain we can be one of the best counties in Leinster. I think we can have realistic ambitions this year of doing very well.”

Few would deny Louth their day next summer but Kildare too have realistic ambitions of Leinster glory. They didn’t play well yesterday but still did enough to win, perhaps the mark of champions elect.

“When you are not playing at your best and still win games, it is a good sign,” said Kildare boss Kieran McGeeney. “In games gone past we have actually played a lot better and lost,” he said.

The win moves Kildare to the head of the O’Byrne Cup roll of honour with nine titles though summer silverware is what fans really crave.

“This can be significant but only if you push on from here,” added McGeeney.

He couldn’t have suspected a win was on the cards early on as they started sluggishly. Louth’s fluency up front was impressive and with players like Eamonn McAuley and Ronan Carroll bombing forward they carried a real threat.

Kildare couldn’t handle it and gave away five frees which Shane Lennon expertly converted.

Derek Maguire was the story of the half though, hitting two goals for Louth including an 11th minute screamer. He turned Hugh McGrillen about 35 metres out and raced clear, slaloming through Kildare’s defence before firing to the net.

His second came after good work from Carroll late in the half but Kildare replied with their own injury-time goal from Padraig O’Neill. That was followed by a minor melee after which O’Neill and Ray Finnegan were booked.

Louth didn’t seem rattled though and restarted with two points in a row from All-Star midfielder Paddy Keenan and Lennon. They led by seven now but didn’t score again as they dallied in attack and found themselves overpowered by a revived Kildare midfield.

Kildare kicked 10 in total though, and several shots landed short, but they still chipped away at the deficit with points from Karl Ennis, Eoghan O’Flaherty and the lively Alan Smith.

They had the margin down to three but with time almost up Louth looked set to escape, particularly when Cribbin cannoned a shot off the crossbar. But the drama was only just beginning and Bolton was pulled down for the 72nd minute penalty that Sweeney converted.

Moments later captain Eamonn Callaghan lofted a high ball in from the left that was only parried down to Cribbin who netted for a thrilling victory.

Scorers for Kildare: P O’Neill, K Cribbin and R Sweeney (1-0 pen) 1-0 each, E O’Flaherty 0-2 (2f), Smith & Ennis (2f) 0-2 each, H McGrillen, E Bolton, D Whyte (1 45’) each.

Scorers for Louth: D Maguire 2-1, S Lennon 0-7 (6f); P Keenan 0-1.

KILDARE: S Connolly; H McGrillen, M Foley, C Fitzpatrick; E Bolton, M Scanlon, D Whyte; H Lynch, P O’Neill; T Moolick, E O’Flaherty, A Smith; K Ennis, W Heffernan, M O’Sullivan.

Subs: F Dowling for Heffernan 23, R Sweeney for Moolick h/t, K Cribbin for Ennis 65, B Flanagan for Bolton 72.

LOUTH: S O’Connor; E McAuley, A Hoey, G Hoey; R Finnegan, D Finnegan, S Fitzpatrick; P Keenan, R Carroll; D Crilly, M Brennan, B Donnelly; D Maguire, S Lennon, A Reid.

Subs: A McDonnell for Donnelly 29, R Greene for McAuley 56, B Smith for Reid 66, JP Rooney for Maguire 68.

Referee: G McCormack (Dublin).

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