Kildare go up after storming comeback

Kieran McGeeney’s calm expression at the final whistle was in contrast to the delirious hoots of joy from the significant Kildare crowd in Pearse Stadium as they secured promotion to Division 1 in the most dramatic circumstances.

If he had mixed emotions he had every reason: his team had lost a four-point half-time lead after playing against the wind and trailed by four points with six minutes of normal time to go.

Galway looked to be heading straight back up to the top-flight, but from the jaws of defeat and another season in Division 2, Kildare rallied with the introduction of Dermot Earley at the edge of the square proving crucial in their recovery.

He got the visitors back to within three with four minutes to go before James Kavanagh and Gary Sice swapped scores.

In a desperate scrum in front of the Galway goal, Emmet Bolton had his shot snuffed out by Adrian Faherty.

However, the wing-back, who scored Kildare’s opening goal, was illegally pegged back seconds later after Earley had broken down a long ball.

Referee Eddie Kinsella had no doubt and awarded the penalty which Johnny Doyle converted to draw the teams level for a seventh and final time.

“Coolness personified,” said McGeeney about Doyle, who felt Kildare were due a break.

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

“In fairness he had a bit of a debate about it with Mikey Conway. The elder man was always going to win that one.”

But things looked ominous for Kildare before those dying minutes. Kavanagh’s 47th minute score had been their only point of the second-half.

Where Earley inspired the Lilywhites, another 1998 All-Ireland final veteran Pádraic Joyce was the catalyst for Galway’s tour de force.

Before he came on in the 51st minute, Galway had two gilt-edged second-half goal chances. Gareth Bradshaw’s shot was superbly saved by Shane Connolly although Paul Conroy should have done better with his tame effort after a Hugh McGrillen and Padraig O’Neill mix-up.

But with Joyce came steadiness and he scored with his first kick. Substitute Danny Cummins also pointed with his initial touch before Joyce kicked one with the outside of his right boot to put Galway two ahead. He followed that with a free in the 63rd minute and then set up Conroy for his third point of the game.

A disappointed Galway manager Alan Mulholland put his side’s excellent second-half down to an attitude shift more than a tactical change.

“It was a major sickener of a finish. We played so well in the second-half. We didn’t do too bad in the first-half either.

“It’s so disappointing because you have to come back next year and try and do that all over again whereas we were one kick away of being in Division 1 and saving ourselves all that trouble. The dressing room is very disappointed. That shows the bit of positivity because as disappointed as we are, we are coming off a game against Kildare who have been knocking on the door for the last three or four years.

“For us to be at that level and a level where we could have and should have won the game is a positive.”

Galway looked to have it all to do after a first-half when they failed to take advantage of the wind.

They were level four times with Kildare but were the poorer team, Alan Smith giving a master-class in finishing with four points. A palmed Bolton goal in the 26th minute gave Kildare a deserved three-point lead and they finished the half a further point ahead thanks to Smith, 1-9 to 0-8.

Unlike Mickey Harte, McGeeney doesn’t feel being in Division 2 as opposed to Division 1 is any disadvantage to a team’s championship prospects.

But he and his merry men were hardly complaining about joining the big league as they made their way back across the M6 yesterday evening.

Scorers for Galway: P Conroy, M Hehir (two frees), P Joyce 0-3 each; A Faherty (two 45s), G Sice 0-2 each; M Martin (free), Damien Burke, G Bradshaw, G Higgins, D Cummins 0-1 each.

Scorers for Kildare: A Smith 0-4; E Bolton, J Doyle (1-0 pen) 1-1 each; J Kavanagh 0-3; E O’Flaherty (free), M Conway, D Earley 0-1 each.

Subs for Galway: K Kelly for Forde, T Flynn for Martin (both h-t); P Joyce for Hehir (51); D Cummins for N Joyce (inj 53); N Coleman for Higgins (69).

Subs for Kildare: D Flynn for McGrillen (45); E Doyle for Flanagan (56); D Earley for O’Neill (65).

Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Laois).

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