Kildare, Carlow, Kerry and Down victorious in Christy Ring Cup

Kildare, Carlow, Kerry and Down were victorious in the opening round of the 2009 GAA Christy Ring Cup as the competition got underway this afternoon.

Kildare, Carlow, Kerry and Down were victorious in the opening round of the 2009 GAA Christy Ring Cup as the competition got underway this afternoon.

The shock of the day was in Cusack Park, Mullingar as recently crowned Division 3A league champions Kildare despatched last year's beaten Christy Ring Cup finalists Westmeath into the back-door route.

Andy Comerford's charges had one-point to spare in a gripping extra-time encounter with the visitors prevailing by the minimum margin on a 3-19 to 2-21 scoreline.

Rampant Kildare led by 0-14 to 0-6 at half-time in normal time, but were held to just a goal and two points on the restart as Westmeath bounced back strongly.

Andrew Mitchell and Brendan Murtagh were among the point scorers for the Lake County who coupled with an Alan Devine goal ensured the hosts were level with their Lilywhite counterparts at 1-16 apiece at the end of normal time.

The sides were well balanced in extra-time, but Kildare held that extra resolve to eek out a one-point win.

Another gripping encounter took place at Austin Stack Park, Tralee with the hosts also prevailing by a point at the full-time whistle as Kerry took a 3-11 to 1-16 win against visitors Mayo.

First-half goals from John Mike Dooley and James McCarthy for the hosts arrived either side of a dominant Mayo spell as the visitors kept in touch thanks to scores from debutant and Kilkenny native David Dowling.

Indeed, Mayo were unlucky not to strike for a goal of their own but for Adrian Freeman agonisingly watching his effort come off the post.

Kerry maintained their lead ahead of the interval and with Shane Brick on target the Kingdom led by 2-5 to 0-9 at the break.

Defences stood reasonably firm on the restart but both sides hit momentary lapses at the back as both sets of forwards utilised their chance to add to the goal tally.

Sean Young completed the Kerry hat-trick on the restart but determined Mayo failed to give up, and with dual star Keith Higgins on their side they battled bravely.

Scores from Derek McDonald, Stephen Broderick and Higgins cut the gap to the minimum with Young edging Kerry in front before Broderick hit Mayo's lone goal to put his side into a late lead.

However Kerry showed greater resilience as a brace of late scores pushed them into the second round, and confined Mayo to the back-door route.

Another classic encounter took place in Newry as hosts Down came out on top of an all-Ulster clash with Derry by 3-20 to 1-22 at Páirc Esler.

This game failed to have a silver lining for top-scorer Sam Dodds who bagged 16 points but finished on the losing side as Down spread their scores more evenly with an overall team display ensuring a four-point win.

A 16th minute Eoin Clarke goal set Down up for a 1-13 to 0-10 interval lead, and with Gareth Johnston on target with Down's second three-pointer within four minutes of the restart, the hosts quickly opened up a nine-point gap.

Derry responded positively to cut the deficit to five points, but Down continued to hold the upper hand with Ally Higgins firing home their third goal with Johnston and Simon Wilson providing late insurance points.

Meanwhile visitors Carlow were 4-16 to 3-9 winners over neighbours Wicklow on their travels to Arklow.

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