Down 3-13 Kildare 1-15
Two goals in the space of a minute snatched a dramatic victory for Down over shellshocked Kildare in the Allianz Football League Division 2 tie at St Conleth’s Park.
Kildare were leading by three points in the last seconds of normal time when substitute Arthur McConville palmed to the net, after Paul Devlin’s free from 45m had come back off the crossbar.
From the kickout, Devlin launched a spectacular point and there was still time for Donal O’Hare to breach the Kildare defence once more to secure the two points.
It was devastating for the home side and sparked reminders of an almost identical collapse last year, when they lost to Tyrone in an early Division 1 one tie at this venue, having led by five points with two minutes left.
They never recovered from that setback and Jason Ryan will be hoping that he can pick his players up ahead of Saturday night’s clash with Meath in Navan.
The key moment in the game arrived in the 50th minute. Down goalkeeper, Michael Cunningham hauled down Gary White and Anthony Nolan had no option but to award a penalty. What’s more, Cunningham was black carded.
Stephen Kane came on and he proved the hero, diving to his left to save Padraig Fogarty’s placed effort.
Kildare led by a point at that juncture and a goal would have put them in a strong position.
Seven minutes later, Fogarty struck the crossbar although when a Down defender picked the ball off the ground, Darroch Mulhall did convert.
Mulhall followed up with a sensational point to open up a three-point gap and that’s what lay between them until the remarkable conclusion.
Down looked very sharp and quick early on but they struggled to break the Kildare defensive wall and kicked four wides from distance.
They did have one goal opportunity but when Conor Laverty made some space with a brilliant show-and-go, his low shot was deflected by Mark Donnellan’s outstretched left boot for a 45 that yielded nothing.
By contrast, Kildare made the very most of their chances in the first half. Fionn Dowling was on fire, kicking three of his four points from play and winning a couple of frees converted by Eoghan O’Flaherty.
Niall Kelly was making his first appearance of the season for Kildare and he goaled in the 21st minute but O’Hare kicked six points and Devlin two to have Down well in touch, trailing by just 1-7 to 0-9 at half time.
Kildare were the better team in the second half although there was nothing they could do about the brilliant solo goal from Caolán Mooney.
The former AFL man was introduced at half time by Jim Corry and showed his searing pace to run half the length of the field before finishing to the Kildare net in the 40th minute.
The All Whites bounced back though and seemed certain to win until the amazing ending.
Down scorers: D O’Hare 1-6 (0-4fs); P Devlin 0-6(2fs); C Mooney, A McConville 1-0 each; D O’Hagan 0-1
Kildare scorers: F Dowling, D Mulhall (2fs), E O’Flaherty (3fs) 0-4 each; N Kelly 1-1; P Fogarty 0-2
Down: M Cunningham, L Howard, D Turley, D O’Hagan, B McArdle, C Garvey, K McKernan, N Madine, P Fitzpatrick, R Johnston, C Maginn, P Devlin, J Johnston, C Laverty, D O’Hare. Subs: C Mooney for R Johnston (ht), M Poland for Garvey (45), S Kane for Cunningham BC (46), D O’Hanlon for Fitzpatrick (55), A McConville for J Johnston (58), P Turley for Maginn BC (65)
Kildare: M Donnellan, C Fitzpatrick, P Kelly, O Lyons, M O’Grady, D O’Brien, E Doyle, H Lynch, P O’Neill, E Callaghan, N Kelly, E O’Flaherty, D Mulhall, P Fogarty, F Dowling. Subs: G White for Lynch inj (16), F Conway for Doyle (58), D Hyland for Kelly (64), K Cribbin for Mulhall (70)
Referee: A Nolan (Wicklow).