JAMES Burke turned in a performance of the highest quality as Naas saw off Maynooth to lift their fourth successive Kildare Senior Hurling Championship in Newbridge today.
Maynooth were playing in their first final since 1943 and were massive underdogs against a team who beat them by 27 points during the group stages. However, their clever defensive set-up frustrated Naas and they were particularly competitive during the first half.
Cathal McCabe epitomised their efforts through the first half and in a withdrawn sweeper role, he was at the heart of everything Maynooth did in an attempt to repel the best that Naas could throw at them.
He even got forward to score a point in the last minute of normal time at the end of the half to tie the game fourth time at 0-6 apiece.
However, we saw the best of Naas in response and Charlie Sheridan scored in first half injury time, along with two Burke frees, to leave Naas 0-9 to 0-6 ahead at half-time.
The second half became more of a slog for Maynooth and with McCabe and also Cian Forde playing very deep, making ground in an attacking sense became more difficult.
They scored just one point in the opening 24 minutes of the second half as last year’s All-Ireland Intermediate champions gradually began to wear them down.
Burke’s frees from every conceivable angle and distance were central to that as Naas scored three in a row to lead 0-15 to 0-7 with six minutes to play.
The next six points of the game were shared between the freetakers, four for Maynooth’s David Qualter and two for Burke, and there was six points between the sides going into injury time.
Naas scored three of the four points scored in the four additional minutes, including one brilliant effort from Cathal Dowling, to eventually seal the first four in a row in Kildare since the early 80s.
Their attention will now turn to a Leinster Senior Championship campaign, with the Offaly champions due in Newbridge for a quarter-final tie in November, when their manager Tom Mullally will attempt the success he had with Mount Leinster Rangers. He won an All-Ireland Intermediate title with the Carlow team in 2011 and had them in a Leinster senior final within a couple of years and you couldn’t rule out something similar for this talented Naas team.
C Gallagher; J McKeon, C Boran, P O'Donoghue 0-1; K Whelan, S Gainey, H Carroll; S Leacy 0-2, R Boran 0-1; L Walsh, J Burke 0-10fs, C Dowling; B Byrne, J Sheridan 0-3 (1s), C Sheridan 0-1. Subs: D Mac Donncha for McKeon, 14-16; K Aherne for C Sheridan, 60+1; R Monaghan for Carroll, 60+2.
S Bean; J Cahill, M Eustace, D O'Meara; C Flanagan, F Lohan, R Dunne; G Kenny, H Dunne; A Jordan 0-1, C Nolan, M Melia; D Qualter 0-8 (6fs), C Forde, C McCabe 0-2. Subs: K Dunne for Nolan, 38; M Hogan for R Dunne, 42; E Kelliher for H Dunne, 49a.