Brian Fenton stars for Dublin in narrow opening win over Kildare

It was a long way from Dublin at their vintage best but every win counts.
Brian Fenton stars for Dublin in narrow opening win over Kildare

Dublin’s John Small and Mick O’Grady of Kildare

Allianz National Football League, Division 2

Dublin 1-11 Kildare 0-13 

It was a long way from Dublin at their vintage best but in the race for promotion back to Division 1 of the Allianz Football League, every win counts.

Dublin did just enough to register two early points in their Division 2 campaign with Man of the Match Brian Fenton hitting the early goal that ultimately separated the sides at Croke Park.

There was a four-point haul too from Cormac Costello while the sight of the fit again Con O'Callaghan kicking back to back points at one stage in the game went down well with Dublin fans in the 17,161 crowd.

Dublin scored 5-17 when the same sides met in last May's Leinster final but there was never any danger of a repeat of that sort of scoring in a low-scoring, humdrum encounter.

Dublin did open up a five-point advantage in the third quarter but were holding on in the end with Kildare outscoring them by 0-6 to 0-2 in the closing 20 minutes or so.

Dessie Farrell's Dublin should be stronger in the coming weeks when established stars like Jack McCaffrey, Paul Mannion, James McCarthy, Evan Comerford and Brian Howard all return.

As for Kildare, there was some victory in defeat with Kevin Feely making an earlier than anticipated return from a serious Achilles injury while Jack Robinson impressed in attack.

Glenn Ryan's side will chase their first league win of the campaign against Cork next weekend while Dublin will head to promoted Limerick.

Dublin handed full league debuts to goalkeeper David O'Hanlon - replacing the absent Evan Comerford - and Skerries man Greg McEneaney ahead of him in defence.

O'Hanlon started last year's Championship campaign against Wexford though didn't feature in their remaining four games.

McEneaney took his chance with two strong performances in this month's O'Byrne Cup against Wicklow and Offaly.

Dublin had eight players in their lineup who started against Kerry last July while Niall Scully and Cian Murphy, who came on against the Kingdom, also started.

Injury plagued O'Callaghan was returning to Dublin duty for the first time since, ironically, hitting Kildare for 1-5 in last year's Leinster final.

McCaffrey and Mannion are back on the Dublin panel for 2023 but neither were named in the 26.

There was no sign of established stars Howard nor McCarthy either while Jonny Cooper has retired.

Kildare had nine starters from the side that lined out in last June's qualifier defeat to Mayo.

Boss Ryan went with Robinson in attack after a couple of strong displays in their two-game O'Byrne Cup campaign.

The Clogherinkoe man lined up in a strong full-forward line next to Darragh Kirwan and Jimmy Hyland.

Kirwan and Hyland are experienced attackers for the Lilies but Robinson was their main threat initially, playing a key role in four of their six first-half points.

Robinson scored two, won a free that was converted by Hyland and was then fouled by his marker Sean MacMahon for a free that Kirwan converted.

MacMahon was one of three late additions to the Dublin team, along with Ross McGarry and McEneaney, and had a tough evening tracking Robinson.

MacMahon did play a central role in the sixth minute Dublin goal though.

It was his lay-off to Fenton that set up the talisman midfielder for the three-pointer at the Hill 16 End.

That score put Dublin ahead for the first time and they retained the lead throughout though there was never much in it.

Kildare kicked themselves for dropping four point attempts short in the first-half.

Dublin too were errant and six wides meant they only led 1-5 to 0-6 at the break when it could have been more.

O'Callaghan, locked in a head to head with Kildare corner-back Mick O'Grady, kicked three of those wides for the hosts.

Dublin fans in the 17,161 crowd cheered as referee Brendan Griffin booked Kildare manager Ryan after the restart, apparently for an incident at the end of the first-half.

O'Callaghan struck his first points of 2023 in the 36th and 41st minutes, escaping O'Grady each time.

Jimmy Hyland sniped one in return for Kildare but Dublin underlined their vast ability with a razor sharp move from the resulting kick-out that ended with Fenton playing in ex-U-20 star McGarry for a point.

Colm Basquel came on and set up a score for Ciaran Kilkenny and suddenly there was clear daylight between the teams, 1-9 to 0-7.

Kildare needed a goal to ignite a comeback and almost got one when sub Tony Archbold drew a fine save from O'Hanlon with 20 minutes to go.

They did their best in the closing quarter and struck points from Hyland, Robinson, Kirwan and free-taker Neil Flynn to push the Dubs all the way but came up just short.

Dublin scorers: C Costello (0-4, 3 frees); B Fenton (1-0); C O'Callaghan (0-2); D Rock (1f), J Small, N Scully, C Kilkenny, R McGarry (0-1).

Kildare scorers: N Flynn (0-4, 2 '45s, 1 free); J Hyland (1 free), D Kirwan (1 free), J Robinson (0-3).

DUBLIN: D O'Hanlon; M Fitzsimons, S MacMahon, C Murphy; G McEneaney, E Murchan, L Gannon; B Fenton, T Lahiff; J Small, C Kilkenny, N Scully; C Costello, R McGarry, C O'Callaghan.

Subs: D Byrne for Murchan (h/t); C Basquel for McGarry (47); D Rock for McEneaney (55); K O'Gara for Costello (68); P O Cofaigh Byrne for Lahiff (72).

KILDARE: M Donnellan; M O'Grady, S Ryan, R Houlihan; D Malone, D Hyland, P McDermott; A Masterson, K O'Callaghan; N Flynn, K Flynn, P Cribbin; J Robinson, D Kirwan, J Hyland.

Subs: P Woodgate for J Hyland (31-h/t, blood); A Beirne for Cribbin (47); T Archbold for Malone (47); B McCormack for J Hyland (59); K Feely for Masterson (60); J Sargent for Houlihan (72).

Ref: B Griffin (Kerry)

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