Longstanding supporters of Kildare hurling may recall how in 1971, the Short Grass county lost a league promotion playoff to Clare, despite leading by four points with ten minutes to play. That was the closest the county has ever come to promotion to the top tier of the hurling league, but Saturday’s 0-25 to 0-11 win over Carlow would suggest that David Herity’s side could yet put themselves right into the promotion mix this year.
Kevin McDonald and Richard Coady struck some good points to keep Carlow in contention early on after they fell behind by 0-5 to 0-1, but James Burke rifled over 0-11, 0-9 from frees, while ten Kildare players scored from play in a comfortable 0-25 to 0-11 win, placing them on top of the Division 2A table.
In Division 2B, Meath took a huge step towards bouncing back up to Division 2A at the first attempt when they made light of the loss of star man Damien Healy to a straight red card, and the concession of a goal to Seánie Germaine just before half-time, to over-run Wicklow in the second half of their clash with the Garden County at Páirc Tailteann.
Though the game was finely poised, with Meath three up at half-time, The Royals had the game won by the three quarter mark as they led by 1-19 to 2-6 and eased home from there to prevail by 2-24 to 2-14. Seán Quigley got their first goal, Podge O’Hanrahan was in sublime form from placed balls, with two 65s and a sideline cut in his 0-11 tally, while Trim’s James Toher controlled the tie from centre back.
Donegal made home advantage count at O’Donnell Park in Letterkenny, where Gerard Gilmore got the game’s only goal and Sligo will live to regret their failure to take advantage of more than enough possession, and their accumulation of 16 wides.
Conor Hannify, Niall Kilcullen and Joe McHugh fired over points for Sligo in the second half to put the Connacht county back in the mix, but Declan Coulter, who ended the day with eight points, shot four of those late on to help procure a 1-16 to 0-15 win.
Emotions ran high at the Dungannon Eoghan Ruadh club, where Tyrone won their first league game played since the death of local club man Damien Casey thanks to a strong finish against London.
Mickey Little took over the mantle of freetaker, a role Casey performed in great style throughout his career, and Little delivered in the same vein, striking 0-11 for the home side.
Kerry import Jack Goulding struck two goals for the Exiles, though Little’s scoring, and a goal from Lorcan Devlin, kept Tyrone’s noses in front. London threatened a win when Niall Broderick scrambled home a goal with ten minutes to play, but Tyrone finished stronger to prevail by 1-26 to 3-18.
It was clashes between neighbouring counties across the board in Division 3A, but three very different outcomes, as Monaghan edged out Fermanagh, Armagh put Louth to the sword, and the all-Connacht clash at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park ended level between two sides that were a long way short of full strength.
The wind was a huge factor in the game at Darver, where Eoin McGuinness and Seaghan Conneely traded early goals but Armagh kicked on from there to rack up a commanding 3-15 to 0-4 interval lead.
Danny Magee struck the other two goals of the game in the first half while Fionntán Donnelly, McGuinness and Tomás Galvin all found the target freely for the Orchard men, and while Mark Gahan had a superb second half for Louth, shooting five points from play and three frees, they never really put Armagh under any serious pressure and were 3-18 to 1-16 behind at the long whistle.
Mayo, operating without their Tooreen contingent, took on a Roscommon side that went into battle without key players such as Peter Kelleghan, Padráig Kelly, and their three top-scoring players -Ben McGahon, Cathal Dolan and Daniel Glynn.
Despite this, the Rossies looked to be on course for the win midway through the second half, where they had turned a tense, 0-7 each first half into a commanding 0-15 to 0-9 lead, with Mickey Joe Egan, Eoin Fitzgerald and Conor Mulry all prominent. They didn’t quite do enough however as a late run of frees from Cormac Phillips and a last minute equaliser from Michael Farrell tied things up at 0-17 each.
Finally in the Division, Hugh Byrne was the unlikely match-winner for Monaghan, as the goalkeeper’s last-ditch, long-range free gave them a narrow 2-13 to 1-14 win over Fermanagh at Clones.
In Division 3B it was Canice Maher, the former Kilkenny minor hurler, who was the star man for Cavan as he scored 1-8 in their 1-13 to 0-14 win over Longford.
Maher planted a free to the Longford net after 44 minutes to edge Cavan in front, but scores from Cathal Mullane and Reuben Murray edged the home team back in front, before the last four points of the contest – three from Maher and one from Jack Barry – gave Cavan the win.
Finally, Leitrim needed Brendan Delaney’s first half goal to stay ahead of a competitive Warwickshire side at Páirc na hÉireann at the break, but the Shannonsiders moved through the gears in the second half to prevail by 1-21 to 3-6.