Tuesday 22 January 2019

Gilligan ruins day for Lilies

When Kildare beat Derry in last year's All-Ireland Qualifiers at Celtic Park, it was seen as a watershed moment for the visitors, upon which they built momentum to reach an All-Ireland semi-final.

For the Oak Leafers, it was a massive disappointment, and manager Damien Cassidy announced his resignation some time afterwards.

On that day, Paddy Bradley was in the stand in front of the press box having withdrawn from the panel, and much was made of his considerable absence.

Less noted, but perhaps just as critical though, was the absence of Conleth Gilligan, and the Ballinderry man gave another sample of what he has to offer by scoring seven points in Derry's defeat of Kildare at Newbridge yesterday.

He was livewire throughout and though only one of his three first-half points came from play, Tommy O'Neill was called ashore at the interval.

Andriú Mac Lochlainn didn't fare a whole lot better, though, as Gilligan produced half of his scores from play and remained a constant menace, with the defensive concentration perhaps on Bradley.

His dead-ball kicking was beyond reproach as well and was critical as the Ulster men came away from St Conleth's Park with a victory their manager John Brennan admitted, not even many of their own supporters probably expected.

"That's what he's there for," said Brennan afterwards when asked about Gilligan. "Conleth Gilligan hasn't been there for a few years but I always had time for him as a footballer. Everybody knows the heartbreak he has caused me (at Lavey) over the years in club football. At times, Paddy Bradley was being double-marked today so that gave another person some space.

"We have six lads out there that are in their first year of senior inter-county football and with the experienced players, they're gelling well.

"We've hit the ground running but I think it's because there's great enthusiasm. These fellas want to play football for Derry and we're proud to be associated with them. Kildare are a very, very good team and with a bit of luck and more than that (a good refereeing decision) they might have won an All-Ireland. There are so many good teams in Division 2, that wasn't a two-pointer or even a four-pointer. That today was almost a six-pointer.

"We could have had a goal after 30 seconds or so and I know it was 20 minutes before we scored but once we did, the boys settled and for Conleth Gilligan to kick a 45 into the wind was some effort.


"To be leading at half-time into the wind was probably the winning of the game, but maybe the lads thought the wind would do it for them and they slacked off a little bit, but overall I was very pleased with the effort."

Johnny Doyle kicked seven points as Kildare recorded their lowest score in some time but Fionn Dowling's performance was probably the highlight for them, last year's minor scoring two points, one of which was from an almost impossible angle, and showing well for the ball throughout the contest.

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