Kelly is Athy hero as late surge breaches Benildus
ARDSCOIL NA TRiONóIDE, ATHY 1-14
ST BENILDUS 2-7
A powerful final quarter saw Ardscoil na Trionoide, Athy finally get the upper hand on a brave St Benildus by four points in their Leinster Senior Football first round tie on the all-weather pitch at Belfield last Friday afternoon.
That Benildus held the lead for the majority of the game will act as scant consolation and their failure to build on an enterprising opening and an over-reliance on the excellent Shane Cunningham for scores ultimately proved their downfall.
It was Cunningham who opened the scoring with a superb third-minute point and within two minutes the same player was needlessly pushed by Tadhg Foley, with Paul Connolly confidently dispatching the resultant penalty to the net.
Niall Kelly, a Kildare minor of the past two years, responded with a classy score for Athy, but their challenge was rocked by the concession of a second goal in the 13th minute as Cunningham raced to clear to finish impishly to the net.
Cunningham continued to punish slack Athy defending with a further point three minutes later, but it proved Benildus's final score of the half as a brace of frees apiece from Kelly and centre-back John Merrins saw Ardscoil reduce their arrears to just three points by the interval.
Although Cunningham pushed the hosts four clear within seconds of the restart, Athy began to monopolise possession through the efforts of the exceptional David Hyland and dragged themselves back into the hunt after points from David O'Toole, Michael Kelly, Hyland and Sean Ronan.
It was nip and tuck from there with Benildus sneaking ahead after a wonderful solo score by David Byrne, but Hyland and Alan Farrell replied for Athy to leave the tie poised with eight minutes remaining.
Another rousing Byrne point pushed the hosts one point clear, but the game's pivotal score arrived five minutes from time when Niall Kelly released namesake Michael Kelly to hammer clinically to the net, confirming Athy's second round spot in the process.
Scorers -- Ardscoil na Trionóide: N Kelly 0-5 (4f), M Kelly 1-1, J Merrins (2f), D Hyland, D O'Toole 0-2 each, S Ronan, A Farrell 0-1 each. St Benildus: S Cunningham 1-5 (0-1f), P Connolly 1-0 (pen), D Byrne 0-2.
ARDSCOIL NA TRIONóIDE: S Conway; M Behan, K Mulhall, T Foley; T May, J Merrins, L Doyle; P Connell, D Hyland; S Ronan, A Farrell, P Keogh; M Kelly, D O'Toole, N Kelly. Subs: S McGovern for Behan (42).
ST BENILDUS: S Murtagh; A Kennedy, C Dolan, E Murphy; S Corcoran, R McGowan, S Mulvaney; D Butler, D Byrne; E Coffey, B Reilly, N Hanley; P Connolly, B Horan, S Cunningham. Subs: C Conway for Reilly (44), S Bedford for Connolly (56).
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)