Mayo’s NHL Division 2B campaign ended in defeat at MacHale Park this afternoon but a defeat with honour it proved to be. Well on top in the first half, they looked set then to clinch the win they needed for promotion. Kildare, however, upped the pace sharply after the break and were deserved eight-point victors by the end.
Sean Regan hadn’t been named to start for us in the programme but his early 1-1 contribution put our lads in the ascendancy early on. All over the field the home team were battling hard and Kildare were finding it difficult to get any purchase in this contest.
By the first water break we were 1-7 to 0-4 in front and when Keith Higgins landed his fourth free of the day a bit later our lead was out to eight points. The visitors – who will be contesting the Joe McDonagh Cup this summer while we’re battling it out two tiers below for the Rackard Cup – now looked rattled.
They butchered a great opportunity to get back into it when they won a penalty, David Kenny getting sin-binned for the foul. But Jack Sheridan’s shot was tame and Bobby Douglas saved with ease.
A super point out on the left by Sean Regan stretched our lead to eight again. Sheridan landed his second sideline cut for them and a goal chance for the visitors was averted when Corey Scahill brilliantly hooked the Kildare attacker.
Another Keith Higgins free and another super score from play by Sean Regan, bookmarked by a Slattery point for them, left the gap at eight once more. That would have been a handsome lead to take into half-time but Slattery powered through for a goal for them right on the stroke of the short whistle to cut the margin back to five.
Kildare were a changed team on the resumption. They reeled off seven points without reply to turn the contest on its head and seize a two-point lead. Now all the main battles were being won by the men in white as Kildare’s experience in playing at a higher level finally began to exert itself.
By the second water break the visitors were three up and kicking for home. Although we traded scores with them over the final quarter we never looked likely to get the goal we now needed to dig out the win.
Instead Kildare struck in the final seconds to bag a second goal. Sub Dowling found the net for them, putting an undeserved eight-point margin between the teams at the finish, with Kildare winning by 2-24 to 1-19.
Although the game ended in defeat for our lads, there are plenty of positives that can be taken from such a battling performance against quality opposition. That will, no doubt, stand Derek Walsh’s team in good stead as they face into their Rackard Cup campaign a few weeks from now.