Northern Ireland

Down 1-16 1-14 Kildare

Morgan O'Flaherty of Kildare moves in to challenge Down dangerman Benny Coulter at Croke Park
Image caption Morgan O'Flaherty of Kildare moves in to challenge Down dangerman Benny Coulter at Croke Park

Down hung on in a thrilling finish to beat Kildare 1-16 to 1-14 in dramatic All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park.

An early Benny Coulter goal, which Kildare felt should have been ruled out for a square ball, put Down on their way to a 1-9 to 0-7 half-time lead.

Down remained in control until Eamonn Callaghan's goal on 58 minutes gave Kildare hope at 1-14 to 1-10.

Kildare could have snatched victory in stoppage-time but John Doyle's 13-metre free was touched on to the crossbar.

James McCartan's side will play Cork in the final on 19 September.

Incredible game of football - Down are deserving All-Ireland finalists The tubberlad

Down just about deserved their win, with massive performances from Kalum King and Peter Fitzpatrick allaying fears that they might struggle without injured skipper Ambrose Rogers.

Kildare did look the hungrier in the opening stages but Coulter's controversial goal was a big turning point.

Down were also fortunate that a Kildare point was ruled a wide even though it seemed to have gone through the posts.

At the start, Kildare had look the stronger and put two efforts wide before Eamon Callaghan and James Kavanagh scored from play to establish a two-point ninth-minute advantage.

Kevin McKernan advanced to deliver a fine point from play but the Lilywhites looked the sharper side and a John Doyle free restored the two-point gap.

But the whole dynamic changed when Coulter fisted in that controversial goal in the 13th minute.

Martin Clarke lofted in a hopeful high ball from the left and Mayobridge man Coulter got up to beat keeper Shane McCormick and a defender.

Kildare, though, protested that Coulter had entered the square before the ball and the three-pointer should have been disallowed.

Referee Pat McEnaney gave the goal and it was the boost Down sorely required.

McKernan added his second point and Mark Poland landed a superb free from out of the left to put Down into a 1-3 to 0-3 lead.

Kildare right-half back Morgan O'Flaherty came forward to score from play and then Doyle converted a straightforward free.

Kavanagh fluffed a free from a good position but Doyle had better luck from a placed ball to level the match.

But Down still seemed to have the momentum and another Poland free and a well-taken score from play by playmaker Daniel Hughes added to the Mourne men's tally.

Doyle landed another free to reduce the deficit to one but Down's finished the half on top by reeling off points from Clarke, McComiskey, Hughes and a majestic strike from Coulter.

Kildare's luck did not improve in the second half as Callaghan's goal attempt crashed off the far post.

Down had Fitzpatrick and Paul McComiskey efforts blocked.

But they kept their score ticking over with two Clarke frees and points from play by Conor Maginn and Fitzpatrick.

Down were seven points up at that stage but when Callaghan rounded Brendan McVeigh to score Kildare's goal in the 58th minute the contest came to life again.

Coulter and sub Ronan Murtagh got Down's final two points but Kieran McGeeney's men finished the stronger.

Two points from Hugh Lynch, a Doyle free and a point from play by David Lyons reduced the deficit to just two points.

Kildare looked for a penalty award deep into stoppage-time but a 13-metre free was given.

Doyle blasted the kick goalwards and it was touched on to the crossbar and cleared.

Down: B McVeigh, D McCartan, D Gordon, D Rafferty, D Rooney, K McKernan, C Garvey, P Fitzpatrick, K King, D Hughes, M Poland, P McComiskey, B Coulter, J Clarke, M Clarke.

Kildare: S McCormack; P Kelly, H McGrillan, A Mac Lochlainn; M O'Flaherty, E Bolton, B Flanagan; D Flynn, H Lynch; J Kavanagh, P O'Neill, J Doyle; E O'Flaherty, A Smith, E Callaghan.

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