Mayo put it up to Kildare today but were ultimately beaten by a better team. Photo: Mayo GAA

Battling Mayo go down fighting against Kildare

The final round in Division 2B of the National Hurling League turned out to be an engrossing affair before a small crowd of spectators who were allowed into Elverys MacHale Park, Castlebar, this afternoon.

Those present were treated to a superb game as Kildare were unbackable to win at huge odds but there was really only one team in this game in the first half – and it wasn’t the visitors. Eventually they prevailed on a 2-24 to 1-19 scoreline, but it was a close contest for long periods.

Mayo took the fight to Kildare, who needed the win to bag the trophy and return to Division 2A for next season. For a while it did look as if Mayo were going to cause a major shock as they out-hurled the Kildare men in the first half, with Keith Higgins unerring from dead balls while a goal from Sean Regan really set Mayo alight as they led by nine points at one stage, Cathal Freeman, Corey Scahill, Sean Kenney, Daniel Huane, David Kenney, Pearse McCrann and Conor Daly on top of their game, the last named unfortunately forced off with an injury just eight minutes into that first half.

Deep into injury time in the first half Kildare’s David Slattery stuck for a vital goal and that reduced Mayo’s deficit to four at the break, 1-14 to 1-10.

However, Mayo were to score just five points in the second half as Kildare looked like a different outfit entirely, their defensive men putting the squeeze on Mayo and half-forward James Burke taking centre-stage in the opening minutes as he stoked over four unanswered points, and from once top gun Jack Sheridan fired his side into the lead, they never looked back.

Mayo still hung in and were searching for a goal to level the match going into the last 10 minutes but Kildare’s physical presence came into play, a late goal from Conor Dowling putting a bit of a gloss on the final scoreline which did not do full justice to Mayo’s efforts on the day.

That said, the best team won – but Mayo will be boosted by this performance as they hit for Donegal for the first round of the Nicky Rackard Cup. If they can produce this kind of hurling then they will feel they are in with every chance of a good run in that competition.

*Full report in Tuesday's print edition.