Three of the four visiting teams got their 2020 O’Byrne Cup campaign off to a winning start, as Longford, Offaly and Westmeath delivered victories, with Carlow also beginning brightly this afternoon.
At St. Conleth’s Park in Newbridge, goals were key for Longford as they claimed a 2-14 to 0-14 win over Kildare.
The visitors found the net in both halves, with a 21st minute Joe Hagan goal the difference at the break, as Longford led by 1-8 to 0-8.
Full-forward Hagan was certainly impressive throughout, and also accounted for three points of his sides first half tally.
Neil Flynn fired four points from placed balls, with Padraig Nash, Jack Robinson and Liam Power also on target in the opening half for Kildare, in Jack O’Connor’s first competitive game in charge.
The sides were well matched on the score-board in the third quarter, before Kildare cut the gap to the minimum on 57 minutes thanks to the efforts of Paddy Brophy, Daragh Kirwan and Robinson.
However, Kildare, who were without Daniel Flynn, after he picked up a hamstring strain in training on Thursday night; were unable to build on this.
Longford finished strongly, with Daniel Mimnagh sealing the win with a goal on the stroke of injury-time.
Offaly held a little bit extra over their Midland neighbours Laois, as they delivered a 1-17 to 2-12 win at McCann Park, Portarlington.
The sides were tied at 2-5 to 1-8 at the break, after a strong finish by Offaly to the opening half.
Laois led by 2-4 to 0-5 after 28 minutes, with two quick goals key for the O’Moores, as Diarmuid Whelan and Michael Keogh found the net.
Scores from Ruairi McNamee, Bernard Allen and Anton Sullivan cut the gap, before a Cian Farrell goal levelled matters at the break.
Evan O’Carroll’s pointed frees kept Laois on top in the third quarter, but his 62nd minute sin-binning proved crucial, as Offaly held on, with the likes of Ruairi McNamee, Cian Johnson and Bernard Allen claiming vital scores late on.
Westmeath delivered a strong second half display, against a Wexford side managed by former Kerry All-Ireland winner Paul Galvin for the first time.
Joe Halligan netted the games only goal, as Westmeath claimed a 1-11 to 0-11 win in St. Patrick’s Park, Enniscorthy.
Halligan’s three-pointer came in the 14th minute, as Westmeath led by 1-3 to 0-3 at the end of the opening quarter.
However, Wexford bounced back to take a 0-9 to 1-4 interval lead, but failed to carry this momentum into the second half.
Scores from Conor McCormack (2), Callum McCormack, Lorcan Dolan and Kieran Martin saw Westmeath move 1-9 to 0-9 ahead with 13 minutes remaining.
Wexford ended their 24-minute score-less streak, and cut the gap to a point, but Westmeath held out thanks to scores from Lorcan Dolan and Stephen Connolly.
Goals were key for Carlow, in their 2-5 to 0-8 win over neighbours Wicklow at Netwatch Cullen Park.
Turlough O’Brien’s charges claimed their first two points of this game from play, but relied hugely on frees, and goals to see them over the line, in a game where they were understandably without their Éire Óg contingent.
A Daniel St. Ledger 45′ finished in the back of the net, as Carlow led 1-2 to 0-1 after 10 minutes, before moving five points clear two minutes later.
Wicklow responded with back-to-back scores from Mark Kenny, ending their 16-minute scoring drought.
Wicklow were getting scoring chances, but were wasteful, with Andy Maher missing a goal opportunity, and by the interval they had registered eight wides – five from placed balls.
Trailing by 1-4 to 0-3 at the break, Wicklow proved more accurate early on the restart with three unanswered points cutting the gap to the minimum.
However, Carlow found the net for the second time thanks to Robbie Kane, and despite the best efforts of Chris O’Brien for Wicklow, Carlow held out for a three-point win.
Meath will host Louth on Sunday at 2pm in Páirc Tailteann, Navan in the final game of the opening round.