Making their first ever appearance in a Leinster Club competition, Sean Connolly’s crashed out of the provincial junior championship when proving no match for a superior Straffan outfit in the first round game played at St. Conleth’s Park, Newbridge on Saturday last.
This one-side encounter is best described as the Rob Kelly show as the former Kildare star put on a performance not often seen at this level of competition. Slick Straffan were in complete control against the beaten Longford intermediate finalists and the gulf in class was seen right from the off as the Kildare junior champions had the game won even before the half-time break.
Straffan opened in style and by the 9th minute were five points clear before centre-half-back, Cian Coyne, received a black card for a body check and he was replaced by Kevin Mullahy. But that change certainly did not disrupt the flow of the game as Straffan dominated around the middle and with Rob Kelly in devastating form they picked off some delightful scores, Kelly getting five of his side’s first six points.
Midfielder Stephen Lynch opened Sean Connolly’s account and went on to score two more points before the break.
After 17 minutes, directly from a kick out, Paul Donovan fed Rob Kelly who headed straight for goal, covering some 50 yards or so before hitting a delightful shot into the top corner of the net to make it 1-6 to 0-3.
By half-time that score had moved on to 1-11 to 0-5, the other Sean Connolly’s scores coming from Trevor Murtagh, an excellent effort from wide on the right, and a lovely individual point from Joe Heaney.
The visitors did threaten momentarily on the resumption when a Stephen Lynch ‘45’ was caught high by Straffan keeper Matthew Duggan but he lost the ball and while Joe Heaney gathered close in, he was surrounded before losing possession and the danger was cleared.
Straffan then began knocking over some more points, with the impressive Austin Allen and Andy O’Neill causing problems, but it was Rob Kelly who stood out and in the 60th minute he gathered the ball on the halfway line, before racing through and planting his shot low into the corner of the net for a superb goal.
Connolly’s, although outplayed in all areas, kept at it but did not register a second half score until the 55th minute, another free from the impressive Stephen Lynch and the big midfielder also got the last score of the game.
STRAFFAN: Matthew Duggan; Niall Gaynor, Brendan Ashe, Paul O’Neill; Nigel Donovan, Cian Gaynor, Rory Byrne; John Hanafin, Paul Donovan; Ed Neenan, James Devane (0-3), Rob Kelly (2-7, 2 frees); Niall Devane, Austin Allen (0-5, 1 free), Andy O’Neill (0-2).
Subs:- Kevin Mullally for C Gaynor (black card, 12 mins); D Ashe for N Donovan (42 mins); John Tracey for J Devane (50 mins); Kenny Byrne for A Allen (55 mins); Steven Donovan for N Gaynor (55 mins); Shaun McElwaine for P O’Neill (55 mins).
SEAN CONNOLLY’S: Keith Molihan; Andy McNamee, Ciaran Mac Eoin, Thomas Keogh; Dominic Waters, Michael McGlynn, Daniel Collum; Stephen Lynch (0-5, 3 frees, 1 ‘45’), Frank Reynolds; Padraig Brady, Trevor Murtagh (0-1), Dessie Reynolds; Joe Heaney (0-1), Eugene Murtagh, John McKenna.
Subs:- Brendan Treacy for D Watters (25 mins); David Brady for E Murtagh (35 mins); Paddy O’Neill for F Reynolds (40 mins).
Referee: Stephen Murphy (Louth).