Kildare got their defence of the Leinster senior football title off to teh perfect start with a 0-19 to 1-11 victory over Carlow at Croke Park this afternoon. However, their progress in the competition will be severely tested following the dismissal of influential midfielder Willie McCreery for an off the ball incident and a serious injury to captain Glen Ryan. Ryan had to be stretchered off ten minutes from time and was taken to hospital with suspected torn ankle ligaments, which could rule him out of this year's campaign.

At that stage, The Lilywhites were well on their way to victory, but Carlow can hold their heads high following a spirited performance that saw them within touching distance until midway through the second half. Although they took an 0-11 to 0-06 advantage in at the interval, Kildare were consistently troubled by a determined Carlow outfit who had restricted their opponents to 0-06 to 0-04 until as late as the 24th minute. Padraig Brennan hit three of those first half scores, while Carlow captain Mark Carpenter registered the half's best score, a point from all of fifty metres just before the whistle.

After the break Carlow shocked Mick O'Dwyer's men with a Willie Quinlan goal in the seventh minute, when he pounced quickest after the ball had come back off the upright on two occasions. McCreery was dismissed for an off the ball incident ten minutes into the second half, and another Quinlan point in the 16th minute left the challengers just one point adrift. Kildare managed to steady the ship with the introduction of Martin Lynch and Niall Buckley. They hit five unanswered points, three from Padraig Brennan, as the holders finished comfortable five point winners, but it seems they will may have to do without the services of Ryan and McCreery for some time.

Mick O'Dwyer was full of praise for Carlow after the final whistle, insisting: "It was a great display by Carlow, there is no doubt about that. They got to within one point of us at one stage in the second half, but it showed the character of our team, because it was then really that we lifted our game, even though we were a man short. I think we went on then to play some superb football. We ran, we chased and we harassed all over the pitch and we registered some great scores. We were a little bit stale, a little bit rusty but I thought some of the younger players did really well and it will hopefully help them later in the championship."

Filed by Shane Murray