THEIR rivals put up a fight, but Kildare Catholic justified their favouritism to claim a 19-point victory over Mater Dei Catholic College in Wednesday's Carroll Cup final at Robertson Oval.
Campbell Mattingly booted three of his four goals in the first half, including two consecutively in the second term when Mater Dei had a ten point lead, to help Kildare secure its first title since 2019.
Mater Dei trailed by more than four goals at one stage, and got within ten points in the last quarter before Kildare held on.
Charlie Douglas won the Mark Gooden Medal for a best on ground display in the midfield for Kildare, while Mater Dei skipper Baxter Wallett (four goals) and Flynn Collins (three) did everything possible to spring an upset.
Kildare led by just five points at half-time, but dominated the early stages of the third term with big man Nick Madden showing why he's rated a strong chance to be chosen in the AFL Draft with four second half goals.
Earlier, Kildare off to a good start with goals to Ryley Watson and Mattingly.
But Mater Dei responded strongly through back-to-back goals to Collins, before a goal off a strong mark in the goal square from skipper Wallett gave them a four-point quarter time lead.
Wallett then nailed his second from 50 metres out off a strong mark to give Mater Dei a ten-point lead.
But Mattingly kicked a goal from the boundary line, followed by another snap off a mark, to give Kildare a five point half-time cushion.
An early goal to Kildare big man Nick Madden in the second half finally allowed the favourites to take control with a 14-point advantage.
Mattingly's fourth soon after and Madden's second seemingly established a winning gap, before Mater Dei hit back late.
Kildare coach Ryan Price said Tom Nejman's solid ruck work allowed them to move Madden up forward in the second half with great success.
The decision to shift Douglas into the middle instead of his regular half-back flank role also worked wonders.
"We spoke before the game that Mater Dei tends to play a whole lot better than they're tipped to. But our guys managed to keep their composure and got the job done," Price said.
"Campbell (Mattingly) was outstanding in that first half, he kept us in it to be honest, and Nick Madden once we pushed him forward after halftime.
"It was a clinic, (from Douglas). He's played a lot on the half-back flank but I pushed him into the midfield because I know he's good enough. He was electric and everything he did turned to gold.
"There's certainly a bit of pressure (as favourites) and we spoke about it being an honour to be in that position. But we were certainly made to earn it."
Douglas said his side didn't panic when Mater Dei were threatening a late comeback.
"We knew we had to keep playing the territory game and locking it in there (in the final minutes), we showed them the respect they deserved," he said.
"It's always tough going into a final winning all our games, but we had to keep a level head."
Mater Dei coach Nathan Irvine was proud of his side's fight.
"They missed a lot of chances which kept us in the game, but the boys just battled and battled which is what we asked," he said.
"Harry Hallcroft and Lewis Pulver were great in the backline, but in the end they were just too dynamic in their forward line.
"We wanted to fight to the end and show that resilience, and they did that."
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