By Paul Keane
Kildare 3-20 Fermanagh 0-18
Resurgent Kildare are through to the Super 8s after cruising past the challenge of Fermanagh with their best display of the year.
Boss Cian O'Neill described the performance in Navan, lit up by the majesty of goalscorers Neil and Daniel Flynn, as even better than last weekend's Round 3 win over Mayo.
They led from the game's first score until full-time and were virtually assured of the win with 15 minutes to go when they led by 14 points.
Chris Healy came off the bench and delivered a stunning third goal in the 75th minute to put the cherry on top of a thrilling display.
Fantastic finish by Kildare's Chris Healy! pic.twitter.com/v9Aw1wkZyg— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 7, 2018
Their reward is the guarantee of three games in the new Super 8s series with the first coming at Croke Park next Sunday against Laois or Monaghan.
On this sort of form, and playing with such a high level of confidence after qualifier wins over Derry, Longford, Mayo and now Fermanagh, Kildare will fancy their chances against anyone.
It's some contrast to last May when they lost to Division 4 outfit Carlow and crashed out of the Leinster championship, fearing their summer may be a short one.
Buoyed by their huge win over Mayo, they hit the ground running seven days on and were 1-3 to 0-1 up by the seventh minute in front of an appreciate 7,400 crowd.
Daniel Flynn grabbed the goal after catching a long delivery from Fergal Conway, sidestepping his man and tucking the shot away low to the left corner.
GOAL Kildare! Great take and finish by Daniel Flynn! pic.twitter.com/PpJU7t4d0j— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 7, 2018
Kildare played with a visible confidence in those opening stages and opened up Fermanagh's defence impressively with Kevin Feely stationed at full-forward for a period and pinching a point.
Feely delivered an inch-perfect long fist pass to Daniel Flynn late in the half as the Johnstownbridge man closed out the scoring to make it 1-13 to 0-5 at half-time.
Fermanagh got the first two scores of the second-half through Seamus Quigley and Ruairi Corrigan but needed goals and they never arrived.
Kildare, in contrast, got a second when Neil Flynn finished off a brilliant move involving Tommy Moolick and Eoin Doyle.
Fantastic team play by Kildare, resulting in a Neill Flynn goal! pic.twitter.com/pjQpRkzNJ9— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 7, 2018
Fermanagh fell 2-18 to 0-10 behind before reeling off six points in a row to cut the margin to eight at 2-18 to 0-16.
O'Neill may perhaps blame Kildare's loss of shape and intensity in this period on taking off players like the Flynns and Feely, with one eye on next weekend's encounter.
Points from sub Healy and Paddy Brophy settled Kildare before Healy scored a brilliant goal five minutes into injury-time when he lobbed the 'keeper with a wonderful left-footed effort.
Check out the full-time highlights here between Fermanagh and Kildare! pic.twitter.com/beznAsCmFu— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 7, 2018
Kildare scorers: Neil Flynn 1-5 (0-3f), Daniel Flynn 1-3, Chris Healy 1-2, Kevin Flynn 0-2, Paddy Brophy 0-2, Keith Cribbin 0-1, Paul Cribbin 0-1, Tommy Moolick 0-1, Kevin Feely 0-1, Peter Kelly 0-1, Fergal Conway 0-1.
Fermanagh scorers: Seamus Quigley 0-7 (0-6f), Sean Quigley 0-3, Tomas Corrigan 0-2, Ryan Jones 0-2, Ruairi Corrigan 0-1, Declan McCusker 0-1, Barry Mulrone 0-1, James McMahon 0-1.
KILDARE: Mark Donnellan; Peter Kelly, Mick O'Grady, David Hyland; Johnny Byrne, Eoin Doyle, Kevin Flynn; Keith Cribbin, Tommy Moolick; Fergal Conway, Paul Cribbin, Paddy Brophy; Neil Flynn, Kevin Feely, Daniel Flynn.
Subs: Fionn Dowling for Moolick (44), Chris Healy for Feely (46), Niall Kelly for P Cribbin (49), David Slattery for K Cribbin (52), Eamonn Callaghan for D Flynn (55), Mark Hyland for N Flynn (63).
FERMANAGH: Patrick Cadden; Che Cullen, Lee Cullen, Michael Jones; Barry Mulrone, Declan McCusker, Aidan Breen; Eoin Donnelly, Tom Clarke; Daniel Teague, Ryan Jones, James McMahon; Ruairi Corrigan, Seamus Quigley, Conall Jones.
Subs: Kane Connor for Teague (24), Tomas Corrigan for Breen (32), Ryan Lyons for C Jones (36), Paul McCusker for Clarke (43), Sean Quigley for R Corrigan (46), Conor Magee for Mulrone (59).
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).