Kildare 1-22 Offaly 2-14
In a game that bore little resemblance to the provincial fare they had been involved in, Kildare and Offaly produced a barnstormer at a raucous St Conleth’s Park, before the home side prevailed by 1-22 to 2-14, writes Daragh Ó Conchúir.
Cian O’Neill’s men had to withstand a strong second-half effort by Offaly in the second half as goals from Nigel Dunne and Peter Cunningham from the penalty spot drew them level, having trailed by five points at the break.
They failed to score from the time Dunne slotted a 58th minute free however and in the resultant 20 minutes of play, Kildare showed the mental fortitude that had previously been found wanting to register five points and advance to round 3B of the qualifiers.
Kildare had been particularly turgid in their two championship games to date but despite retaining a couple of extra defensive players, were significantly more dynamic in their transitional play when winning possession this time around.
Crucially, they were more clinical as well although the portents were not especially promising in that regard as they kicked two horrendous wides in the opening couple of minutes.
Adam Tyrrell was responsible for one of those but he redeemed himself with a brilliant score soon after.
The Moorefield man was one of three Kildare forwards to register three points in the first half, with Niall Kelly and Neil Flynn the others.
Kelly in particular was tremendously economic, as he struggled to get involved but lofted some fantastic scores.
Offaly kept in touch though, helped largely by the habitual indiscipline of the Kildare defence that presented Nigel Dunne with five points from frees.
Johnny Moloney proved a real handful in general play and as well as being fouled for a couple of those frees, the Tullamore forward added a brace of his own from play and had his marker, the former All Star Peter Kelly replaced.
Niall McNamee also offered a glimpse of his class when found with a quick delivery and spiralling a fantastic score on the turn.
One of Moloney’s points could have been a goal but his piledriver produced a stunning save from Mark Donnellan.
Tommy Moolick scored the Kildare goal after 14 minutes.
The midfielder thundered through the middle and while Alan Mulhall stopped his initial shot, Moolick bundled the rebound over to put four between the sides.
Offaly hit back with three points but four magnificent points on the trot, including a pearler from the very influential Kevin Feely, propelled them to a 1-12 to 0-10 interval lead.
The visitors did have the benefit of a strengthening wind in the second half but Kildare looked comfortable until Peter Cunningham intercepted an attempted pass and set up Dunne for 42nd goal.
Four minutes later, Cunningham finished emphatically from the penalty spot after Mooney had been taken down by Mark Donnellan.
In truth, they were rare attacking forays for Offaly though as Moolick, Feely and Emmet Bolton got on a mountain on ball.
As tempers frayed late on, Offaly lost Eoin Carroll to a second yellow card in the 67th minute but Kildare held their nerve with a couple of pointed frees by Eoghan O’Flaherty as well as tremendous scores by Niall Kelly, David Hyland and Alan Smith saw them home.
Scorers – Kildare: N Flynn 0-5(2fs); N Kelly, A Tyrrell (2fs) 0-4 each; T Moolick 1-1; E O’Flaherty (fs), F Conway 0-2 each; C McNally, K Feely, A Smith, D Hyland 0-1 each.
Offaly: N Dunne 1-7(0-7fs); P Cunningham 1-1 (1-0 pen); J Moloney, N Darby (1f) 0-2 each; N McNamee, G Guilfoyle 0-1 each
Kildare: M Donnellan, P Kelly, D Hyland, O Lyons, J Byrne, E Doyle, E Bolton, T Moolick, K Feely, A Tyrrell, M O’Flaherty, F Conway, C McNally, N Kelly, N Flynn.
Subs: C Fitzpatrick for P Kelly (33), E O’Flaherty for Tyrrell (48), C O’Donoghue for Lyons inj (51), F Dowling for Doyle BC (52), A Smith for Flynn (54), K Cribbin for McNally BC (70+2)
Offaly: A Mulhall, B Darby, E Rigney, S Pender, N Darby, P Cunningham, C Donohue, E Carroll, N Smith, M Brazil, N Dunne, G Guilfoyle, A Sullivan, N McNamee, J Moloney.
Subs: C McNamee for Guilfoyle (ht), B Allen for Brazil (65), J Gethins for Donohue (67), J Lalor for Cunningham (70+4)
Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh).