By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Kildare 1-16 Longford 1-13
Kildare finished with a wet sail against a tiring Longford in the heat of Glennon Brothers Pearse Park to deny the heroic hosts and keep their championship hopes alive.
The sides were level 10 times but, remarkably, Longford never fell behind until Eoin Doyle pointed in the 69th minute.
It certainly was a lucky escape for Cian O’Neill’s men but they should be credited with digging deep and given their history of failing to prevail in tight circumstances, it was a good one to dig out.
In the end, it was perhaps the depth of their squad that was most significant, as Longford didn’t score from the 56th minute, perhaps paying the price for their ferocious workrate.
They paid the price two for coming away with two points when they should have had two goals, Liam Connerton and Donal McElligott rocketing shots off the crossbar in the first half as Longford found the Kildare defence tremendously accommodating.
When it came to the crunch though, Kildare were able to introduce a player of the sublime calibre of Kevin Feely.
The Athy midfielder didn’t start due to a calf injury and only came on in the 68th minute when Fergal Conway, who had kicked the last of 10 Kildare equalisers five minutes earlier, was sent off on a black card.
After Doyle had put the visitors in front, Feely scored a fabulous score on the turn.
Eight minutes later, the Athy man picked up a break at the edge of his own square, and started off a move which ended Chris Healy palming to an empty net.
Robbie Smyth goaled at the other end though as Kildare’s defence frailties were exposed once more but Paul Cribbin had the final say, after a Feely mark.
Longford were by far the better team in the opening period, Smyth and David McGivney gifted some easy opportunities from frees that were conceded far too easily.
Denis Connerton’s charges were marginally better defensively but Kildare did look a threat up front, particularly through Neil Flynn.
Smyth converted two frees early on but following the trend of the game, Kildare were soon level thanks to a brace of scores from Flynn, including an outrageous effort that followed a dummy shot and a chip over a defender’s head.
Longford’s midfield duo Darren Gallagher and Conor Berry kicked some excellent points but had Liam Connerton and Donal McElligott found the net, the result would have been different, even though a pointed free came from the first effort while McElligott’s shot did go over.
Tommy Moolick and Daniel Flynn landed points at the other end and it was Longford leading by 0-9 to 0-8 at half time
Kildare were marginally better defensively in the second half but it was still nip and tuck.
Paddy Collum, whose short kickouts were a key part of the Longford strategy, stroked over a delightful 45 and Smyth punished the Kildare transgressions, but Moolick and a more advanced David Hyland replied.
It was Conway who landed the final equaliser in the 63rd minute before the dramatic conclusion, which included a sending off for Peter Kelly right at the death, receiving his second yellow card for throwing the ball away.
KILDARE: M Donnellan, P Kelly, M O’Grady, D Hyland (0-1), J Murray (J Byrne 50), E Doyle 0-1, K Flynn, T Moolick 0-2 (C Healy 52, 1-0), F Conway 0-1 (K Feely BC 68, 0-1), K Cribbin (D Slattery 44), P Cribbin 0-2, P Brophy 0-2, N Kelly (É O’Connor 5 BC, C McNally 56), D Flynn (0-1), N Flynn 0-5(3fs).
LONGFORD: P Collum 0-1(45), P Fox, P McCormack, D Masterson, M Quinn, D McElligott 0-1, B McKeon, D Gallagher 0-2, C Berry 0-1, D McGivney 0-1(f), D Reynolds, D Mimnagh, R Smyth 1-5(0-5fs), S McCormack 0-1, L Connerton 0-1.
REFEREE: J McQuillan (Cavan).