One week after the width of the goalpost saved Kildare from Leinster championship elimination at the hands of Longford in Tullamore, the two sides returned to Bord na Móna O’Connor Park and played out a game that couldn’t have been any more of a contrast.
This afternoon Kildare could afford to spurn a number of first-half goal chances and they were still always in control of the tie against a Longford team that simply couldn’t muster up anything like the same level of vim or vigour, particularly up front.
Padraic Davis’ men were hampered by an early injury to key forward Barry McKeon, and coming on top of the ongoing absence of star attackers like Rian Brady and Robbie Smyth, that left the underdogs visibly short of firepower. Even so, to get to the 68th minute without a starting forward registering a score will be a huge source of disappointment and doesn’t bode well for the county in advance of their trip to Carlow for next Sunday’s first-round qualifier fixture.
Kildare’s honesty and diligence in defence was a factor, with Mick O’Grady looking solid on his return to the full back berth while Eoin Doyle was also much more prominent on the middle of the ’45 than he was a week previously.
More significant was Kildare’s control of midfield, where Tommy Moolick was a huge influence as a third midfielder and Fergal Conway also had an impressive outing.
There wasn’t much to be impressed at in the opening quarter, when unforced errors littered a contest that was still scoreless after 17 minutes of action.
Playing into the breeze, Kildare could afford to let the clock tick away without any scores, but Longford didn’t have the same luxury. They needed to give themselves something to defend after half time but David McGivney’s free in the 18th minute was their first point, and they quickly were rocked back even further when Fergal Conway drove at the Kildare goal with the next play, powered past two defenders and blasted a thunderbolt of a shot off the crossbar and into the net from 15 metres.
Longford added two of the next three points to get back within one, 1-1 to 0-3, but by half time it was 1-4 to 0-4 and they had a mountain to climb.
They never looked like doing it, as Kildare quickly put any doubts about the result to bed in the eight minutes after half time.
They rattled off six points in that time, using the wind well to score from distance but also feeding inside forwards Neil Flynn and Adam Tyrrell, while Ben McCormack continued to link up the play very well.
McCormack crowned his fine solo display with two good points, Tommy Moolick brought his tally to three in a man of the match display, while nine scorers from play will be a pleasing statistic when they reflect on this win, provided they can give themselves a moment to look back given their impending date with All-Ireland champions Dublin at Croke Park in a week’s time.
Scorers for Kildare: Neil Flynn 0-5 (0-4f), Fergal Conway 1-1, Adam Tyrrell (0-2f) & Tommy Moolick 0-3 each, Ben McCormack 0-2, Paddy Brophy, David Slattery, Niall Kelly & Keith Cribbin 0-1 each.
Scorers for Longford: David McGivney 0-5 (0-4f), Michael Quinn 0-2f, Joseph Hagan, Andrew Farrell & Darren Quinn 0-1 each.
Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Mark Dempsey, Mick O’Grady, Peter Kelly; David Hyland, Eoin Doyle, Keith Cribbin; Kevin Feely, Fergal Conway; David Slattery, Ben McCormack, Tommy Moolick; Adam Tyrrell, Paddy Brophy, Jimmy Hyland.
Subs used: Neil Flynn for J Hyland (22), Niall Kelly for Feely (56), Cathal McNally for McCormack (59), Eoghan O’Flaherty for Brophy (62), Chris Healy for Slattery (64), Kevin O’Callaghan for Tyrrell (67).
Longford: Paddy Collum; Patrick Fox, Donal McElligott, Barry O’Farrell; Colm P Smyth, Pádraig McCormack, Darren Quinn; John Keegan, David McGivney; Gary Rogers, Barry McKeon, Michael Quinn; Daniel Mimnagh, James McGivney, Darragh Doherty.
Subs used: Andrew Farrell for McKeon (22), Joseph Hagan for Doherty (31), Aidan McElligott for Rogers (51), Mark Hughes for Keegan (57)
Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)
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Derek McGrath and Ger Cunningham review the weekend's hurling with Anthony Daly