But, tough task master that he is, Kieran McGeeney wasn’t entirely pleased with the return from their most dominant period of a game where Offaly salvaged some pride with improved second half form and a deserved goal eight minutes from the end.
“I’d have felt that we did a few silly things when we were in top,’’ he said. “You have to be ruthless and when you get on top you have to be able to put teams away. We probably had a couple of chances in the first half to set up a few goals and take a few easy scores.
“Maybe we were a wee bit complacent on the ball because we had six or seven points of a lead and we didn’t take them. That’s a lesson you have to let sink in and learn,’’ he added.
While understandably pleased with reversing last year’s upset against Wicklow – this was the Lilywhites’ first win in four seasons – , he feels his team has ‘piles’ of work to do before the play Wexford in the next round in Carlow.
Offaly manager Tom Cribbin was encouraged by the way his players responded after half-time, saying: “they battled hard and showed great heart. They are the positives we have to take out of it.’’
Kildare had their name on the scoreboard as quickly as ten seconds after the throw-in and while Offaly were quickly on level terms, they were undermined by a third minute goal from Alan Smith. In another five minutes Kildare were 1-5 to 0-1 in front and it seemed they could do little wrong.
They were winning majority possession and dictating the game completely. Quick to establish control in defence and make an early impact at midfield (where Dermot Earley was to play a vital role), most impressive of all was their speed of movement in attack and the reliability of their passing. And to cap it all, their finishing was excellent – with Alan Smith especially prominent in the right corner and captain Johnny Doyle giving good leadership.
In sharp contrast, Offaly were ponderous in their build-up and even the normally reliable Alan McNamee was struggling to make an impact in attack. All the way through he was closely marked by former U21 star Hugh McGrillen, who made an impressive championship debut.
At the break Kildare led 1-9 to 0-4, but it was notable that after McGrillen extended their advantage with a point almost immediately after the resumption, they were to concede three points in an eight-minute period which represented Offaly’s best return. For a while, Offaly promised to further narrow the gap because of a definite improvement at midfield, where Niall Smith hit a very good spell against Daryl Flynn and more adventurous play in an attack, boosted by the contribution of several substitutes – including Shane Sullivan and Niall Darby.
Kildare responded with some well-worked scores – again during a phase when they were running up wides to their match total of 13 – and they were comfortably in control when two Doyle frees had them nine points clear with just over ten minutes remaining.
Shortly after that came the Offaly goal, a fine solo effort from Sean Ryan. But all that it achieved was to make the scoreboard more respectable, and to remind McGeeney and his players there is a long way to go before they can even begin to think of getting back to a final.
Scorers for Kildare: J. Doyle 0-6 (0-4 frees); A. Smith 1-1; J. Kavanagh 0-3; R. Sweeney and D. Earley 0-2 each; H. McGrillen and R. Kelly 0-1 each.
Offaly: S. Ryan 1-0; A. McNamee (0-2 frees) and J. Reynolds 0-3 each; K. Casey, T. Deehan, R. Dalton and N. Darby 0-1 each.
KILDARE: T. Corley; M. Foley, H. McGrillen, D. Brennan; E. Bolton, B. Flanagan, M. Conway; D. Flynn, D. Earley; J. Kavanagh, P. O’Neill, E. Callaghan; A. Smith, R. Sweeney, J. Doyle.
Subs: G. White for O’Neill and R. Kelly for Callaghan (58th minute); K. Brennan for Earley (injured, 60th); M. O’Flaherty for D. Brennan (63rd); A. McLochlainn for Bolton (69th).
OFFALY: A. Mulhall; C. Evans, R. Dalton, K. Slattery; B. Darby, M. Mitchell, S. Lonergan; N. Smith, C. Carroll; J. Reynolds, S. Ryan, K. Casey; T. Deehan, N. McNamee, W. Mulhall.
Subs: C. McManus for Carroll (19th minute); S. Sullivan for Mitchell (30th); N. Darby for Mulhall (second half); N. Coughlan for Casey (58th); G. Rafferty for Lonergan (67th).
Referee: A. Mangan (Kerry).