Gilligan contributed seven points in total, with three of those coming from play, and though his individual feat was matched by Johnny Doyle at the other end, he had more support to ensure that his side would take the spoils.
The lively attacker has not appeared at inter-county level for a couple of seasons but he clearly retains the appetite to perform for Derry and for the manager, John Brennan, who knows him well.
“Conleth Gilligan hasn’t been there for a few years but I always had time for him as a footballer” said Brennan. “Everybody knows the heartbreak he has caused me (at Lavey) over the years in club football. At times, Paddy Bradley was being double-marked today so that gave another person some space.”
Kildare had the upper hand for the opening 25 minutes thanks to the dominance of their midfield, with Hugh Lynch in particular proving effective. Derry’s backs struggled to cope with the flow of possession heading in their direction, with former minor star Fionn Dowling showing very well and the ultra-reliable Doyle making his usual contribution.
The captain converted two frees to go with Padraig O’Neill’s opener to give his side a three-point advantage and it was the 20th minute before Derry could respond courtesy of a Paddy Bradley free.
Dowling shot a sensational point two minutes later from a very tight angle but with Derry managing to pick up more of the breaks around the middle, the outstanding Gilligan began to prosper.
The Ballinderry man converted a free and a 45 into the wind before also adding a wonderful point and, with Bradley contributing another score from play, Derry led at the break by 0-7 to 0-6, with the wind at their backs in the second half.
Though Kildare resumed in decent fashion — Doyle kicking a brace — Derry hit back with three, all from the boot of Gilligan. When he kicked his seventh of the afternoon, the visitors found themselves four points clear.
The expected Lilywhite onslaught came in the final 10 minutes, with Doyle and Alan Smith halving the deficit but despite an added three minutes of time, they could make no further impact on the scoreboard.
Scorers for Derry: C Gilligan 0-7 (three frees, one 45), P Bradley 0-3 (two frees), S L McGoldrick, M Lynch 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kildare:J Doyle 0-7 (four frees), F Dowling 0-2, P O’Neill, A Smith 0-1 each.
DERRY: M Conlan; B McCallion, K McCloy, D McBride; M Drumm, B McGoldrick, G O’Kane; PJ McCloskey, N Holly; D Mullan, SL McGoldrick, M Lynch; C McGoldrick, P Bradley, C Gilligan.
Subs: J Conway for Holly (blood, 6th-11th); J Kielt 0-1 for Mullan (18); C Kielt for Drumm (38); C O’Boyle for C McGoldrick (63); E McGuckian for Lynch (64)
KILDARE: S Connolly; H McGrillen, M Foley, T O’Neill; E Bolton, E Callaghan, D Whyte, H Lynch, P O’Neill; B Flanagan, E O’Flaherty, K Cribbin; A Smith, J Doyle, F Dowling.
Subs: R Sweeney for Whyte (half-time); A MacLochlainn for T O’Neill (half-time); J Kavanagh for O’Flaherty (57).