Kieran McGeeney’s men were never headed, but it wasn’t until James Kavanagh made his presence felt early in the second-half that the sting was taken out of the home team’s challenge.
After opening his account with a point, the Ballymore clubman was perfectly placed to gather John Doyle’s precise pass, and he gave goalkeeper Neil Gallagher no chance with a ground shot.
That stretched Kildare’s lead to six points, after they’d turned over just one in front. When Morgan O’Flaherty added another goal in the 21st minute — the number six taking a second chance after Gallagher had made a brilliant stop from his initial effort, the issue was beyond doubt as the visitors led by 2-14 to 0-11.
Louth kept chasing the game in the final quarter, but needed more than a succession of pointed Darren Clarke frees. Clarke finished with 11 points, all but one of them coming from placed kicks, and though colleague Derek Maguire had less luck, twice hitting the bar in the opening half, the result could hardly be questioned.
Kildare have Westmeath and Galway to face in the last two rounds. McGeeney is not looking any further than the meeting with Westmeath next Sunday, however, and is not taking anything for granted.
“Westmeath will be buoyed by that big score against Monaghan today. They still won’t have the Garrycastle players, but Denis Glennon is back playing well. They’ll be a threat.”
He was happy with the overall performance, but concerned that many first-half chances weren’t availed of, allowing Louth to trim a five-point lead to the minimum at the break.
McGeeney said the replaced John Doyle was suffering from a dead leg, and Dermot Earley was making progress.
“Dermot played a half-hour of club football during the week and came through it well.”
Louth manager, Peter Fitzpatrick, looked to his side’s positives. “We got as many scores as them, hit the crossbar twice and came back from 10 points down to be beaten by four. We have two games left, and will battle to the very end.”
Scorers for Louth: D Clarke 0-11, J McEneaney, 0-2, P Keenan, M Brennan, G Hoey, R Finnegan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kildare: J Kavanagh, M O’Flaherty 1-1 each, M Conway 0-4, E O’Flaherty, J Doyle, E Callaghan, T O’Connor 0-2 each, H McGrillen 0-1.
LOUTH: N Gallagher; J Carr, D Finnegan, G Hoey; D Byrne, D Crilly, R Finnegan; B Donnelly, P Keenan; A McDonnell, M Brennan, J McEneaney; D Maguire, R Carroll, D Clarke.
Subs: L Shevlin for Crilly; B White for Carroll; S Fitzpatrick for Carr; A Reid for Brennan; JP Rooney for McDonnell.
KILDARE: S Connolly; P Kelly, H McGrillen, O Lyons; E Bolton, M O’Flaherty, M Foley; D Flynn, P O’Neill; J Kavanagh, M Conway, J Doyle; E Callaghan, T O’Connor, E O’Flaherty.
Subs: C Fitzpatrick for Bolton; A McLaughlin for Fitzpatrick; A Smith for O’Connor; D Lawlor for Doyle; R Sweeney for Flynn.
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).