Similar to their Division 1 promotion clincher in Galway last April, Kildare recovered at the death to snatch a victory they had deserved on the basis of general play and a delightful individual display by Johnny Doyle who kicked seven points, four from play.
Having already secured an O’Byrne Cup semi-final, in which they will face Offaly in Tullamore on Sunday, Kildare had nothing to play for but a performance.
Yet they controlled this game only to lose a seven-point lead built up by the 54th minute and trail by two, three minutes into additional time when Shane Roche fielded a long ball in and found the net.
Almost directly from the resultant kick-out, substitute James Eaton kicked a precise long diagonal ball into Morgan O’Flaherty whose successful shot brought the home crowd in the St Conleith’s Park to their feet.
Kieran McGeeney was pleased with his players’ response even if he felt they should have had the game tied up long before injury-time.
“They showed that they wanted to win the game but I suppose it was hard for them when before (the game) everybody was telling them it doesn’t matter.
“It was good to see. There were three things that led to the goal — the kick-out, the ball over (on the side-line) and (O’Flaherty) actually having the courage to go for the goal itself so that was definitely a positive thing.”
A spat broke out between players immediately following O’Flaherty’s goal after which Maurice Deegan issued Emmet Bolton and Graeme Molloy with their second yellow cards of the game.
Wexford manager Aidan O’Brien couldn’t argue with the result but rued his team’s inability to hold onto their first win of the competition.
“In the overall shape of the game they were better than us. Earlier in the second-half, they raced into a seven-point lead. Us getting back into the game was as much about them sitting back a little and offering us the opportunity to get back in as it was about us turning the tide ourselves. It was unfortunate we didn’t hold the lead late in the game. Essentially, it wasn’t about the result but it would have been nice to get the win.”
Roche’s goal put Wexford ahead for only the second time in a game they never had a foothold in until Kildare eased off.
Doyle, 35 this month, was in mean form, kicking his first point from play after just 17 seconds and he could have capped off a pleasing show with a 60th minute goal only for his shot to be deflected for a ‘45.
He finished off the first half with his fourth of the game, a long-range effort, to give Kildare a 0-5 to 0-4 interval lead and had added another three 19 minutes into the second half.
McGeeney was under no illusions it was a mini-collapse that won’t go unpunished in Division One.
He said injury victims Eamonn Callaghan, Daryl Flynn, Seanie Johnston, Conor Mellett and Fionn Dowling are all expected to be fit shortly.
Scorers for Kildare: J Doyle (3f) 0-7; M Conway (2f, 1 45) 0-3; M O’Flaherty 1-0; C McNally 0-2; E Bolton 0-1.
Scorers for Wexford: S Roche (2f) 1-3; PJ Banville (2f) 0-3; R Barry (2f) 0-2; K Gore, A Masterson (f), C Doyle 0-1 each.
KILDARE: S Connolly; E Doyle, M Foley, H McGrillen; P Kelly, M Conway, E Bolton; G White, H Lynch; M O’Flaherty, C McNally, B Flanagan; D Flynn, J Doyle, P Brophy.
Subs: R Eyres for Connolly (blood sub 27-35); M Konstantin for P Kelly (h-t); P O’Neill for Lynch (h-t); P Fogarty for Brophy, J Eaton for Flynn (both 53); E O’Flaherty for McNally (59).
WEXFORD: A Masterson; S Culleton, G Molloy, J Wadding; B Malone, D Murphy, A Doyle; D Waters, C Doyle; C Carty, K Gore, P Byrne; S Roche, K Kehoe, PJ Banville.
Subs: R Barry for Kehoe (h-t); A Shore for Carty (49); J Leacy for Byrne (55); S Gaule for Gore (62); R Quinlivan for Doyle (70).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)