Before this game, there were many doubts as to whether Kildare would come out of this, particularly with injuries and illness ruling Darroch Mulhall, Mick O’Grady and Peter Kelly out.
Fast forward 70 minutes and after a 15-point win, the consensus was this could be of no benefit and had more to do with Louth being dreadful – which they were – than anything Kildare did well.
That is unfair on Jason Ryan’s men, as they showed commendable confidence given a league campaign that ended in relegation.
More than that, they were much too quick for their opponents, ripping through a defensive system that included a sweeper, and dominating kick-outs in a manner not seen since Dermot Earley’s heyday.
Don’t try to tell Ryan his players got nothing from this. With 12 men getting on the scoresheet, a serious battle for places in the camp now, and a sense of reality that is important in a county where the supporters can often lose the run of themselves, he was delighted to advance to a Leinster semi-final.
“We got battered in the National League by some… well not battered but we’d days when we were very disappointed that we lost games,” Ryan reminded his inquisitors.
“In Kildare, we just want to win games. If we win by one point or 37 points, it doesn’t matter. Winning games breeds confidence.
“We know Louth performed well against Westmeath. We know Louth team put in some good performances in the National League and that a lot of their defeats were because they were missing key players like Shane Lennon and Derek Maguire. So no matter who we’re playing, whatever way we win, we’ll take it with both hands.
“We’re in the same place. There’s no difference in where we’re at. We’re a team in transition. We’re not a team that are saying ‘right, we’re going to go win Leinster now, we’re going to win an All-Ireland. Let’s plan, let’s change the whole organisation, let’s peak for August and September.’
“We’ve got to get it right now. We have to worry about Carlow and Meath. We can’t think about anything further than that. That’s the reality of things. Maybe you can look further ahead if we’re a Cork, a Mayo and Kerry, that are consistently year on year on year in All-Ireland quarter-finals and semi-finals, provincial finals.
“Kildare haven’t been in a provincial final in a number of years and it’s a long time since they won a provincial final so we can’t go down that route. It’s game on game on game.”
Former Kildare selector, Aidan O’Rourke couldn’t believe how poor his Louth side was, admitting that his charges were over-run and outfought.
“The overriding feeling is that I’m frustrated we didn’t do ourselves justice” said O’Rourke. “The quality that was in the dressing room wasn’t able to come out because we didn’t underpin it with the usual workrate and energy that we had in Mullingar three weeks ago. The biggest question for us is why that was and we’ll try to get to the bottom of that.”
With Pádraig Fogarty offering a constantly threatening target, beating players and capable of scoring himself, the likes of Niall Kelly and Cathal McNally in particular benefited early on.
McNally and Paddy Brophy had points inside two minutes and though John O’Brien kicked an excellent score for Louth in the sixth minute, the trend had already been set.
Niall Kelly kicked a brace of points, off either foot, and when Cathal McNally ended some good work by Keith Cribbin and unselfish play by Fogarty with a palmed goal, there were six points between the sides.
It was like a training spin thereafter as Kildare ripped Louth asunder to make it 1-13 to 0-5 at half time.
Their levels dropped considerably in the second-half but there was never any fear of a remarkable turnaround. Louth’s best player, Shane Lennon did get a goal in the 50th minute, after collecting a cross from Leaving Cert student, Ryan Burns, but Ryan responded by introducing the likes of Alan Smith and Eoghan O’Flaherty, men hungry to make an impression. They scored three points between them and the procession was complete.
Scorers for Kildare: C McNally 1-2; N Kelly, E Bolton, P Fogarty(2fs), P Brophy(1f) 0-3 each; A Smith 0-2; O Lyons, K Cribbin, T Moolick, P O’Neill, E Callaghan, E O’Flaherty 0-1 each.
Scorers for Louth: S Lennon 1-3(0-1f); P Keenan 0-2; J O’Brien, C Grimes 0-1 each.
Subs for Kildare: E O’Flaherty for McNally (45), A Smith for Hurley (54), T O’Connor for Fogarty (60), D Flynn for Callaghan (62), C Fitzpatrick for Bolton (64), D Hyland for Cribbin (66).
Subs for Louth: J Stewart for Fanning (18), R Burns for White (32), B Donnelly for Reilly (50), S O’Hanlon for Donnelly (61), R Brodigan for Byrne (67).
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).
KILDARE: M Donnellan, H McGrillen, M Foley, E Bolton, O Lyons, F Conway, K Cribbin, T Moolick, P O’Neill, S Hurley, E Callaghan, C McNally, P Fogarty, P Brophy, N Kelly.
LOUTH: N Gallagher, P Rath, D Finnegan, J O’Brien, A Reid, D Crilly, P Reilly, P Keenan, A McDonnell, D Maguire, B White, D Byrne, M Fanning, S Lennon, C Grimes.