Champions two years ago, the Lilywhites were beaten in last year’s final by Dublin but they returned to the top table in Leinster with a commanding display at Croke Park. Man of the match Jimmy Hyland finished with 0-8 for the winners as the Kildare forwards caused havoc.
A sublime first-half goal from Conor Hartley had given Kildare the edge but Longford were still in contention approaching half-time. Kildare bagged 1-4 either side of half-time to end the game as a contest.
In the end, it was a cake-walk for Brendan Hackett’s side. Once corner-forward Ciaran Kelly netted Kildare’s second goal four minutes into the second half, it was curtains for Longford. At the three-quarter stage, there was 12 points between the side and Longford’s late goal was scarcely even a consolation.
It is hard to see how Longford will be able to pick themselves up for the All-Ireland quarter-finals but Kildare can head into the All-Ireland series full of confidence. None more so than star man Hyland, who was a real livewire in Croke Park.
Despite the final scoreline, it was tight and tense in the early exchanges, as you would expect from two young teams on such a big stage.
However, when Kildare found the net through Hartley in the 11th minute, the boys in white settled and picked off two crucial points in first-half injury-time to open up a five-point cushion at the interval.
All was not lost for Longford while they trailed 1-6 to 0-4, but they were blown out of the water at the start of the second half.
Hyland pointed within two minutes of the restart and Kelly fired home a superb second goal two minutes later following a beautifully weighted pass from midfielder Rory Feely.
Hyland added another fine point as Kildare scored 1-3 without reply in the early stages of the second half. Longford added just two points in a dismal third quarter and were reduced to playing for pride long before the finish.
Midfielder Conor Berry did at least net a late consolation goal for the midlanders, although Kildare could have added more goals. Substitute Kevin O’Callaghan was denied by a brilliant block in the dying seconds but Aaron Murphy coolly converted the resulting 45 to conclude a fabulous afternoon for the young Lilies.
J Hyland (0-8, 1 free); C Kelly (1-2, 1 free); C Hartley (1-1); B McLoughlin (0-2); A Murphy (45) and E O’Donoghue (0-1 each).
C Berry (1-2); J Matthews (0-2, 1 free); R Hawkins, P Lynn, C Finnan, D Doherty, L Barry (0-1 each).
D Campbell; R Slattery, M Joyce, D Lawlor; S Doran, S Ryan, S Healy; D Courtney, R Feely; C Hartley, E O’Donoghue, B McLoughlin; C Kelly, M Kelly, J Hyland.
S Lawlor for Doran, BC (24); K O’Callaghan for M Kelly (49); G Burke for Slattery (51); E O’Neill for McLoughlin (53); A Murphy for C Kelly (55).
M Hughes; M Cahill, R Sheahan, C Lee; C Brady, C Farrell, K Sorohan; C Berry, E Farrell; C McCabe, P Lynn, J Matthews; R Hawkins, P Hanley, D Doherty.
L Barry for Lee, inj (13); R Harkins for Brady, (39); J Heaney for Hawkins (40); R Brady for Doherty, (43); C Finnan for McCabe (51); N Devlin for Sorohan (56).
F Smyth (Offaly).