The Kerry manager is just a game away from a dream double of Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor titles, though the Kingdom will have to shake off Tipperary for the second time this season to etch their names in history.
Kerry beat Tipperary at their leisure in the Munster final but this is a different Tipp side, dreaming of retribution and, in the process, a second All-Ireland final win in four seasons.
There is also a potential double on the cards for Tipp too, through to both the football and hurling finals.
Charlie McKeever’s football side weren’t at their best here but showed real determination to get the job done late on with just 14 men.
Leading by three with 15 minutes to go, life became difficult when they lost Emmet Moloney, one of a clutch of talented dual players, to a second yellow card.
Resurgent Kildare would reduce the margin to one soon after, though that was as close as it got for them as Tipp escaped with a two-point win.
Moloney won’t serve any suspension so will be available for the hurling final against Galway next weekend along with the other seven dual panellists.
Asked about a potential double of All-Irelands, McKeever smiled. “There’s nobody else can do it anyway,” he said. “We’re the only team in both finals. I feel the adrenaline from the hurlers’ semi-final win carried through with us today.
“And the adrenaline from today will carry through again to next weekend because they’re young lads and they’re on a roll. I would hope they’ll win next weekend, I expect so and that rush will continue on for us two weeks later.”
“We’ll relish that opportunity because we didn’t perform in Killarney in the Munster final. We all know that.”
McKeever’s side took most momentum into the contest after a strong quarter-final performance against Galway and opened up a 0-3 to 0-1 lead.
Alan Tynan, one of Tipp’s dual players as well as a decorated rugby player, contributed two points from frees. He also closed out the first-half scoring.
In truth, the game was still waiting to take off after half an hour. All but one of Kildare’s three points had come from placed balls, with Ciaran Kelly converting four of those. Tipp were marginally better with three of their six points coming from play.
Both sides kicked themselves for wasting decent goal chances though Tipp in particular. Aidan Buckley was put clean through on goal by a clever Brendan Martin pass over the top but sliced his left footed shot well wide of left upright. Kelly had Kildare’s best opportunity at the other end though Rory Feely’s pass after a great solo run was a little low and Kelly was unable to gather the ball in time.
It was deadlocked at the half, 0-6 a piece.
However, Kildare conceded ground to Tipp, leaking three consecutive points after the restart, all scored by Jack Kennedy.
But things turned in Kildare’s favour with 16 minutes to go. That’s when Tipp wing-back Moloney was dismissed for his second booking, a late high challenge on Matthew Kelly. Jimmy Hyland converted the free.
Kildare, with the extra man, trailed by just two now and reduced it to a single point in the 48th minute when Matthew Kelly boomed over a beauty from the left wing.
Kildare went for goals late on and perhaps should have settled for points. Tipp ultimately did just enough to hang on with sub Stephen Quirke registering an insurance score in the 59th minute.
J Kennedy (0-4, one free, one ‘45’), A Tynan (0-3, two frees), B Martin, B McGrath, A Buckley and S Quirke (0-1 each).
C Kelly (0-4, four frees), C Hartley and J Hyland (two frees) (0-2 each), M Kelly (0-1).
C Manton; T Fitzgerald, J Skehan, T Lowry; E Moloney, L Fahy, D Owens; J Kennedy, T Nolan; C English, A Tynan, A Buckley; R Peters, B McGrath, B Martin.
S Quirke for Peters (28), J Bergin for English (45), M Irwin for Martin (51), M Kehoe for Buckley (55), G Whelan for Fahy (63, black card).
D Campbell; S Healy, M Joyce, D Lawlor; R Slattery, S Ryan, G Burke; D Courtney, R Feely; B McLoughlin, M Kelly, C Hartley; C Kelly, E O’Donoghue, J Hyland.
S Lawlor for Healy (42), E O’Neill for McLoughlin (49), K O’Callaghan for O’Donoghue (56), R Bannon for Slattery (56), A Murphy for C Kelly (60).
N Mooney (Cavan).