Shane Walsh was the driving force in Galway’s win with three excellent points from centre-forward, but they were mighty relieved to hear the final whistle after Niall Kelly had pulled Kildare back to within a point in the closing stages.
Five of the last six scores went to the Lilywhites, who will play Galway in the league final on Sunday at Croke Park, but Walsh was thrilled with how his men withstood that late fightback.
“This was the final game of seven and a lot of bodies are fairly well battered after ten weeks. This game brought a lot of pressure and. It’s good for these boys to feel a bit of pressure and it was there because Kildare were already up. Over seven games we lost one game by a point and we had one draw and I think we’ve been consistent enough to make the step.”
With 14 changes to the team that clinched promotion last week, Kildare manager Cian O’Neill would have come in for some flak had his team not performed in Galway, but that wasn’t the case. They trailed by 0-7 to 0-4 at half-time as Barry McHugh and Eamonn Brannigan edged Galway in the right direction, but with Fionn Dowling inspired at midfield, the visitors kept in touch.
The introduction of Niall Kelly with 20 minutes to go had a huge impact and his two points dragged his team back into contention, but O’Neill was delighted with the effort of his whole squad.
“Some of the media and supporters made a lot of that (selection) but we didn’t. It is hard to pick a team when every match in Division 2 is so competitive but we knew whatever team we picked the lads were going to be ready to step up and they did that. They were fantastic.”
A free from Gary Sice and a Branigan point put Galway five points up by the 39th minute, but two points from Walsh in the final quarter – both after powerful runs through the heart of the Kildare defence were needed in the end. Kelly put a point between the sides in the 71st minute, while a 55 metre free from Kildare goalkeeper Shane McNamara dropped short a minute later as Galway held on to reach the top flight.
S Walsh 0-3, B McHugh 0-2 (2f), G Sice 0-2 (2f), S Armstrong 0-2, E Brannigan 0-2, T Flynn 0-1, J Heaney 0-1, Paul Conroy 0-1.
F Dowling 0-5, B McCormack 0-2, N Kelly 0-2, C McNally 0-2, E Callaghan 0-1, D Hyland 0-1.
R Lavelle; C Sweeney, D Walsh, D Wynne; G O’Donnell, M Farragher, J Heaney; P Conroy, F Ó Curraoin; G Sice, S Walsh, T Flynn; S Armstrong, E Brannigan, B McHugh.
M Lundy for Sice (57), I Burke for McHugh (63), L Silke for Farragher (67).
S McNamara; M Hyland, L Healy, D Maguire; S Ryan, P Kelly, E Bolton; F Dowling, P Connell; E Heavey, C Hartley, C Kavanagh; C McNally, E Callaghan, B McCormack.
D Hyland for Kelly (24, black card), K Cribbin for Bolton (40), N Kelly for McCormack (49), P Cribbin for Heavey (52), K Feely for Connell (56, black card), D Slattery for Hartley (63).
Barry Cassidy (Derry)