Kildare 0-15 Antrim 0-15 aet
Paddy Cunningham’s 10-point heroics meant that this game will go to a replay next week, the cultured free-taker slotting a late point to rescue the tie for Antrim.
The build-up had surrounded the burial just a few hours earlier of former Kildare manager, Roscommon legend and ex-Army Chief of Staff Dermot Earley and the question of whether or not his son of the same name would appear.
He did and won a lot of ball before tiring understandably but the result that the majority of the 8,000 patrons at St Conleth’s Park did not come about.
In the end, they were probably relieved, despite holding the lead for all bar the opening 12 minutes as Antrim wasted some late opportunities in normal time and extra time to snatch it.
It was Kildare that were more prodigal with their shooting though, kicking 23 in total and 13 in the first half alone, a period in which Antrim didn’t register even one.
John Doyle also had a one-on-one goal chance presented to him by a poor kickout from Seán McGreevy but the Antrim goalkeeper redeemed himself with a point-blank save.
Tomás McCann might have had a goal at the other end too mind you, but his piledriver after a slaloming run ricocheted off the crossbar and over.
Liam Bradley’s men started brightly, Cunningham pointing two frees despite playing into a very strong wind.
Kildare hit back with three in the trot, a run started by a booming left-footed effort by Pádraig O’Neill and held the upper hand as they stretched 0-8 to 0-5 ahead, the outstanding Ronan Sweeney finding the mark.
Kevin O’Boyle and Kevin McGourty pointed late on in the half though to reduce the margin to the minimum at the break.
It was nip and tuck in the second half but Kildare twice went two points clear on two occasions, with Gary White, James Kavanagh, Sweeney and Doyle all on target.
But Cunningham kept punishing Kildare transgressions and after reducing the deficit to one with time running out, it was left to McGourty to fire a brilliant equaliser on the stroke of time.
Doyle and Eoghan O’Flaherty gave Kildare the perfect restart in extra time and they looked to have been denied a certain penalty when Sweeney, now operating at midfield, seemed to be pushed in the back in the act of shooting for goal.
Cunningham made it 0-15 to 0-14 entering the final period of action and he concluded a brilliant personal contribution to draw the sides level for the final time.
Kildare: S McCormack; P Kelly, H McGrillen, A Mac Lochlainn; M O’Flaherty, E Bolton 0-1, B Flanagan; D Flynn, D Earley; H Lynch, E Callaghan, J Kavanagh 0-1; P O’Neill 0-2, J Doyle 0-7(6fs), R Sweeney 0-2. Subs: G White 0-1 for Lynch 25; E O’Flaherty 0-1 for Flanagan 50; T O’Connor for O’Neill 70; K Donnelly for Earley 71; K Cribbin for M O’Flaherty 71; O’Neill for Donnelly 81; M O’Flaherty for Callaghan 85; Earley for E O’Flaherty 87
Antrim: S McGreevy; A Healy, C Brady, J Crozier; J Loughrey, T Scullion, K O’Boyle 0-1, J Loughrey; B Herron, A Gallagher; K McGourty 0-3, K Niblock, T McCann 0-1; P Cunningham 0-10(9fs), M McCann, K Brady. Subs: CJ McGourty for Brady 40; S Finch for T McCann 54; S Kelly for Healy 64; P Doherty for Niblock 66; T McCann for Herron 85
Referee: M Deegan (Laois)