Kildare 1-12 Leitrim 0-6
It wasn’t pretty but in the end Kildare had enough in hand in Newbridge to ensure that they would progress to the third round of the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers.
It wasn’t until James Kavanagh goaled in the 59th minute that the home side earned themselves some breathing space as Leitrim fought for everything in horrible conditions.
They held their more vaunted opponents scoreless for the opening 20 minutes, dominating midfield and using the wind to test the Kildare defence but still trailed at the break by 0-6 to 0-3.
Ray Mulvey got them off the mark in the second minute. Michael Foley, who plays his club football in Kildare with Kilcock, added to their tally from a free and Leitrim were full value for their lead.
That they weren’t further ahead was down to some dreadful shooting, Declan Maxwell and Brendan Gallagher in particular wasting good opportunities.
Having said that, Kildare weren’t making it easy on themselves either and the normally reliable Johnny Doyle missed three frees, two of them quite simple, while also dropping a shot from close range into Phelan’s hands.
He did get his side on the board in the 21st minute though when curling over delightfully on the turn, after gathering Brian Flanagan’s delivery. Pádraig O’Neill levelled after, following good work by Eoghan O’Flaherty.
Shane Canning scorched over a whopping point from around 55m to restore Leitrim’s advantage but Kildare finished with four successive points in the last eight minutes.
Ronan Sweeney was switched to the wing in an attempt to give some support to his midfield and had a definite influence on proceedings.
Kavanagh fisted two points cutting in from the right, while Eamon Callaghan burst out of defence to drive over from the left and Sweeney finished a sweet move.
The rain returned and Leitrim resumed with the same workrate that had been a feature of their play in the first half.
Foley reduced the margin with a fine point from a free but scoring was at a premium.
Kildare didn’t get on the board until the 15th minute of the second half, Kavanagh chipping over after some good work by O’Neill and substitute Tomás O’Connor.
O’Neill had a tremendous opportunity to kill the game when sneaking in behind the Leitrim defence but the St Laurence’s man dragged his low shot across the face of the posts with the goal gaping.
Kildare did move that crucial four points clear when Kavanagh’s drive from 50m bounced over and it was the Ballymore man who finally killed off Leitrim with his goal.
It arrived when Callaghan sent a long ball towards O’Connor and he fielded spectacularly before holding his composure well to pass across the square for Kavanagh to apply the finishing touch.
Doyle fired over two spectacular frees and Morgan O’Flaherty and Hugh Lynch added points.
Darren Sweeney drilled a wonderful 45 over into the wind and Foley slotted a free in response but Leitrim had too much to do.
Kildare: S McCormack; P Kelly, H McGrillen, A Mac Lochlainn; B Flanagan, E Callaghan 0-1, E Bolton; D Flynn, D Earley; M O’Flaherty 0-1, P O’Neill 0-1, E O’Flaherty; J Doyle 0-3(2fs), R Sweeney 0-1, J Kavanagh 1-4. Sub: T O’Connor for E O’Flaherty (49); D Whyte for Earley (53); D Lyons for Mac Lochlainn (53-54); H Lynch 0-1 for Sweeney (64)
Leitrim: G Phelan; D Reynolds, C Egan, D Beck; W McKeon, J McKeon, G Reynolds; T Beirne, S Canning 0-1; R Mulvey 0-1, J Glancy, M Foley 0-3(fs); P Howard, D Maxwell, B Gallagher. Subs: D O’Connor for Howard (29); C Clarke for Mulvey (45); D Sweeney 0-1 (45) for Canning (55); B Prior for Beck (59)
Referee: C Reilly (Meath)