By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Kildare 0-9 Wexford 0-8
Kildare just about held out at the end of a pedestrian game to set up a Leinster semi-final with Westmeath or Offaly.
Cian O’Neill’s crew managed just two points in the second half but despite a few late scares survived to progress to the final four.
Both teams have been involved in very open games during the League but had complete different formations for this must-win encounter.
With the emphasis on defensive solidity, they found it difficult to create scoring opportunities but ultimately, Kildare had just a little more creativity in deeper positions in the first half.
While Wexford’s Ciaran Lyng suffered from a dreadful supply, Kildare’s championship debutant Neil Flynn and the vastly experienced Alan Smith managed four points from play in that opening period, out of their outfit’s tally of seven.
That gave them a four-point interval advantage, as though John Tubritt gave Wexford the lead with a point from the very first attack after slipping around Ollie Lyons, David Power’s side only had a converted free by Donal Shanley and a towering score from Colm Kehoe to show for their efforts apart from that.
By contrast, Flynn and Smith were looking very sharp, while Lyons and Morgan O’Flaherty also popped up with neat scores and Flynn slotted his only opportunity from a free.
Wexford played with much greater intensity in the second half and managed to cut off the supply lines, to the extent that Smith was withdrawn and Flynn didn’t have one shooting chance.
They also forced a number of turnovers, which enabled them to find a little more space within the Kildare half on the counter and forced a couple of frees that Shanley popped over.
Suddenly Wexford grew in optimism and after half time substitute Shane Roche reduced the margin to the minimum with an excellent score, Kevin O’Grady made it four in a row and the sides were level by the 49th minute.
O’Neill decided to introduce his panel’s most experienced player, Eamonn Callaghan soon after and the Naas man produced Kildare’s first score of the second half soon after, finishing well with his first touch in the 55th minute.
Another sub, Cian O’Donoghue followed up soon after with a splendid solo effort and somehow, that was enough.
Shanley landed another free but despite having plenty of possession and five minutes of injury time, Wexford could not find an equaliser, Lyng dragging a free from the right just wide with their best chance.
Scorers for Kildare: N Flynn 0-3(1f); A Smith 0-2; M O’Flaherty, O Lyons, C O’Donoghue, E Callaghan 0-1 each
Scorers for Wexford: D Shanley 0-4(fs); C Kehoe, K O’Grady, J Tubritt, S Roche 0-1 each
Kildare: M Donnellan, P Kelly, D Hyland, O Lyons, E Doyle, F Conway, R Houlihan, K Feely, T Moolick, M O’Flaherty, E O’Flaherty, E Bolton, P Cribbin, A Smith, N Flynn. Subs: A Tyrrell for Cribbin (47), C O’Donoghue for Bolton (50), E Callaghan for Smith (54), P O’Neill for E O’Flaherty (59), F Dowling for Feely (61), K Murnaghan for M O’Flaherty (70+2)
Wexford: A Masterson, S Donohoe, J Wadding, J Rossiter, E Nolan, M Furlong, B Malone, C Kehoe, D Waters, K O’Grady, PJ Banville, B Brosnan, D Shanley, C Lyng, J Tubritt. Subs: A Flynn for Shanley blood (16-19), K Butler for Furlong (31), S Roche for Tubritt (ht), Flynn for Banville (47), R Tierney for Kehoe (57), S Byrne for Malone (64)
Referee: R Hickey (Clare)