Cian O’Neill’s Kildare impressively navigated a potential Belfast banana skin on Saturday, coming away from Corrigan Park with a double-scores 14-point win over Antrim to secure a place in this morning’s draw for Round 3 of the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers.
However, O’Neill played down any thoughts of a return to the Super 8s despite his side’s impressive showing in which Fergal Conway’s second-half goal put paid to Antrim’s challenge after Kildare had led by 0-13 to 0-6 at the break.
“If you look at how we played in the early stages of the Leinster championship we didn’t play with confidence, we didn’t play with a real verve in our game. We got a lesson against Dublin in the second half so all we are trying to do now is build match-by-match,” said O’Neill.
“I know that’s clichéd but any team that looks past that, with the teams that are in the qualifiers at the moment, could be in for a rude awakening. We’ll wait for the draw on Monday morning and what that performance will do is give us confidence and we’ve been lacking confidence and hopefully, that will bring us on to another level.”
Antrim boss Lenny Harbinson made no excuses. His Division 4 side battled hard, with Paddy McBride, in particular, worthy of mention. The St John’s clubman finished with six points from play.
There was a gulf in class and that was obvious to everybody who was watching the game.
“What we were hoping for was that we would have one of those days when everything went right for ourselves and they would struggle in one or two areas bit it didn’t pan out that way,” said Harbison.
Kildare led from trap to line with Neil Flynn and Adam Tyrell scoring 10 first-half points between them. The Lillywhites led by 0-11 to 0-3 on 28 minutes after a run of seven unanswered points and although Antrim brought the gap back to five helped by a Ryan Murray brace, Kildare tacked on the final two points of the half to take a seven-point lead into the break.
Antrim closed the gap just after the restart through Matt Fitzpatrick but Conway’s goal on 40 minutes put paid to any chance of a comeback.
Conway also added two points, while sub Jimmy Hyland finished on 0-3.
Having made six early substitutions, Kildare were forced to play the last 18 minutes with 14 men as Flynn went off injured but it made little difference to the pattern of the game.
P McBride (0-6); M Fitzpatrick (0-3); J McAuley, S Beatty, R Murray (free), C Murray (0-1 each).
N Flynn (0-8, 3 frees); A Tyrell (0-7, 4 frees); F Conway (1-2); J Hyland (0-3); K Feely (0-2), M O’Grady, T Moolick, J Gibbons (0-1 each).
P Nugent; P McCormick, R Johnston, P Gallagher; D Lynch, M Johnston, N Delargy; C Duffin, K Quinn; J McAuley, M Fitzpatrick, S Beatty; R Murray, P McBride, C Murray.
E Walsh for M Johnston (ht), R Scott for S Beatty (ht), R McNulty for K Quinn (48), J Smith for R Murray (53), M McCarry for C Murray (60), F Burke for N Delargy (64).
M Donnellan; M Dempsey, M O’Grady, P Kelly; C O’Donoghue, E Doyle, D Hyland; K Feely, F Conway; D Slattery, C Healy, K Cribben; A Tyrell , B McCormack, N Flynn.
J Hyland for C Healy (14, bc), T Moolick for K Cribbin (ht), M Hyland for C O’Donoghue (42), E O’Flaherty for D Slattery (43), C Hartley for P Kelly (54), J Gibbons for A Tyrell (57).
N Mooney (Cavan)
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Mike Quirke reviews the GAA weekend with Oisín McConville, Donncha O'Connor and Tony Leen.