It wasn’t always pretty, and there were times when it seemed like it would be Ryan McMenamin who would be leaving St Conleth's Park with a first league win for his new team, but Daniel Flynn’s 58th-minute goal proved crucial as Jack O’Connor began life in Kildare with a win.
Flynn’s goal came after a spell of four Fermanagh points in a row as the Ulster side turned a three-point deficit into a one-point lead. Had that momentum been allowed to continue unchecked there is no doubt it would have been Fermanagh taking the first two points of the season so it was no surprise to hear O’Connor speak of the goal's importance.
“I suppose Daniel Flynn’s goal turned it there in the second half. Fermanagh had a bit of momentum and that just wrestled back control for us, and more importantly, got the crowd into the game. Basically, the crowd gave our fellas a bit of energy and we saw out the game handily enough in the end,” said the Kerryman.
It’s always nice to win in the first round of the league but particularly under a new manager and especially when Kildare are facing into away games in Clare and Armagh in their next two games.
“It was important to get a win to generate some momentum. It was a tough game, they were very well set up defensively and made it awful awkward for us, and they tackled fierce hard. We’ve a few players coming back from injuries who are probably lacking gametime and we really had to use the panel to try get over the line. Lads showed a lot of spirit, that game was slipping away from us a couple of times there and they showed a great attitude and stuck with it and that’s what we are looking for off them,” said O’Connor.
The style that Fermanagh play is something that Kildare have struggled against in the past but O’Connor felt his team improved on that as the game wore on.
“They dropped a lot of men back but they drive forward together so it’s a counter-attacking game they play. It can be a tough game to play against because they are playing that game a long time. Our fellas got to grips with it a bit better in the second half and the changes we made helped us. That pitch is in great condition but the game would still have taken a lot out of the lads,” he said.
Fermanagh could have made a dream start when Ciaran Corrigan rounded Mark Donnellan after five but once the ball was knocked from his hands he somehow managed to smash the ball off the crossbar from just six yards with the goal gaping.
Kildare captain David Hyland showed him how it’s done at the far end just three minutes later when he was sent through on goal by Tommy Moolick and he calmly rounded James McGrath before scoring his first goal for his county.
Despite that early blow, Fermanagh stuck to their task and when Ryan Jones scored two points in a row they led by 0-6 to 1-2 in the 23rd minute.
Kildare then hit back with three points in a row before a 45 in injury-time by Conall Jones left just a point between the teams at the break, 1-5 to 0-7.
Daragh McGurn quickly levelled the scores early in the second half but three Neil Flynn points in a row put Kildare in charge.
However, that run of four points in a row put Fermanagh seemingly on course for an away win but the timing of Flynn’s goal was crucial.
Scorers for Kildare: N Flynn (0-7, 6 frees); D Flynn (1-2, 1 mark); D Hyland (1-0); C Kavanagh, P Cribbin, E Doyle (0-1 each)
Scorers for Fermanagh: C Jones 0-8 (6 frees, 1 45); R Jones (0-3); D McGurn (0-2); U Kelm (0-1)
KILDARE: M Donnellan; P Kelly, M O’Grady, L Healy, J Byrne, C Kavanagh, S Ryan; D Hyland, T Moolick; N Flynn, P Cribbin, P Brophy; J Robinson, D Flynn, N Kelly.
Subs: K Flynn for Hyland (21); E Doyle 0-1 for Byrne (h/t); K Cribbin for N Kelly (h/t); J Hyland for Robinson (54); K Feely for Moolick (56).
FERMANAGH: J McGrath; J Cassidy, C Cullen, K McDonnell; D McCusker, R O'Callaghan, Shane McGullion; E Donnelly, R Jones; A Breen, U Kelm, C Corrigan, Stephen McGullion, C Jones, D McGurn (0-2).
Subs: E Shiels for McDonnell (62), K Connor for McCusker (65), G Jones for Stephen McCullion; L McStravick for O'Callaghan (70+2).
Referee: Fergal Kelly, Longford.