Callaghan sets the stage for Lilywhites cakewalk
All-Ireland SFC qualifier
Kildare produced a scintillating second-half display to blow a beleaguered Derry away at Celtic Park on Saturday and, in the process, set themselves up for a shot at a third successive appearance in the last eight of the championship.
Eamonn Callaghan was the star of the show, scoring 1-4 from play while also taking on the mantle of chief play-maker, but he had a host of willing cohorts.
Johnny Doyle's appetite for work in a withdrawn role was eye-popping, while Emmet Bolton, Daryl Flynn, Dermot Earley and Padraig O'Neill won mountains of possession. In the end, despite Raymond Wilkinson's second-minute goal and establishing an early five-point lead, Derry wilted under the incessant pressure.
Winning manager Kieran McGeeney was understandably pleased by the performance and a second win up north in seven days. He wasn't getting carried away though, because there's another game coming up fast. Apart from that, the 11-point win over Derry in their backyard came as no shock.
"I don't think you can be surprised," said McGeeney. "The fellas have displays like that in them.
"As soon as it's over, you get five minutes of adulation and you're back to it. A few people were telling me to lighten up, but they'll be the same guys that'll be knocking me down next week if we don't win."
Kildare recovered from what is becoming a customary poor start to score seven points in a row, Doyle slotting over five, including a remarkable free with his left boot from 35 metres close to the right sideline.
They led by 0-8 to 1-4 at half-time and continued to dominate after the resumption. They monopolised possession from the kick-outs and persistently showed patience on the ball before finding a runner galloping into space.
Even full-back Hugh McGrillen was on the scoresheet as the Lilies went four clear. Callaghan then beat Derry goalkeeper Barry Gillis to Flynn's delivery to gather possession and goal from close range in the 61st minute to wrap the game up. Alan Smith provided the coup de grace seven minutes later with a smashing finish after being set up by Ken Donnelly.
Donnelly did well upon his introduction, as did Eoghan O'Flaherty, but Donnelly's bloody-mindedness in being out on the field at all was telling.
The Ellistown man damaged his cruciate ligament last May but has put off surgery until Kildare's participation in the championship is concluded.
Earley's heavily strapped right knee and obvious discomfort didn't prevent him from exerting a massive influence on proceedings either.
It could be a concern, but what it does show is that this is a team on a mission. McGeeney has always had high expectations for them.
"I have faith in this bunch of lads and have since I came in," he said. "I think they're well capable of competing for major honours."
Scorers -- Kildare: J Doyle 0-8 (0-6f), E Callaghan 1-4, A Smith 1-0, P O'Neill 0-2, H McGrillen, E Bolton, E O'Flaherty 0-1 each. Derry: R Wilkinson 1-0, E Bradley 0-3, M Lynch (0-2f), J Kielt (0-2f) 0-2 each, E Muldoon(0-1 '45') D Mullan 0-1 each.
Kildare -- S McCormack; P Kelly, H McGrillen, A Mac Lochlainn; M O'Flaherty, E Bolton, B Flanagan; D Flynn, D Earley; E Callaghan, J Doyle, P O'Neill; J Kavanagh, T O'Connor, R Sweeney. Subs: A Smith for O'Connor (9), E O'Flaherty for Sweeney (51), D Lyons for Bolton (57), D Whyte for Flanagan (61), K Donnelly for Kavanagh (65).
Derry -- B Gillis; B Og McAlary, K McGuckin, D McBride; B McGoldrick, G O'Kane, C Kielt; J Diver, E Muldoon; C McKeever, J Kielt, D Mullan; E Bradley, M Lynch, R Wilkinson. Subs: Patsy Bradley for C Kielt (h-t), SL McGoldrick for Wilkinson (53), R Convery for Diver (56), M Craig for McKeever (60).
Ref -- M Duffy (Sligo).