Earley comes through with flying colours
Kildare 1-15 Louth 1-9
Dermot Earley continued his fitness drive when playing the full hour as last year's All-Ireland finalists Kildare defeated Louth at St Conleth's Park.
With a change in regulations meaning only players that have not played senior club championships the previous season could be selected, this was a much-changed Lilies side. It did mean that Earley was eligible, however.
It was the Kildare talisman's first championship start for the county since a cruciate knee ligament injury recurrence ruled him out of the entire season last year.
Earley made a steady rather than spectacular contribution. Playing a holding role in the middle, the 33-year-old made a stunning start, sending an inch-perfect kick-pass behind the Louth defence into Cathal McNally's arms and he found the net with 53 seconds gone.
Another quality kick-pass from deeper set up a point for Gareth Duffy, but Louth kept in touch courtesy of three points from Ronan Holdcroft.
Earley landed a nice point at the end of a move he started himself in the last action of the first half to give Kildare a 1-7 to 0-6 interval lead.
Kildare opened up a six-point lead early in the second half, but a fine goal from substitute Barry Hamilton brought Louth back into contention.
Duffy extended Kildare's lead again with a wonderful kick with the outside of his left boot, after another bit of link-up play by Earley and they finished the game off with points from Barry Lawlor, Earley and Cian Bolton.
Scorers -- Kildare: S Hanafin 0-4 (3f); C McNally 1-1; G Duffy 0-3; B Lawlor, D Earley, C Bolton 0-2 each; D Flynn 0-1. Louth: R Holdcroft (1f), C Rafferty (1f) 0-3 each; B Hamilton 1-0; S McCann, N Conlon, W Woods 0-1 each.
Kildare -- W Clynch; J Lambe, W Burke, C Fagan; E Fitzpatrick, C Feeney, C O'Shea; B Lawlor, D Earley; T McCann, S Hanafin, D Flynn; G Duffy, C Bolton, C McNally. Subs: D Barker for Feeney (21); J Kehoe for Lambe (46); S Darcy for Flynn inj (55); E Hyland for McCann (60).
Louth -- S Reynolds; S Murphy, D Collier, P Nixon; J Clarke, C Bellew, C Rafferty; S McCann, R Leavy; R Moore, P Carrie, R Holdroft; N Conlon, W Woods, C Matthews. Subs: D Matthews for Moore (24); D McComish for Bellew (33); B Hamilton for Carrie (40); M Rogers for Mathews (40); G Murray for Nixon (55).
Ref -- N Ward (Westmeath)