Goal burst allows Kildare revival to gain momentum
Kildare 2-24 Longford 0-11
Jason Ryan's Kildare are gathering the momentum that only a qualifier run can bring and it's helped them reach the last 12 of the All-Ireland series.
Away from the pressurised environment of the provincial championship, the Lilywhites had already eased past Offaly last weekend, but Alan Smith and Eamonn Callaghan goals helped them to an easy victory over Longford last night, which sets up a Round 4A clash with either the Leinster or Munster runners-up in a fortnight's time.
After winning the toss and electing to play with the advantage of the very strong wind Kildare needed a positive start and they got it: two long-range frees from Eoghan O'Flaherty either side of a fisted effort from Paul Cribbin gave Jason Ryan's side a 0-3 to 0-0 lead before five minutes had ticked by.
The significance of the wind advantage was exposed early on when the usually reliable Brian Kavanagh saw his free from the edge of the 'D' drift wide, but he found the target and got Longford off the mark in the sixth minute after some dissent saw the free moved closer by referee Derek O'Mahoney.
The conditions certainly aided Kildare in the fourth point too as Mark Donnellan's kick-out skidded past the Longford half-back line and Pádraig O'Neill chipped over a point for a 0-4 to 0-1 lead.
Alongside Tommy Moolick, Cribbin was having a great first half for Kildare and he landed the best point of the half from wide on the right wing in the 14th minute to open out a five-point lead.
And their domination didn't stop there either as O'Neill and Cribbin round their range once more to give their side a 0-8 to 0-1 lead after 21 minutes. Crucially, though, O'Neill - who had kicked two points from play - was shown a black card in the 19th minute for a third-man tackle, with Mark Sherry introduced in his place.
At that stage the tempest tamed slightly and Longford began to gain a foothold in the contest. Kavanagh drilled over a free when he was tugged back by Mick O'Grady and seven minutes from the interval he landed his third point from a free.
A smart turn from Liam Connerton left Ciarán Fitzpatrick for dead on the half-hour mark as Longford kicked their third point in a row to trim the deficit to four points, but Kildare left the field at the break the happier side after they hit back again. Eamonn Callaghan's point was soon followed by a good Alan Smith effort and straight from the restart Niall Kelly sent Callaghan in on goal and he found the net - despite the best efforts of Barry Gilleran on the line.
The goal gave Kildare a 1-10 to 0-5 advantage, probably a fair reflection of their first-half endeavours, but also indicative of the strong wind that they had at their backs.
But the Lilywhites showed they could do it into the wind too and three points in as many minutes probably took the game out of Longford's reach: goalkeeper Mark Donnellan drilled over a '45, Sherry pointed on his senior debut and O'Flaherty slotted a free. Longford trailed by 11 points after that quick-fire blast, but they still showed they had plenty of talent up front when Rory Connor blasted over a long range point, before Dessie Reynolds kicked his first score of the game.
But that's where's Longford's hopes really ended. Kildare quickly added three more points without reply to make it 1-16 to 0-7 after 45 minutes but a bizarre five minutes followed.
Cribbin was shown a black card for a third-man tackle, before Diarmuid Masterson saw red for the second week in a row. The referee showed him a yellow before the red, but it was unclear whether he had been booked earlier and he vehemently defended himself on the way off the pitch.
Smith then rattled Kildare's second goal after 49 minutes following a brilliant run and flick pass from Sherry, but the referee was in the thick of the action a minute later when he awarded a dubious penalty for a foul on Kavanagh.
But to his credit O'Mahoney consulted his umpire and overturned his decision - unlike last week's controversy in the Munster final.
Scorers - Kildare: E O'Flaherty 0-5 (4f), P Cribbin 0-4, A Smith, E Callaghan 1-1, M Conway 0-3 (3f), M Donnellan 0-2 (2'45), P O'Neill, N Kelly 0-2, M Sherry, O Lyons, E Bolton, C McNally 0-1. Longford: B Kavanagh 0-7 (5f), L Connerton, R McEntire, R Connor, D Reynolds 0-1.
Kildare: M Donnellan; C Fitzpatrick, M O'Grady, O Lyons; K Murnaghan, E Doyle, E Bolton; T Moolick, P Cribbin; P O'Neill, E O'Flaherty, C McNally; N Kelly, A Smith, E Callaghan. Subs: M Sherry for O'Neill (22 BC), H Lynch for Cribbin (49 BC), M Conway for Callaghan (56), P Kelly for Doyle (58), P Fogarty for Smith (60), C O'Donoghue for Bolton (66).
Longford: P Collum; F Battrim, B Gilleran, C Farrelly; CP Smyth, B O'Farrell, D Masterson; M Quinn, K Diffley; S Doyle, R McEntire, D Reynolds; R Connor, B Kavanagh, L Connerton. Subs: D Brady for Smyth (25), P Foy for Diffley (45), P Gill for Doyle for (56), T Gallagher for Battrim (59), R McNerney for Connor (63),
Referee: D O'Mahoney (Tipperary)
Sunday Indo Sport