Kildare out other side of tunnel
Kildare 1-15 Offaly 1-13 All-Ireland SFC qualifier
It wasn't meant as a symbolic gesture, but when Kildare jogged off the pitch after Saturday's victory, they kept going through the passageway rather than heading into their dressing-room and gathered in a huddle for almost ten minutes on the warm-up area in O'Connor Park.
But maybe they felt they had come out the right side of the tunnel after a tough week which saw them hammered by 19 points by Dublin before a couple of their crew opted out and headed for America.
Jason Ryan said that this was not the time to be deciding whether David Hyland and Darroch Mulhall would be welcomed back into the squad when they return from their summer sojourn; he admitted that he was disappointed to lose them, but his sole focus on Saturday was getting Kildare back on track after the Dublin nightmare.
"They're gone, and it came as a big shock to us and we're disappointed, but now is not the time to really be talking about that. What we're interested in now is we won and we're looking forward to next week," said Ryan.
He said that relief was the over-riding emotion in the aftermath of Saturday's win in Tullamore after what had happened six days earlier in Croke Park, and he believes they can still rescue the summer after a difficult week for his players.
"They were finding it hard after everything they put into last Sunday's game.
"At 4.0 (last Sunday) they were feeling fantastic - physically, mentally and every way - and two hours later they were emotional and physical wrecks.
"So we are just delighted everyone has come through the week and we are ready to rock and roll for the next round of the qualifiers."
There wasn't much sign of a swagger in the early stages, and when Willie Mulhall struck two early points into the wind for Offaly, it looked like Kildare would have the rest of the summer for rock and roll and the rest of music festivals.
They played like a side without an ounce of confidence but eventually they got it together.
The black card was brought in to penalise offending teams but Kildare seemed to indirectly benefit when Gary White was shown one.
It wasn't that the Sarsfields man was playing poorly, but the introduction of Tommy Moolick gave a bit of zip to the Kildare challenge just when they needed it most.
"He fielded the ball very well, he carried it, he got us over the gain-line at different stages and did it really well. Tommy is a very talented footballer," added Ryan.
"He has been fighting and fighting for a place and to get game-time, and any time he comes in he sees it as a chance to perform."
Offaly were deservedly leading by 0-6 to 0-4 after 24 minutes but struggling to hold on to that advantage and Kildare took over to strike six points without reply before the interval.
"That spell before half-time was the difference in winning and losing the match because in the second-half we battled extremely hard," lamented Offaly manager Pat Flanagan, whose side trailed by 0-10 to 0-6 at the interval.
"We allowed them to come forward and we paid the price for it and we just couldn't get the ball out. But even when we went five points down we showed determination to come back and score a goal. Unfortunately we couldn't add to that."
Points from Alan Smith and Eoghan O'Flaherty either side of an effort from Anton Sullivan put Kildare 0-12 to 0-7 ahead four minutes after the restart.
Offaly then enjoyed a great spell and cut the gap to just a point as Peter Cunningham, Mulhall, Nigel Dunne and Niall Darby landed scores.
Eamon Callaghan stretched the lead to two before Bernard Allen reduced it to the minimum but after Emmet Bolton again put two between them, Kildare struck for the decisive score of the game.
Mikey Conway did well to win possession to send Callaghan through; his low effort came back off the butt of the left post but O'Flaherty was on hand to finish it to the net.
Although there were still nine minutes left, that should have wrapped it up but Offaly refused to die and a well-taken goal from Peter Cunningham two minutes from time set up the prospect of a late raid.
But it wasn't to be and Flanagan's first year in charge fizzled out.
While they beat Waterford away in the qualifiers, the record books will show two home championship losses, to Longford and Kildare.
Flanagan will soon start preparing for next year, but Jason Ryan has more pressing matters on his hands.
Scorers - Kildare: E O'Flaherty 1-7 (0-4fs), A Smith 0-3, E Bolton 0-2, E Callaghan, C McNally, N Kelly 0-1 each. Offaly: P Cunningham 1-1, W Mulhall 0-4 (3fs), N Darby (2fs), A Sullivan 0-2 each, C McNamee, N McNamee, N Dunne , B Allen 0-1 each.
Kildare - M Donnellan 6; M O'Grady 6, C Fitzpatrick 8, O Lyons 6; E Bolton 7, E Doyle 7, K Murnaghan 6; P Cribbin 7, G White 6; P O'Neill 7, E O'Flaherty 8, C McNally 7; E Callaghan 7, A Smith 7, N Kelly 6. Subs: T Moolick 7 for White (25, BC), F Dowling 6 for McNally (49), M Conway 7 for Kelly (60), H Lynch 5 for Dowling (69).
Offaly - A Mulhall 7; B Darby 7, P McConway 6, E Rigney 6; N Darby 7, J Moloney 6, J O'Connor 6; C McNamee 6, N Smith 6; P Cunningham 7, G Guilfoyle 6, A Sullivan 7; N McNamee 6, N Dunne 6, W Mulhall 7.
Subs: E Carroll 6 for Smith (35), B Allen 7 for Dunne (54), J Evans 6 for N McNamee (57), J Ledwith 5 for W Mulhall (67), N Bracken 5 for C McNamee (72).
ref - C Lane (Cork)