'He lives far too close to Kildare' - Derry boss Damien McElrain fumes at ref after Kildare defeat
Kildare 2-22 Derry 2-14
Given the skewering they were subjected to following the Carlow catastrophe, it's a bit unfair that Kildare's first victory in almost 365 days isn't the obvious starting point from this match - but they can blame Derry manager Damien McElrain for that.
The losers in Owenbeg on Saturday evening were facing into a cataclysmic conclusion to their season, and while Kildare can now salvage theirs, Derry will mark the 25-year anniversary of their All-Ireland win knowing that they are as far away from reclaiming the Sam Maguire as ever before.
They'll start next season in Division 4 and depart the championship after heavy losses to Donegal and the Lilywhites.
McElrain tipped his hat to Kildare's aggressive performance, which yielded black cards for defenders Eoin Doyle and David Hyland, but couldn't abide by the officiating of Meath referee David Coldrick, especially the decision to send off Mark Lynch late on.
"It is just disappointing because the boys did everything to close that gap and then you get a man sent off for nothing," he said.
"David Coldrick had a poor game and I can't figure him out at all. He lives far too close to Kildare. He is a Leinster man. He shouldn't have been appointed."
Even allowing for some contentious refereeing decisions, Kildare were just too good for Derry in every department as they ended their 12-game winless run.
They more than doubled their scoring tally from the defeat to Carlow, cut their wide count by five and most importantly, showed plenty of fight when things went wrong.
They shipped two first-half goals from Enda Lynn; the first was the sort of on-the-line poach from a Shane McGuigan shot that you'd chastise an underage player for nicking, the second a cool finish following a rampaging run from midfielder Padraig Cassidy.
Tellingly, Kildare hopped off the canvas after those blows swinging damaging haymakers until their opponent's knees buckled.
When the game was in the balance in the first half, they got seven points from play from their half-forward line alone. Fergal Conway (0-4), Paul Cribbin (0-2), and Keith Cribbin (0-1) - who was a late replacement for the injured Paddy Brophy - converted the sort of chances that were squandered in their Leinster loss.
"The players were top class from the start," manager Cian O'Neill said.
"The lads came out of the blocks and they were measured, they were calculated and scored 1-12 in the first half. We missed 1-10 in the first half the last day.
"We conceded two sloppy goals but the lads fought back when they conceded them and that was pleasing for a team that has had a lot knocks."
Adding to that, Daniel Flynn - as he is wont to do at least once per game - reminded everyone in Owenbeg that he is generally either the most talented player on the pitch, or occupying a place on the podium.
Derry goalkeeper Ben McKinless didn't even have time to wince at the ferocity of Flynn's missile before it ruptured the roof of the net in response to Lynn's first goal.
Whatever hope Derry had was extinguished early in the second half when Kildare keeper Mark Donnellan and corner-back Mick O'Grady combined for a sensational double save before Niall Kelly fisted a bobbling ball to the net at the other end after moving through the cover like an apparition.
That put Kildare seven clear and although Derry trimmed the gap to four, six points off the bench from Neil Flynn saw O'Neill's side pull up far more comfortably than would have been conceivable pre-match for a side who hadn't won in 357 days.
"It's the first step - but if there wasn't a win today there was no step," O'Neill said.
"It was about integrity. It was about pride in Kildare football. I let the county down as manager of this team the last day when so much was expected of us. That's not where we wanted to leave it this year."
Scorers - Kildare: N Flynn 0-6 (2fs), F Conway 0-4, D Flynn 1-1, N Kelly 1-0, T Moolick, P Cribbin, K Feely (2fs) 0-2 each, K Cribbin, D Slattery, J Murray, D Slattery, M Donnellan (1f) 0-1 each. Derry: E Lynn 2-2, E Bradly 0-5 (4fs), M Lynch (2fs), J Doherty 0-2 each, P Cassidy, SL McGoldrick, S McGuigan 0-1 each.
Kildare - M Donnellan 7; P Kelly 6, D Hyland 5, M O'Grady 7; J Murray 7, E Doyle 5, K Flynn 5; K Feely 7, T Moolick 8; F Conway 9, P Cribben 8, K Cribben 7; D Slattery 6, D Flynn 7, N Kelly 6. Subs: J Byrne for Doyle (17, BC), N Flynn for Feely (48), C Healy for K Cribbin (59), M Hyland for D Hyland (65) E O'Connor for Kelly (69), F Dowling for Conway (70)
Derry - B McKinless 6; P McNeill 5, K Johnston 5, M McEvoy 6; L McGoldrick 5, C McKaigue 6, SL McGoldrick 7; C McAtamney 5, P Cassidy 8; J Doherty 7, E Bradley 6, P Coney 5; E Lynn 8, S McGuigan 7, M Lynch 6. Subs: T O'Brien for C McAtamney (HT), B Rogers for McNeill (HT), C Williams for Coney (42), J Kielt for McGuigan (51), M Bateson for McGoldrick (59), N Toner for McGoldrick (72)
Ref - D Coldrick (Meath)