Kelly and Cribbin lead Lilies to date with Kingdom
Kildare 1-21 Cork 1-13
After licking their wounds and rediscovering their confidence through the qualifiers, Kildare will return to the scene of their shocking Leinster semi-final defeat to Dublin and face All-Ireland champions Kerry in Croke Park on Sunday.
We are programmed to believe that Division 1 teams will always have too much cuteness, power and skill to fall to a lower-tier county. We saw it last week when Mayo devoured Sligo; when Dublin trounced Westmeath; and when the Rebels bettered Clare.
But provincial final defeats do strange things to teams, and Brian Cuthbert's side looked drained of confidence, urgency and hunger to fight. It was only after the half-time introduction of Brian Hurley that there was a bit of zip to their play, but even then, before Colm O'Neill's goal from a free 13 minutes from the end, Kildare had outscored them by 1-6 to 0-3 after the interval.
There will be calls for Cuthbert's resignation after this average display, but unfortunately there was no member of the Cork management team willing to speak afterwards to shed some light on the performance and their future plans.
In his two summers of eight championship eight games, Cuthbert has only managed three wins over Tipperary, Sligo and Clare, but there was no one to defend his record on Saturday evening.
On the other side of the hallway, Jason Ryan could hardly have planned this guerilla raid better. In the first half his troops prodded and probed their way through the below-par Cork defence, waited for an inside forward to gain a yard of space, before they picked him out with accurate foot passes.
Niall Kelly was, more often than not, the man on the end of the pass and he was inspirational for the Lilies. Along with the outstanding Paul Cribbin at midfield, Kelly's three points from play helped his side into a 0-11 to 0-5 lead at the break, but his key contribution was his 39th-minute goal which he finished expertly after sub Peter Kelly made a great impact in the build-up.
Moments before the goal, Cork could have clawed it back to two points, but they over-elaborated in front of goal and Conor Dorman punched the ball off the crossbar, when Jamie O'Sullivan could have shot with the boot.
That's where the game hinged: a missed chance at one end and one taken at the other. The Kildare boss agreed their goal was crucial.
"The finish was top-class. There was danger in the second half at times, we had so many bodies in our own half and we were pressing defence mode buttons. That is fine as long as you get contacts on and track men but there was that big gap at times," Ryan said.
"You are anxious the same as when you are chasing that sometimes the scoreboard starts worrying you, but sometimes when you are defending as well the scoreboard starts playing with your mind.
"It was huge, we were waiting a long time for a win against a Division 1 team. The week around the Dublin game was really, really tough. Tough on the whole group so it is just massive to get that.
"We went out with a plan but Cork played differently to what we expected and then they changed again probably 15 or 20 minutes. The players themselves they worked, they adapted. I am really proud of how they organised themselves, really proud."
The loss of James Loughrey to an 11th-minute black card and Alan O'Connor to a suspected cruciate ligament injury ten minutes later was a big setback for Cork, but Kildare also had their setbacks as captain Eamonn Callaghan was stretchered off before half-time with a dislocated shoulder - he'll have a scan today, according to Ryan.
The Munster side were guilty of some very poor wides too, especially in the second half when they needed scores badly, but as a whole, their display was lacklustre, sloppy and ponderous.
The sending-off of Kevin O'Driscoll 16 minutes from time for aiming a kick at Cathal McNally hardly aided their hopes of a comeback, but one suspected that even an extra man for Cork could not have helped them shake off their lethargy. Emmet Bolton was also sent off three minutes from time after he added a black card to the yellow he picked up in the first minute.
Kildare now turn their attention to another Munster finalist, Kerry, this Sunday in Croke Park. Unlike the Division 1 outfit they faced in Thurles, Kerry will be confident, will strut like the All-Ireland champions they are, but will crucially fight like dogs for every ball. Pádraig O'Neill expects a tough outing, but at least they are back in the quarter-finals after a three-year absence.
"That was the aim after the loss to Dublin we said we wanted to get back to Croke Park and make up for that performance," said the Kildare wing-forward. "Now we have a chance, it is going to be difficult.
"It is Kerry, they are the best footballers in the country and you are playing against the best. Playing against Kerry in Croke Park that is what you look forward to as a young lad."
Scorers - Kildare: N Kelly 1-4, E Flaherty 0-5 (5f), P Fogarty 0-3 (1f), A Smith, P Cribbin, M Donnellan 0-2 (2'45), O Lyons, P O'Neill, C McNally 0-1. Cork: C O'Neill 1-4 (1-2f), D O'Connor 0-5 (3f), M Collins, P Kerrigan, B Hurley, Brian O'Driscoll 0-1.
Kildare - M Donnellan 8; O Lyons 7, C Fitzpatrick 7, M O'Grady 8; K Murnaghan 7, E Doyle 8, E Bolton 8; T Moolick 8, P Cribbin 9; C McNally 8, E O'Flaherty 7, P O'Neill 8; N Kelly 9, A Smith 7, E Callaghan 6. Subs: P Fogarty 7 for Callaghan (35+4), P Kelly 7 for O'Grady (38), M Sherry 7 for O'Flaherty (51 BC), F Conway 6 for McNally (57), M Conway 6 for Kelly (64), G White for Smith (71).
Cork - K O'Halloran 7; J O'Sullivan 6, M Shields 6, S Cronin 5; C Dorman 6, J Loughrey 4, Barry O'Driscoll 6; A O'Connor 5, E Cadogan 5; C O'Driscoll 5, M Collins 7, K O'Driscoll 5; C O'Neill 7, D O'Connor 7, P Kerrigan 7.
Subs: Brian O'Driscoll 7 for Loughrey (12 BC), F Goold 6 for A O'Connor (20), B Hurley 8 for C O'Driscoll (h-t), T Clancy 7 for Cronin (43), J O'Rourke 6 for Dorman (48), D Og Hodnett 6 for O'Sullivan (66).
Ref - Marty Duffy (Sligo)
All-Ireland SF Qualifier
Game at a glance
Man of the match
Niall Kelly (Kildare)
A fully-fit Kelly is a sight to behold. The Cork defence failed to figure him out in Thurles and he helped himself to a 1-4 haul. Excellent as a playmaker, and devastating at the edge of the square.
What does the future hold for Brian Cuthbert? After two disappointing seasons in charge, his time might be up.
Four minutes from half-time Niall Kelly kicked a splendid point. He was out in front of his marker, immediately transferred the ball to the tireless Cathal McNally, but popped up again seconds later to swing over a fine point.
Marty Duffy got most of the big calls right and didn't shirk the tough decisions. Two reds, three blacks and two yellows meant he was busy.
Kildare 7 (4 first half)
Cork 9 (4)
Kildare 17 (8 first half)
Cork 26 (12)
Yellow cards Kildare 2 (0) Cork 0
Red cards Kildare 1 ( Emmet Bolton, 67) Cork 1 (Kevin O'Driscoll, 54)
It's back to Croke Park for an All-Ireland quarter-final against Kerry for Kildare. Cork are out.