Kelly's early blitz sees off the Faithful
Kildare 1-12 Offaly 1-8
It's just over a year since Down plundered Newbridge with two injury-time goals.
Kildare blew a winning position that day and it was a result that sent them into a tailspin from which they'd never recover. They slipped through the trapdoor to division three a couple of months later.
What was particularly galling for Kildare that day was they had done almost precisely the same thing a year earlier against Tyrone while operating in the top flight.
So when Offaly cut Kildare's advantage back to three after the lead had once stood at nine points, the locals could be forgiven if they were a little jumpy.
To that point, Offaly had just about hung in for most of the afternoon. Kildare were better in most aspects of the game and physically too they had a significant edge on their direct opponents.
This derby game's big moment came on 48 minutes. Eamonn Callaghan showed superb vision to pick out Cathal McNally who had drifted into space and he finished to the net to put his side eight points clear and almost out of sight.
A Neil Flynn free brought the lead to nine and that cushion remained in place with less than 15 minutes to play before Offaly gave themselves a chance.
Graham Guilfoyle was brought down when through on goal by Cian O'Donoghue who was subsequently black-carded. Peter Cunningham converted from the spot and Offaly fired over two more points to move to within a single score with about four minutes including injury-time to play.
That was the end of the revival and as Lilies manager Cian O'Neill would point out after, his side closed out the remainder of the game in convincing fashion.
"We controlled the early parts of the game and for some reason, yet to be found and explained, we drift out of a match when we should be controlling it and we let the other team in," O'Neill said.
"We didn't take a couple of chances we had but once we got a grip around midfield - I think that's where the match was won and lost - we controlled the game. You have to be happy with the players, they are resilient because they were put under pressure by Offaly who got a lot of momentum after the penalty.
"All in all (there's) plenty to improve and work on but you have to be happy with what the guys did out there, especially when they saw the game out in the last five minutes."
Kildare, and Niall Kelly in particular, got off to a flying start. The Athy man fired off the game's first three points inside six minutes to put the home side in control and they would stretch that lead to five points before Offaly got on the scoreboard.
Predictably, it was Niall McNamee who opened their account. The Rhode talisman had fumbled an earlier pass when a goal looked on but looping over a left-footed effort got Offaly off the mark on 19 minutes.
Offaly were more in the game now but Kildare's midfield dominance was proving hard to break with Daniel Flynn and Kevin Feely in particular in good form. The latter had a career cross channel in soccer but was impressive in the Kildare engine room.
Offaly fashioned the best goal chance of the half but a combination of Cian O'Donoghue and Mark Donnellan smothered Conor McNamee's effort.
Niall McNamee curled over a beauty before Kelly landed his fourth of the half to give Cian O'Neill's side a deserved 0-8 to 0-4 lead at the break.
Kildare would control much of the second half apart from the period of Offaly's brief rally and Faithful boss Pat Flanagan had no complaints after the game.
"Kildare were the better team for long parts of the game today we were a bit concerned that they would hit us hard at the start of the game and that's what they did.
"We were three points down after a few minutes and to be fair to our lads they kept battling and we had a goal chance in the first half and two in the second half.
"We are looking for small crumbs here but being honest about it the game ended with four points in it and we were three down after a few minutes. They battled hard."
SCORERS - Kildare: N Kelly, N Flynn (4f) 0-4 each, C McNally 1-0, P Cribbin 0-2, K Feely, A Tyrell. Offaly: P Cunningham 1-1 (1-0 pen), N McNamee 0-2, B Allen 0-1 (1f), S Moriarty, J Maher (1f), C Donoghue, G Guilfoyle (1f) 0-1 each.
Kildare - M Donnellan 7; P Kelly 7, D Hyland 7, O Lyons 6; R Houlihan 7, F Conway 7, C O'Donoghue 6; D Flynn 7, K Feely 8; A Tyrell 7, N Kelly 8, P Cribbin 7; N Flynn 6, E Callaghan 6, C McNally 7. Subs: E Flaherty 7 for Cribbin (ht), P O'Neill 7 for Tyrell (45), E Bolton 7 for Houlihan (53), E Powderly 6 for Lyons (60), M Sherry for Callaghan (63), J Byrne for O'Donoghue (65 BC).
Offaly - A Mulhall 7; C Donoghue 6, E Rigney 6, S Pender 6; N Darby 7, B Darby 6, J O'Connor 7; C McNamee 6, J Gethings 6; S Moriarty 6, M Brazil 7, D Brady 6; B Allen 6, P Cunningham 6, N McNamee 7 SUBS: J Maher 6 for Allen (ht), N Smith 6 for Gethings (45), A Sullivan 6 for C McNamee (48), N Bracken 6 for Moriarty (55), D Brady 6 for B Darby (60), W Mulhall for Brazil (65).
Ref - J Henry (Mayo).
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