Kildare bounce back from Leinster exit to see off Derry
Kildare ended an almost yearlong winless run after seeing off Derry 2-22 to 2-14 in the first round of the football qualifiers in Owenbeg this evening.
A second half goal from corner forward Niall Kelly gave the Lilywhites a healthy lead they never relinquished, as Cian O’Neill’s men put their miserable Leinster championship defeat to Carlow behind them to advance to the second round of the qualifiers.
Kildare led by two at the break, 1-12 to 2-7, after a thoroughly enjoyable 35 minutes that featured 22 scores as well as three goals.
Given how badly they shot in the opening half of that loss to Carlow (seven wides), Cian O’Neill would have been delighted to see his side put 1-10 from play on the board before the interval, with only three shots waved wide.
Paddy Brophy was a late withdrawal for the Lilywhites after an injury in the warm-up but that didn’t slow the forward line. Early scores from Fergal Conway and Tommy Moolick got Kildare up and running before a strong run from wing back Sean Leo McGoldrick was finished off by Derry full forward Shane McGuigan – although Enda Lynn may claim he got a touch as the ball crossed the line.
Kildare hit back immediately with a goal of their own, with Daniel Flynn turning his marker 20m from goal, before planting the ball emphatically past Ben McKinless.
Paul Cribben got through plenty of work from centre forward, nabbing two first half points while Conway added three more before the interval. One sour note for Kildare was the loss of their captain, Eoin Doyle, to a black card midway through the half.
Shortly thereafter, Derry got a second goal after Lynn finished smartly following another surge from outside the scoring zone, this time midfielder Padraig Cassidy turning provider.
However, just like after the first goal, Kildare responded strongly with scores from championship debutant James Murray, Conway and a Kevin Feely free, to give O’Neill’s side a two-point buffer at half time.
Derry had a glorious chance to take the lead right after half time but goalkeeper Mark Donnellan denied Emmet Bradley and then corner back Mick O’Grady made a miracle block on the line to keep out McGuigan’s follow-up – and Kildare made them pay.
Corner forward David Slattery fisted over in space on the right before Feely picked out Niall Kelly with a gorgeous pass in front of goal. Kelly fumbled the ball but was able to flick it to the net before the on-rushing McKinless could react.
Derry tried to chip away at Kildare’s lead with a couple of Emmet Bradley frees, but replacement Neil Flynn – who came on for Feely after what looked like a bad injury – kicked two sumptuous scores from play to maintain their advantage.
It was a fractious finish in Owenbeg as Kildare fullback David Hyland picked up their second black card, while Derry corner forward Mark Lynch received a straight red card for an off the ball incident.
Two Flynn frees and two more points from play by the sub completed the scoring as Kildare booked their place in the second round of the qualifiers, picking up their first win since June 2017 in the process.