Kildare strike late to break Longford hearts but will need to avoid big guns in Round Three
Longford 1-13 Kildare 1-16
They left it late, but they got there. It was the 69th minute before Kildare led for the first time in this second round qualifier, but they were in front from there to the end and that was all that mattered.
Longford worked hard and played well all through, but they failed to score between the 56th and 75th minutes and that cost them. In the heat of the evening, Kildare’s squad strength stood to them and Longford’s late mistakes undid so much of their good work during the game.
Eoin Doyle, Fergal Conway and Neil Flynn were the heroes for the winners, but they will be listening anxiously to Monday morning’s draw. This Kildare side will not want to run into the likes of Mayo, Tyrone or Monaghan.
What we saw tonight in Longford won’t do against those counties. They would feast on the Lilies’ many errors in a manner that Longford didn’t have the attacking power to do.
Longford were without the suspended James McGivney, after his late challenge on Stephen Cluxton in the semi-final but another forward, Rian Brady, was out too, having been injured in training during the week.
Longford have a strong record at home — Mayo, Derry and Meath have fallen here in the championship — while the hosts also gave Kerry and Dublin their fill of it at the ground in their time.
As the crowd filed in, savouring the glorious summer sunshine, most Kildare supporters were entitled to wonder what Lilies’ side would turn up — the team that had been dismal against Carlow or the one that had blown Derry away in style in the first round of the qualifiers.
Kevin Feely didn’t start the match for Kildare, having been injured against Derry, with Paddy Brophy taking his place. Kildare also lost Niall Kelly to a black card after just three minutes for pulling down Donal McElligott.
It was a surprisingly open game in which the visitors seemed the bigger and more powerful force, but they regularly were turning over the in the tackle.
The teams swapped points as both sought to work good chances for kicking scores, but the first attempt for a goal in the game was a cracker when Liam Connerton almost broke the crossbar with a thunderous shot.
It was an escape for Kildare, but they soon fell a couple of points behind as Robbie Smyth and Conor Berry landed lovely scores.
Longford hit the crossbar for the second time when McElligott sauntered through the heart of the Kildare backline and his shot rebounded for a point off the woodwork.
Half-time arrived with the home team a point up, but those two goal chances were surely on the mind of all supporting the blue and gold. They were chances that ultimately came back to haunt Longford.
Kildare still had clear problems in the heart of their defence where Longford were making easy inroads. It has been a problem for Kildare all season — they have men back, but they aren’t forcing the opposition wide and they are still getting through or around for scores.
Still, the tit-for-tat point scoring went on in the second half with Longford having chances to break away and go two or three points clear, but they did not take them.
Instead, Kildare found an extra gear as Eoin Doyle, with his fist, and Feely, on at last, got the points that won the day for Cian O’Neill’s side.
Incredibly, the teams swapped goals as time expired. Sub Chris Healy found the net for Kildare with a palmed effort before Robbie Smyth got a late consolation for Longford. But their year is done and the Lilies are still in bloom.
Scorers — Kildare: N Flynn 0-5; C Healy 1-0; P Brophy, T Moolick, P Cribben 0-2 each; D Flynn 0-1 P Cribben 0-2 D Hyland 0-1 K Feely 0-1 E Doyle 0-1 F Conway 0-1. Longford: R Smyth 1-5; D Gallagher 0-2; D McGivney, S McCormack, L Connerton, C Berry, D McElligott, P Collum 0-1 each;
Longford- P Collum; P Fox, P McCormack, D Masterson; M Quinn, D McElligott, D Mimnagh; D Gallagher, C Berry; D McGivney, D Reynolds, B McKeon; R Smyth, S McCormack, L Connerton Subs- B Gilleran for McCormack (BC) 53mins
Kildare- M Donnellan; P Kelly, D Hyland, M O’Grady; J Murray, E Doyle, K Flynn; P Brophy, T Moolick; F Conway, P Cribben, K Cribbin; N Flynn, D Flynn, N Kelly Subs- E O’Connor for Kelly 3mins (BC) D Slattery for K Cribben 43mins J Byrne for Murray 49mins C Healy for Moolick 52min C McNally for O’Connor 57mins K Feely for Conway (BC) 68mins
Referee J McQuillan (Cavan)