Last-gasp Doyle lifts Lilies into top flight
Galway 0-18 Kildare 2-12
Allianz NFL DIVISION 2
At last, a break of genuine consequence for Kildare.
With the prescribed three minutes of injury-time almost elapsed and the visitors frantic after a second-half spell where their manager Kieran McGeeney felt they decided to "lose their brains", John Doyle launched one last desperate attempt for salvation with a free deep into the Galway goalmouth.
Galway had a three-point lead and more than one foot in Division 1 as the clock ticked down. As Doyle's free sailed into the danger zone, they really only had to beat it back out to survive.
But Dermot Earley, only on the field as an impact full-forward since the 59th minute, got a hand to it and somehow Emmet Bolton snaffled it and prepared to pull the trigger.
As he did so, Gary O'Donnell lifted him out of it and referee Eddie Kinsella was perfectly paced to make the right call.
Human nature being what it is, some referees, in similar circumstances, would have waved play on, choosing to ignore the indiscretion. But Kinsella called it right.
After a brief tete a tete with Mikey Conway, the ball was in Doyle's hands, the responsibility of ending four years in Division 2 thrust upon him in a split second.
Doyle scored crucial penalties against Meath and Laois in last year's championship but this was pressure in the extreme as the narrative was already heavily loaded towards another glorious failure to make the next step for this team.
You could argue that there was much more than promotion at stake with the outcome of Doyle's kick. After squandering a four-point lead built up against a strong Salthill wind in the first half, they had to take something back down the M6 or risk further doubt and negativity permeating through their county.
But Doyle's kick to the right corner was just about as perfect as any penalty taker could hope. In the circumstances of needing it, knowing there was no time left, it was a mark of character.
Kildare still haven't beaten Galway since the 1985 league, but a draw was enough to send them up.
Given some of the breaks and decisions they have had to endure in the last two years, there was a small element of payback here.
"Coolness personified, cometh the hour cometh the man," acknowledged McGeeney.
"In fairness, he had a bit of a debate about it with Mikey Conway. The elder man was always going to win that one.
"We all have those type of players in different teams. If someone like that steps up and says 'I'm going to take it', that's it."
Think Peter Canavan and Owen Mulligan at the end of the 2005 All-Ireland semi-final between Tyrone and Armagh and you have the picture.
McGeeney was not over-excited about promotion, however.
"I know there are a couple of managers who think you have to be in Division 1 to push on," he said.
"I'm not so sure. But you take the top three teams out of it, (the others) are all around the same sort of level."
Still, the optics of this one are important for a team five years down the road of this particular project.
Galway manager Alan Mulholland saw the denial of promotion at the death as a far more serious consequence.
"It's so disappointing because you have to come back next year and try and do that all over again, whereas we were one kick away of being in Division 1 and saving ourselves all that trouble," he reasoned.
The positive note for Mulholland was a shattered dressing-room.
"That shows the bit of positivity, to be as disappointed as we are coming off a game against Kildare, who have been knocking on the door for the last three or four years."
Mulholland has much to champion in the week ahead.
Padraic Joyce made another important impact with three points off the bench and a crucial pass for Paul Conroy's third point -- he may be best served in that bench role.
His presence for Galway was uplifting but by then they were already on a roll thanks to the probing runs and the energy of Gary Sice and Gareth Bradshaw. Bradshaw has developed into a leader of real quality in this league campaign.
They had struggled in the opening half as Kildare put together some really impressive movements that split the home side open.
Peter Kelly and Ollie Lyons were formidable corner-backs, while Emmet Bolton pushed forward incessantly, his goal on 26 minutes the third in successive matches from a Kildare half-back and the product of one of those moves involving James Kavanagh, Paudie O'Neill and Alan Smith.
Smith looked back to the 2009 form that made him the championship's top scorer from play, with four points and involvement in at least three other first-half scores.
The match, watched by 4,733, provided more evidence that the faster a game bowls along, the more Kildare like it.
When it slows and becomes fragmented, however, they can struggle. Their 1-9 to 0-8 interval lead underlined that as Galway reconciled to stemming the flow.
"We started looking for perfect passes into the full-forward line when there were handy shots on," conceded McGeeney. "Instead of just moving them on, we were looking for 40 or 50- metre passes. It's not our game. We got caught up trying too hard."
Mulholland bristled at the notion that Kildare had collapsed, but Galway did benefit from some poorly directed Shane Connolly kick-outs and at one stage in the second half the count from Kildare's restarts was 8-2 in Galway's favour.
But like Kildare, they benefited from the control that playing against the wind afforded their passing game.
Joyce's first score on 51 minutes levelled matters, 1-10 to 0-13, and his next score off his right foot pushed Galway two points clear. He makes kicking a ball look so easy.
They went four points clear, 0-17 to 1-10 on 64 minutes before Earley's point lifted Kildare and set up that grandstand finish.
Man of the Match: Emmet Bolton (Kildare)
Scorers -- Galway: P Conroy, M Hehir (2f), P Joyce (f) 0-3 each, A Faherty (2 '45s'), G Sice 0-2 each, G Bradshaw, G Higgins, D Burke, M Martin (f), D Cummins 0-1 each. Kildare: J Doyle (1-0 pen), E Bolton 1-1 each, A Smith 0-4, J Kavanagh 0-3, E O'Flaherty (f), M Conway, D Earley 0-1 each.
Galway -- A Faherty 7; C Forde 4, F Hanley 5; K McGrath 7; G Bradshaw 8, D Blake 6, G O'Donnell 6; J Bergin 7, G Higgins 6; G Sice 8, D Burke 7, N Joyce 5; M Martin 5, P Conroy 8, M Hehir 6. Subs: T Flynn 6 for Martin (ht), K Kelly 6 for Forde (h-t), P Joyce 8 for Hehir (50), D Cummins 7 for N Joyce (53), N Coleman for Higgins (69).
Kildare -- S Connolly 7; P Kelly 7, H McGrillen 5, O Lyons 7; E Bolton 8, M O'Flaherty 6, B Flanagan 6; M Foley 6, P O'Neill 6; E O'Flaherty 7, M Conway 6, J Doyle 7; A Smith 8, T O'Connor, 7, J Kavanagh 7. Subs: D Flynn 5 for McGrillen (44), E Doyle 6 for Flanagan (56), D Earley 7 for O'Connor (59), P Fogarty for O'Neill (64).
Ref -- E Kinsella (Laois).