All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers round 4
Power, precision and panache. Kildare had it all on Saturday evening as they cruised past a defensively devastated Fermanagh side and sealed their place in the Super 8’s.
It never looked in doubt for a Kildare side that combined all of their best attributes in a brilliant performance that saw them win out with an 11-point cushion, and though they were asleep defensively at times, nobody will care as the Lilywhites take their place in the last eight of the All-Ireland.
After a spring of discontent, that never looked likely.
After the good will delivered through the stunning victory over Mayo a week previous, there was a huge Kildare following in Navan and they vociferously lauded every score, tackle and impressive pass from the men in white, while each player going off as a substitute was given a standing ovation.
Considering the Fermanagh gameplan which is based on limiting space around the goal and smothering the opposition forwards, it was always going to be interesting to see if Kildare had learned the lessons from their poor defeat to Carlow who set up a similar way. Fermanagh clearly weren’t as good at the defensive style, but Kildare showed that they were well rehearsed to come up against such a system this time around.
Before the ball was even thrown in there was plenty of jostling going on between Keith Cribbin and Lee Cullen, possibly giving a glimpse as to just how up for it both of these teams were. When play got underway it was Fermanagh who instigated the first attack but Kildare who were the better team as they looked remarkably composed and focused on the task at hand.
The opening score from Keith Cribbin was highly promising as it was the perfect tonic to a blanket defence. Kildare held possession patiently for the guts of a minute before Cribbin broke the line with an injection of pace and a neat one-two with Peter Kelly, and then supplying a tidy finish. Eoin Donnelly responded by almost netting a goal when his looping effort hit the underside of Mark Donnellan's crossbar and almost went over, but Kildare got away with it and Neill Flynn showed that his good form was likely to continue when he went on a driving run and clipped over his first of the day.
Fermanagh hit back through Ryan Jones for their opening score, but Paul Cribbin carried on his imperious shooting of late by curling over an absolute beauty from distance after Kevin Feely claimed a Mark from a Mark Donnellan kickout. Kildare soon put some daylight between themselves and the Ernesiders as they nabbed the opening goal in the seventh minute. It was route one football as Fergal Conway launched a high ball in to the square, Daniel Flynn climbed into the clouds to fetch the leather and then steadied himself before rolling the ball past Patrick Cadden.
Séamus Quigley outfoxed Mick O’Grady to set up his own score to provide Fermanagh with some respite, but the Lilywhites were buzzing by the midway point of the half and registered the next two scores to push further away from their opponents. Daniel Flynn followed up his goal with a brilliant point, before Neill Flynn added a point from a free, while Keith Cribbin was also denied a goal by a good block from Cadden after being set up by Eoin Doyle.
Declan McCusker clipped over a point for the Ulster men on 17 minutes, but their hopes were already dangling by a thread that Kildare would soon cut as they upped the gears again. A long raking pass from Paddy Brophy to Tommy Moolick set the Leixlip man up for a point, before Neill Flynn curled over superbly from the right wing as Kildare surged seven clear.
Although Quigly pulled back a point from a free, Fermanagh’s heads seemed to have dropped at this stage and their shooting became haphazard and error prone. A huge point from Kevin Flynn, another eye-catching free from Neill Flynn and a Kevin Feely score that came all too easily against a supposedly structured defence effectively put the game to bed by the 25th minute.
Brophy opened his account five minutes before the break with a beautiful curling effort, while the best that Rory Gallagher’s men could muster before the break. Kildare closed out the half strongly as Daniel Flynn did some fine work to set up Kevin Flynn for his second of the evening, and the Johnstownbridge man then floated over another score to send Kildare into the break with a 1-13 to 0-5 lead. The Lilywhites left the field to a rapturous applause following their best half of football for quite some time.
The second half was pretty much a jovial affair from a Kildare point of view as the Lilywhites were able to ease their way through the game without ever looking like they were becoming complacent. Despite conceding the opening two points of the half as Fermanagh raised white flags through Quigley and Ruairí Corrigan, Kildare were able to play the game at their pace and any fears of letting their guard slip were put to bed when Daniel Flynn and Peter Kelly pointed either side of a score from Fermanagh substitute Tomás Corrigan. The rout was well and truly on the cards when the Lilywhites bagged their second goal as Moolick and Doyle showed quick hands in the build-up, the latter laying it on a plate for Neill Flynn to palm in.
Fermanagh actually got some good impetus from their bench in the second half as Ruairí and Tomás Corrigan, along with Seán Quigley, all chipped in with scores and will have left Fermanagh followers wondering why they hadn’t started.
Fergal Conway became the final member of the forward line to score when he smacked over an effort in the 51st minute, and Chris Healy impressed with a lovely solo effort where he bamboozled a couple of men in green before slotting over from 35 metres out.
Kildare’s intensity dropped in the final 15 minutes and they allowed Fermanagh to get a run on them as the Ulster finalists scored five points in a row to put some respectability on the scoreline, but Chris Healy put an end to that run with another lovely score, while Brophy landed Kildare’s last point of the evening in injury time as he gently fisted over. Chris Healy put the final gloss on the scoreline as he superbly lobbed Cadden from 15 metres out with the final kick of the game to seal an emphatic win.
Scorers for Kildare: N Flynn 1-4(3f), D Flynn 1-3, C Healy 1-2, K Flynn and P Brophy 0-2 each, P Kelly, K Feely, T Moolick, F Conway, P Cribbin and K Cribbin 0-1 each.
Scorers for Fermanagh: Séamus Quigley 0-8(6f,1’45), Seán Quigley 0-3, T Corrigan and R Jones 0-2 each, R Corrigan, J McMahon and D McCusker 0-1 each.
Mark Donnellan; Peter Kelly, David Hyland, Mick O’Grady; Johnny Byrne, Eoin Doyle, Kevin Flynn; Tommy Moolick, Kevin Feely; Fergal Conway, Paul Cribbin, Keith Cribbin; Neill Flynn, Daniel Flynn, Paddy Brophy.
Subs used: Fionn Dowling for Moolick 43mins, Chris Healy for Feely 45mins, Niall Kelly for P Cribbin 49mins, David Slattery for K Cribbin 52mins, Éamonn Callaghan for D Flynn 55mins, Mark Hyland for N Flynn 63mins.
Patrick Cadden; Daniel Teague, Che Cullen, Michael Jones; Barry Mulrone, James McMahon, Lee Cullen; Eoin Donnelly, Ryan Jones; Tom Clarke, Declan McCusker, Aidan Breen; Ruairí Corrigan, Conall Jones, Séamus Quigley.
Subs used: Kane Connor for Teague 24mins, Tomás Corrigan for Breen 32mins, Ryan Lyons for C Jones HT, Paul McCusker for Clarke 38mins, Seán Quigley for R Corrigan 40mins, Conor McGee for Mulrone 58mins.
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