Kildare 2-18 Laois 1-8
At any other time, Jack O’Connor claiming: “To tell you the truth, I couldn’t even tell you when the championship is on” could probably be filed away to a folder marked “cute hoorism”. Kerry men have always been all about the championship.
These are curious times though and with so much riding on the outcome of this one game for Kildare – even a win wasn’t certain to secure a Division Two semi-final place – the Lilywhites manager’s apparent tunnel vision was understandable.
As it turned out, a 13-point win, courtesy of a powerful display in Portlaoise, allied to Cork’s one-point win over Clare, nudged Kildare up from third to first in the Division Two South table on scoring difference, ensuring a semi-final tie against neighbours Meath.
Flynns were to the fore with Luke and Kevin Flynn scoring the goals and Neil adding four points from frees.
Rock-bottom Laois hung in there for half an hour and raised a brief gallop during the third quarter when Gary Walsh was gifted a goal after an errant Paul Cribbin kick across his own defence.
But Kildare were full value for the win and with 10 different scorers, a youthful full-forward line and substitutes contributing 0-6 between them.
Kildare are now just a game away from Division One football and will fancy their chances against Meath on June 12th/13th.
“All we were doing was concentrating on this because it’s very, very important for Kildare to be looking upwards rather than downwards,” maintained O’Connor, three times an All-Ireland winning manager with Kerry.
“This morning, on the road up, we were facing a relegation game if we didn’t get a result here. It’s too far away to be thinking about the championship.”
Chances are O’Connor has July 4th – the date of Kildare’s Leinster SFC quarter-final clash with Offaly or Louth – circled on the calendar in his kitchen.
Still, one of his very first statements after becoming Kildare manager in September, 2019 was that “the first priority will be to do well in the league and to get promoted”.
They mixed silk with steel in this game, Jimmy Hyland and Kevin Flynn providing the broad brush strokes of genius and Fergal Conway’s inspirational energy indicative of a decent collective effort.
Luke Flynn’s palmed goal left Kildare 1-7 to 0-4 ahead at half-time and they overwhelmed Laois in the second half, adding a second goal through Kevin Flynn after a terrific burst up the pitch.
KILDARE: M Donnellan; M Dempsey, M O'Grady, D Hyland; K Flynn (1-1), E Doyle, R Houlihan; L Flynn (1-0), K Feely (0-1); N Flynn (0-4, 3 frees), F Conway (0-1), P Cribbin; B McLoughlin (0-1), D Kirwan, J Hyland (0-4, 1 mark, 1 free). Subs: A Masterson (0-2) for Feely (h-t), S O'Sullivan (0-3, one mark) for McLoughlin (49), A Beirne for Kirwan (52), P Brophy for N Flynn (58), S Ryan for Houlihan and C Hartley (0-1) for Cribbin (67).
LAOIS: N Corbett; G Dillon, M Timmons, R Pigott; S Lacey, P O'Sullivan, A Farrell; K Lillis, J O'Loughlin; B Byrne, P Kingston, E Lowry (0-1); D O'Reilly, E O'Carroll (0-2), G Walsh (1-5, 3 frees). Subs: B Carroll for O'Reilly (h-t), M Barry for Kingston (50), E Buggie for O'Sullivan (54), B Daly for Byrne and T Collins for Timmons (58), S Byrne for O'Loughlin and R Munnell for Walsh (64).
Referee: P Faloon (Down).