Limerick endured a frustrating exit from the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship qualifiers as Kildare broke clear of them in extra-time to claim a 0-19 to 0-12 win.
The Shannonsiders were out on their feet after they blew a three-point lead in Portlaoise with a late Kildare spurt, including the levelling point from Emmet Bolton, forcing extra-time.
Kieran McGeeney’s men then took over in the two additional periods with Mick Foley, Eoin Doyle and John Doyle guiding them through to the fourth round where they will face beaten Connacht finalists Sligo.
It was quite a turnaround for the Lilywhites as Ian Ryan’s five-point haul had Limerick leading 0-07 to 0-04 at half-time.
Additional points from captain Ger Collins, Eoghan O’Connor and goalkeeper Brian Scanlon - with a booming free - had them on the cusp of a memorable victory in the midlands.
But despite some worrying wides, Kildare showed their battling qualities to get back level and eventually grind Maurice Horan’s side into submission.
This third round clash was played at O’Moore Park as Kildare’s Newbridge home, St Conleth’s Park, has had its capacity cut for health and safety reasons. 11,345 spectators turned up tonight and got plenty of value for their money.
Ollie Lyons came in for Andriú MacLochlainn in the Kildare full-back line, while Limerick lined out as selected and had the wind advantage as they attacked the town end goal in the first half.
Both sides spluttered in front of the posts early on and Eoghan O’Flaherty’s eighth-minute free eventually broke an ugly sequence of wides.
Kildare forced the issue in an intense opening, trying to create chances for the likes of Alan Smith and Tomás O’Connor who was being picked up by Stephen Lucey. Limerick levelled with an Ian Ryan free and the same player was inches away from claiming a goal after breaking away from Peter Kelly. Ryan’s rising shot gave them a brief lead that Smith erased.
Ryan took on Kelly again and won a free which he popped over, before John Doyle and O’Connor combined to set up James Kavanagh’s first of the night.
A sliver of space was enough for Ryan to tag on his fourth point, this time from the 40-metre range on the right, and the St Senan’s clubman soon made it 0-05 to 0-03 from another free.
Limerick’s crowded defence, which included a retreating Paudie Browne, thwarted a number of Kildare’s advances and the Lilywhites were also let down by their lack of accuracy in front of goal - Robert Kelly and Smith were guilty of wayward shooting.
The fast pace continued up to the break, with an early ball finally undoing the Limerick rearguard as Mikey Conway slotted over to make it a two-point game.
The hard-working Stephen Kelly then added his name to the Limerick scoresheet after a couple of earlier misses.
Kildare felt aggrieved that they were not awarded a late free, and the Shannonsiders countered swiftly for substitute Damien Quaid to score in injury-time.
McGeeney’s charges stormed out of the blocks in the second half, with Kelly left-footing the opener and Mick Foley adding another after good work from Bolton. But Ryan replied for Limerick from a free and the gap was back out to three when skipper Collins split the posts.
Conway sent over two frees, the second from 50 metres, to sandwich a Limerick point from the speedy Eoghan O’Connor, and the subsequent introduction of Seanie Johnston raised the decibel level.
A drilled free from Scanlon kept the Munster men on course at 0-11 to 0-08, and he saved a point at the other end with a fine leap, giving his team-mates further encouragement.
Kildare captain Doyle rallied his troops in the 58th minute with a monster free, and Foley provided some much-needed inspiration with a brilliant block.
Johnston’s first effort at the posts was waved wide, but Kavanagh followed up in the next attack to reduce the arrears to one - 0-11 to 0-10.
There were wayward shots from Foley and Morgan O’Flaherty, taking Kildare’s wides tally into double figures, and as the minutes ticked by Limerick were tantalisingly close to a shock win.
Kildare boast a proud record in the All-Ireland qualifiers, having not lost a ‘back door’ game since going down to Laois in 2007. Their hopes of extending that unbeaten qualifier run to 14 matches were lifted by defender Bolton’s levelling point. As Limerick tired, Kildare ran hard at them and a break from deep - sparked by a Kavanagh turnover - led to Bolton squaring things up at 0-11 apiece.
Substitute Eamonn Callaghan miscued as Kildare went in search of a match winner, but they put Limerick to the sword in the first period of extra-time by piecing together six points without reply.
Kavanagh picked off the first and Padraig O’Neill and Morgan O’Flaherty also showed a clinical touch in front of goal. Johnny Doyle clipped a free over and Eoin Doyle initiated a telling move that ended with that man Johnston scoring from play.
With Limerick’s energy sapped by their earlier defensive efforts, the extra space was being exploited by the Lilywhites and Morgan O’Flaherty hit their ninth point without reply for a 0-17 to 0-11 scoreline.
Limerick briefly lifted their game at the start of the second period with Ian Corbett forcing a very good block from Peter Kelly. Ryan then followed up with a pointed free.
But Kildare put the result beyond any doubt with two final points from Eoin Doyle and Johnston, who scored off both feet in a solid cameo performance.
Limerick might well have ended the game with 14 players as frustration got the better of forward Stephen Kelly who caught John Doyle with a bad shoulder and was seen to strike out at Callaghan.
Referee Barry Cassidy decided on a yellow card as a night of much promise ended in deep disappointment for Horan and his players.
Kildare: J Kavanagh, M Conway (0-02f) 0-03 each, J Doyle (0-02f), M O’Flaherty, S Johnston 0-02 each, E O’Flaherty (0-01f), A Smith, R Kelly, M Foley, E Bolton, P O’Neill, E Doyle 0-01 each
Limerick: I Ryan 0-07 (0-05f), S Kelly, D Quaid, G Collins, E O’Connor, B Scanlon (0-01f) 0-01 each
Kildare: Shane Connolly; Ollie Lyons, Peter Kelly, Hugh McGrillen; Emmet Bolton, Morgan O’Flaherty, Eoin Doyle; Mick Foley, Robert Kelly; Eoghan O’Flaherty, Mikey Conway, Alan Smith; John Doyle, Tomás O’Connor, James Kavanagh.
Subs used: Padraig O’Neill for Kelly, Seanie Johnston for E O’Flaherty (both 48 mins), Padraig Fogarty for O’Connor (57), Eamonn Callaghan for Smith (66); Gary White for Bolton, Andriú MacLochlainn for Lyons (both 74), Eoghan O’Flaherty for M O’Flaherty (80).
Limerick: Brian Scanlon; Andrew Lane, Johnny McCarthy, Lorcan O’Dwyer; John Riordan, Stephen Lucey, Pa Ranahan; Jim Donovan, Sean Buckley; Eoghan O’Connor, Stephen Kelly, Paudie Browne; Ger Collins , Seamus O’Carroll, Ian Ryan.
Subs used: Damien Quaid for Lane (22 mins), Ian Corbett for O’Carroll (51), Bobby O’Brien for Donovan (54), James O’Meara for Kelly (62), John Cooke for Collins (68); Stephen Kelly for Riordan (83).
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).