A three-week respite for Offaly proved crucial in Newbridge this afternoon as a stunning first half performance saw them beat an apparently tired Kildare 2-17 to 1-16 in their Bank of Ireland SFC quailifier.
It was a close first half up until a point and Kildare’s John Doyle levelled at 0-04 apiece on the quarter-hour, for his second point after James Coughlan had fired Offaly in front with early placed balls.
Doon forward Coughlan cancelled out Doyle’s effort on 17 minutes before a quickly taken free saw Kildare’s Derek McCormack level for the fifth time at 0-06 apiece in the 23rd minute.
By that stage Nolan’s charges had hit their scoring mark, taking six out of eight chances. James Grennan hit a skyscraper point, cancelled out by a fourth Doyle point, a free won well by Ryan, but with Terry Rossiter firing blanks and substituted for Fennin, Offaly soon took the ascendancy.
A goal and a point in the space of two minutes seemed to wrestle the life from Kildare as first Kelleghan nipped in past Brian Lacey, from a Neville Coughlan hand pass, to fire a rising shot beyond the dive of Enda Murphy.
In the 29th minute James Coughlan picked up his first point from play for a 1-08 to 0-07 advantage. Fennin quickly replied with a right wing free but two further Coughlan scores and McNamee’s goal, a high field and shot from ten yards after Daly’s perfect cross field ball, saw Offaly go in at 2-11 to 0-08 in front.
With the wind at their backs, Daly swung Offaly further in front with two key points on 36 and 39 minutes. Fahy’s men were to score just two more points however as old stagers Earley, Ryan and substitute Anthony Rainbow made telling impressions on the game.
Ryan bulldozed his way through and laid off a simple goal for Earley but the Sarsfields giant was wayward in the square. Earley made amends however on 54 minutes when his fist forward was gobbled up by Fennin.
The diminutive forward struck a rasping goal into Kelly’s top right corner and a following point from Mick Foley, a 14th chance taken from 21, had Kildare 1-13 to 2-17 down.
A Doyle point, Fennin's third and Ryan’s first from a close range free put just four points between the sides with two minutes remaining.
Conor Evans grabbed a glorious catch in the Offaly area to stave off a late Kildare smash-and-grab attempt, and even though Fennin went down under Cathal Daly’s challenge in the fourth minute of injury time, Kelly had the final say. He palmed Fennin’s injury time penalty out and it was Offaly’s day for only their fourth qualifier win since 2001.
Filed by Johnny Proby