Kildare escaped an opening day embarrassment as a strong finish allowed them to overcome a spirited but ultimately profligate Wicklow side as they ran out 1-17 to 2-12 winners in the opening round of the Bank of Ireland Leinster football championship at Croke Park.
Leading by six points after 45 minutes it looked like Wicklow could actually pull off an amazing first Leinster SFC win since 2000. Completely belying their Div 2 league status Wicklow turned in a huge display for three quarters of the game - but couldn't hold on.
Experience eventually told as Kildare escaped to victory, springing old hands Dermot Earley and Karl Ennis off the bench to great effect. In fact, 10 minutes after slumping to that six point deficit they were back ahead with Tadhg Fennin netting and hitting some vital scores.
It was a close call though and Wicklow will regret a massive wides tally of 16. The game started in equally whirlwind fashion with Killian Brennan pointing to put Kildare ahead just 20 seconds in.
But Wicklow showed no signs of an inferiority complex with a huge work ethic and no little skill around the middle third. Wayne O'Gorman put Wicklow level and from there they moved 0-3 to 0-1 ahead with star man Paul Earls, 1-6 overall, and Leighton Glynn on the mark. It wasn't pretty but it was effective enough as Wicklow threatened a real upset.
Kildare fought back to level at 0-4 apiece and two Johnny Doyle converted frees put them 0-6 to 0-4 ahead. That's when the game turned though because Kildare missed a clear cut goal chance that might have killed off Wicklow early on.
Eamonn Callaghan ran untracked up the left, rounded the 'keeper but found Wicklow's Tom Burke cleared off the line.
Wicklow responded with three points and from nowhere they were right back in it with the storm, apparently, weathered.
Callaghan redeemed himself slightly with a point to tie the scores at half-time, 0-7 apiece.
Wicklow restarted in equally devastating fashion, notching up 2-2 in 10 minutes to put Kildare to the pin of their collar. Earls hit 1-1 of that tally, following up on O'Gorman's blocked goal attempt to hit the net in the 36th minute.
Doyle and Fennin pulled back points for Kildare before Thomas Harney's 45th minute goal put Wicklow 2-9 to 0-9 ahead.
It appeared the death knell to Kildare's Leinster hopes but the 2003 finalists shouldn't have been underestimated.
First Fennin pulled back a goal, tapping home when Rob Hollingsworth failed to deal with Callaghan's high ball in.
Then Callaghan and Doyle hit back to back points and there was just a point in it at 1-11 to 2-9 in Wicklow's favour.
Sub Ennis levelled them up after 54 minutes and Kildare, moving ahead soon after with a Fennin point, never really looked back.
Sure, Wicklow gave them a couple of frights with Earls actually putting them back level at 2-12 to 1-15 after 68 minutes. But Kildare had just about enough with points from Sweeney and Doyle late on sending them through after a big shock.
Kildare: E Murphy; A Rainbow, D Hendy, P Mullarkey; M Foley (0-1), G Ryan, D Lyons; K Brennan (0-1), W Heffernan; E Callaghan (0-3), P O'Neill, R Sweeney (0-1); T Fennin (1-3; 1f), S McKenzie-Smith, J Doyle (0-7; 3f).
Subs: M Hogarty for O'Neill h/t, K Ennis (0-1) for Hendy 39, D Earley for Brennan 46, R Glavin for McKenzie-Smith 49.
Wicklow: R Hollingsworth; C Hyland, B Daly, T Burke; K Manning, D O hAnnaidh, B O hAnnaidh; D Dillon (0-1), J Stafford; D Smullen, L Glynn (0-1), T Harney (1-1); P Earls (1-6; 2f), W O'Gorman (0-2), A Ellis (0-1).
Subs: G Duffy for Manning 25, JP Davis for Harney 54, D O'Sullivan for Ellis 61, J Daniels for Davis 65.
Referee: F Flynn (Leitrim)