Galway 0-14 Kildare 0-13

Galway will play Division 1 football in 2017 after Kevin Walsh’s side held on to win against Kildare at Pearse Stadium.

A Galway win looked a formality when Eamonn Brannigan put them five ahead with 16 minutes remaining, but Niall Kelly’s introduction inspired the already-promoted Lilywhites to twice close to within a point, only for Shane Walsh to wrap up the win late on.

With the knowledge that a win or a draw would suffice for the Tribesmen to clinch top-flight football for next season, there were no gung-ho tactics on display from the home side, who stuck to their patient plan in search of chances.

This was far from the usual Kildare team seen so far in the national league as Cian O’Neill made 14 changes from last week’s win over Clare – Fionn Dowling was the only survivor – while six of his team, including the entire full-back line, made their first starts for the county.

It was Dowling who got Kildare off the mark in the first minute with a great score from the left, and only for a fine Rory Lavelle save a minute later, Ben McCormack’s goal bound effort could have stunned Galway.

But they slowly grew their way into the tie, and with Fiontán Ó Curraoin and Paul Conroy dominant under the kick-outs, the opportunities began to flow. A free from Barry McHugh drew Galway level after six minutes, while a good score form Tom Flynn registered Galway’s second in the 12th minute.

A quick break out of defence saw Sean Armstrong push the home side ahead and a Gary Sice free after 20 minutes saw them into a two-point lead, which they were good value for.

A black card for Kildare wing-back Peter Kelly for a lunge on Shane Walsh resulted in another Galway point, and despite a couple of Dowling points at the other end, Galway worked a 0-7 to 0-4 half-time advantage when Johnny Heaney exchanged passes with Flynn and pointed in added-time.

Sice and Emmet Bolton had a running battle throughout the first half, but the Kildare man ran out of luck three minutes after the restart when he was booked for a challenge on the Corofin man and Sice then pointed the free to stretch Galway’s lead to four points.

Bolton was immediately replaced by Keith Cribben and the Johnstownbridge man made a big impact around midfield, which led to points from Eamonn Callaghan and Ben McCormack.

Armstrong and Conroy settled Galway with points, and they could have sealed the win 20 minutes from time but Sice pulled his shot wide when through on goal.

But once Shane Walsh and Brannigan hit two points in as many minutes to take a five-point lead there was no way back for Kildare, despite Niall Kelly’s inspired comeback after his introduction.

Galway: R Lavelle; C Sweeney, D Walsh, D Wynne; G O’Donnell, M Farragher, J Heaney (0-01); P Conroy (0-01), F Ó Curraoin; G Sice (0-02, 0-02f), S Walsh (0-03), T Flynn (0-01); S Armstrong(0-02), E Brannigan (0-02), B McHugh (0-02, 0-02f).
Subs: M Lundy for Sice (57 mins), I Burke for McHugh (63), L Silke for Farragher (67),

Kildare: S McNamara; M Hyland, L Healy, D Maguire; S Ryan, P Kelly, E Bolton; F Dowling (0-05, 0-01f), P Connell; E Heavey, C Hartley, C Kavanagh; C McNally (0-02), E Callaghan (0-01), B McCormack (0-02).
Subs: D Hyland (0-01) for Kelly (25 mins BC), K Cribben for Bolton (40), N Kelly (0-02) for McCormack (49), P Cribben for Heavey (52), K Feely for Connell (56 BC), D Slattery for Hartley (63),

Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).