Kildare were made sweat but they did enough to hold on to a two-point victory over Wicklow in the Preliminary Round of the Leinster Championship.
Kildare looked to be cruising to victory when leading 0-9 to 0-4 at half-time and by seven at one point of the second half but a late Darren Hayden goal put them under pressure and they were hanging on at the end - remembering last year's defeat to Carlow - until substitute Neil Flynn kicked a crucial free.
Kildare looked the better team early on and although Adam Tyrrell missed an opening minute free, himself and Ben McCormack duly knocked over points from play to give Cian O’Neill’s men an early two-point lead.
Wicklow did get level after successive points from Patrick O’Connor and Mark Kenny but McCormack was an outlet all day for Kildare and he excellently found the target from near the sideline in the 11th minute.
Kenny did reply in kind to leave the teams deadlocked at 0-3 apiece but from there Kildare took complete control with Wicklow going scoreless for 20 minutes.
Kevin Feely caught two marks at midfield and he started dominating all before him as Tyrrell, Brophy and Eoghan O’Flaherty scored to extend the leading margin.
Patrick O’Connor had a chance for goal in the 20th minute for the Garden County but Mark Donnellan put a foot out to deny him. Kildare then continued their flow with three points in a row from O’Flaherty as Kildare kicked six points on the bounce.
The Lilywhites should have been much further clear though as they kicked seven wides and let go a couple of goal opportunities before Conor McGraynor brought the half’s scoring to an end in the 32nd minute with Kildare leading 0-9 to 0-4.
Wicklow started the second half well with a point from Theo Smith but three Kildare points in a row from Tyrrell who finished with 0-5, Fergal Conway and David Hyland had them clear leading 0-12 to 0-5.
The sides then exchanged efforts with two Tyrrell frees being cancelled out by Dean Healy and Padraig O’Toole for Wicklow.
Wicklow hit a spurt over the following minutes with an excellent Darren Hayden goal getting them within three before Patrick O’Connor scored well on the break.
Wicklow duly kicked a few wides and despite Kildare being in a bit of a panic, a late free from Neil Flynn got them over the line but only just.
Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Mark Dempsey, Mark Hyland, David Hyland (0-01), Peter Kelly, Eoin Doyle, Keith Cribbin, Kevin Feely, Fergal Conway (0-01), David Slattery, Ben McCormack (0-02), Eoghan O’Flaherty (0-04, 2f, 1 45), Adam Tyrrell (0-05, 4f), Paddy Brophy (0-01), Jimmy Hyland.
Subs: Cian O’Donoghue for Cribbin 48 mins, Neil Flynn (0-01f) for O’Flaherty 48 mins, Conor Hartley for McCormack 56 mins, Tommy Moolick for Slattery 60 mins, Jason Gibbons for Tyrrell 68 mins.
Wicklow: Mark Jackson (0-01); Eoin Murtagh, Ross O’Brien, Jamie Snell, David Deveraux, Shane Mooney, Darragh Fitzgerald, Dean Healy (0-01), Padraig O’Toole (0-01), Darren Hayden (1-00), Anthony McLoughlin, Theo Smith (0-01), Mark Kenny (0-02), Conor McGraynor (0-1f), Patrick O’Connor (0-02).
Subs: Cathal McGee for McLoughlin h-t, Chris O’Brien for McGraynor 45 mins, Oisin Manning for Mooney 46 mins, Daniel Keane (0-01) for Hayden 68 mins, Saoirse Kieron for O’Toole 70 mins.
Referee: Noel Mooney (Cavan)