Kildare didn't follow in the footsteps of Kerry and succumb to a shock championship exit to their near neighbours this evening in Portlaoise, but they left the door open for Offaly right up until the closing minutes.
Indeed, the Lilywhites only inched their way over the line thanks to an emotional cameo from substitute Neil Flynn, who bravely togged out the day after burying his late father, Fergal.
The Maynooth attacker kicked three dead ball scores in the final quarter, one from each sideline and another from 45 metres out, to close out a win that always looked likely, but was never a sure thing.
A special mention to Neil Flynn this evening who came on & kicked three points after burying his father Fergal yesterday. A true testament of his character.— Kildare GAA (@KildareGAA) November 8, 2020
Kildare GAA wish to express our sincere condolences to Neil & his family.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam 🏳️ pic.twitter.com/4Cbf7zBfXN
Jack O’Connor might feel that his side could have been much further ahead all along the 70 minutes of action, having shot 14 wides to Offaly’s three, but the Faithful men will balance that by saying that they had the only goal chances in the game, failing to convert any of the three opportunities that fell their way in front of Mark Donnellan’s goal.
The Kerryman will be delighted with the performance of his array of debutants, and it spoke volumes that of the five players that made their first ever championship appearance all saw out the game, with two of them – full back Shea Ryan and full forward Darragh Kirwan – arguably the two leading lights for the Lilywhites.
On the Offaly side, they also had a young star embellish his credentials, as Cian Farrell shot seven points, including two 45's and three scores from play, terrorising the defence of the county that he grew up beside.
Kirwan struck his first score for Kildare after just 20 seconds, only to see Bernard Allen finish off a great team move at the other end of the field to tie the game up.
Kildare had plenty of pace and strength in close to goal, with Paddy Brophy and Jimmy Hyland also registering early scores, and they certainly had plenty of possession to work with too as Kevin Feely and Aaron Masterson (another championship debutant) established a strong foothold in midfield.
At the other end, when possession did come his way, Farrell was superb. He rattled over two excellent early points to keep Offaly in touch while the Kildare wides tally started to mount, though he'll feel that he missed a trick when Peter Cunningham played him in on goal and his low shot was blocked by Shea Ryan.
Time and again Kildare moved two or three points clear, only for Offaly to pull themselves back into contention.
A one-point lead at half time became 0-12 to 0-10, and eventually 0-15 to 0-11 by the second-half water break, but Offaly rallied again with a string of scores and when goalkeeper Paddy Dunican curled over a free, the gap was down to a single point.
The killer blow the underdogs needed never came however.
Bernard Allen jinked his way through on goal but couldn’t beat Mark Donnellan with his low shot, while wing back Colm Doyle found himself through on goal but he failed to find a way past the Kildare keeper, charging straight into him and conceding a free out.
Enter Neil Flynn to show all the composure and accuracy that his colleagues lacked, and Kildare had done enough. Not much more, but enough.
Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Mark Dempsey, Shea Ryan, Kevin Flynn; Darragh Malone (0-01), Con Kavanagh, David Hyland; Kevin Feely, Aaron Masterson (0-01); Fergal Conway (0-01), Ben McCormack (0-02), Paddy Brophy (0-02); Darragh Kirwan (0-06, 0-01 mark), Daniel Flynn (0-01), Jimmy Hyland (0-02, 0-01 free).
Subs: Mattie Byrne for Conway (half-time), Paul Cribbin (0-01) for Daniel Flynn (42), Neil Flynn (0-03, 0-02 frees, 0-01 mark) for McCormack (55), Luke Flynn for Masterson (60), Eoin Doyle for Kevin Flynn (68).
Offaly: Paddy Dunican (0-01, free); Eoin Rigney, Declan Hogan, Niall Darby; Eoin Carroll, Johnny Moloney, Colm Doyle; Jordan Hayes, Cathal Mangan; Anton Sullivan (0-01), Ruairí McNamee (0-02), Peter Cunningham; Cian Farrell (0-07, 0-02 frees, 0-02 45’s), Niall McNamee (0-03, frees), Bernard Allen (0-01).
Subs: Joseph O’Connor (0-01) for Hayes (27), Rory Egan for Cunningham (56), Carl Stewart for Mangan (66), Conor McNamee for Rúairí McNamee (68), Aaron Leavy for Allen (70).
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)