David McDaid was the hero for Finn Harps as his late goal was enough to pick up a share of the spoils in this League of Ireland First Division encounter at Station Road on Saturday night.
McDaid pounced on a cross from Christy Conaghan for a deserved Harps equaliser on 83 minutes, just when it looked like they would be returning to Donegal with an opening day defeat.
Kildare broke the deadlock against the run of play in the 48th minute when David O’Riordan's shot from distance took a slight deflection and flew over the head of Gavin Cullen.
It was very much a new look Finn Harps team that took to the field in Newbridge this evening as Paul Hegarty’s side returned to life in the First Division after last year's lone season in the top flight.
Both clubs had youthful sides on show, Hegarty giving debuts to McDaid, Kieran Coll, Johnny Havlin and Ruairi Harkin, while Ian Rossiter was a returning debutant having already played for the club four years ago.
The game started in dreadful conditions, but in fairness both teams tried to play football. The opening exchanges saw two nervous sides cancel each other out before Harps started to take control.
Conor Gethins had two snapshots at goal that failed to trouble County 'keeper Colin Cassidy, while Michael Funston should have done better after been put through by Gethins on the half-hour.
McDaid had the best chance to open the scoring for the visitors five minutes before the break. Good work by Ruairi Harkin in the middle of the pitch saw the Derry City loanee release Gethins who played McDaid through, but the former Sligo Rovers man could only watch as his shot hit the post.
McDaid had another chance just a minute later, but his shot was smothered after Ian Rossiter supplied the cross.
Shaun McGowan headed over after a Harkin free-kick just before the half-time whistle as Harps finished the opening period strongest.
However, Kildare broke the deadlock against the run of play three minutes after the restart.
The Harps defence stood off the inrushing O’Riordan, and the County striker’s shot from long range flew over the head of Gavin Cullen into the roof of the net after picking up a slight deflection on the way.
Harps almost drew level immediately, but McGowan’s shot was parried onto the crossbar by Cassidy in the home side’s goal.
It looked like O’Riordan’s goal would be enough to give the hosts an opening day victory, but that was before McDaid’s debut goal seven minutes from time. Christy Conaghan did great work to win the ball before crossing for McDaid to shoot past Cassidy.
The same player almost won the game for Harps a minute later, but his shot at the second attempt was well blocked by the County defence.
While Harps had the better chances towards the end, none were really clear cut. County almost stole what would have been an undeserved winner after a mix-up between Coll and Mukendi in the Harps defence saw Brady in the clear, but his shot drifted across the face of the goal.
Kildare County: Colin Cassidy, Matt Byrne, Baba Issaka, Ken Mahoney, Stephen Burke, Rory Browne, Cathal Brady, Colin Osbourne, Patrick Mahon, David O’Riordan, Paul Rigney. Subs: Pat Dobbs (for O’Riordan), Kevin McDonell (for Byrne), Stephen Dunne (for Browne).
Subs not used: Colin Murray and Leslie Kelly.
Finn Harps: Gavin Cullen, Ian Rossiter, Kieran Coll, Johnny Havlin, Marc Mukendi, Shaun McGowan, Christy Conaghan, Ruairi Harkin, David McDaid, Conor Gethins, Michael Funston. Sub: Marc Brolly (for Havlin), Mark Forker (for Funston).
Subs not used: Patrick Bonner, Sean Houston and Ciaran Gallagher.