Jubilant Wicklow celebrate historic Croke Park win
Kildare 0-9 Wicklow 0-13
Mick O'Dwyer added another feather to his cap this afternoon as he guided Wicklow to their first ever senior championship win at Croke Park.
O'Dwyer's men fully merited this historic success against a complacent and spiritless Kildare side that hit 11 wides.
Showing more hunger and attacking spark, Wicklow led for much of the first half but late points from Michael Conway and Ronan Sweeney levelled the sides at half-time at 0-05 apiece.
However, with Tony Hannon (0-06) and Seanie Furlong (0-04) in top-scoring form, Wicklow pulled clear again and Kildare's day was summed up by young wing back Gary White's dismissal.
White, the Kildare U-21 captain, was one of few Lilywhites to impress in what was wretched welcome to championship football for first-time manager Kieran McGeeney.
Armagh's 2002 All-Ireland-winning skipper made a late change before the throw-in, drafting Keith Cribben into the Kildare full-forward line for Padraig O'Neill, who has been struggling with a knee injury.
Wicklow lined out as selected and the Garden county travelled up to Croke Park, the scene of their epic Tommy Murphy Cup final victory last August, with no safety net - defeat today and they were bound for the Tommy Murphy Cup again.
It was a pacy start from both sides but scores were hard to come by, particularly for Kildare who were heavy favourites to win with them having played three divisions above Wicklow in this year's National League.
The Lilywhites fell 0-03 to 0-01 behind with Hannon (free), Leighton Glynn and Paul Earls hammering over points for Wicklow at the Hill 16 end.
Earls' 10th-minute score was the pick of them as his booming right-footed shot found the target after a charge forward from the classy Glynn.
Kildare's only point of the opening quarter came from John Doyle, who curled over a free, but the Allenwood ace was kept quiet for most of this encounter, even when he was moved in to full-forward.
Wicklow were shading it in midfield with the pairing of Thomas Walsh and James Stafford winning a steady supply of ball off both sides' kick-outs.
O'Dwyer's charges, despite some poor misses by Stafford and Hannon, pulled 0-05 to 0-02 by the 26th-minute as Furlong and Hannon replied to a point from Alan Smith, one of six championship debutants in the Kildare side.
As the game began to liven up, Smith produced a well-executed catch and point to cut the gap to a single point but Furlong doubled Wicklow's lead after being found by Dean Odlum and Hannon then tagged on a free.
With Doyle, Killian Brennan and Dermoy Earley holding little sway, Kildare's youngsters kept their side in the hunt and a quick interchange led to U-21 forward Cribben notching his first championship point.
Wicklow were waivering slightly and they pushed their wides tally to seven by the end of the first half.
On the balance of play they should have been in front at the break but Kildare managed to square up the game.
Firstly, Conway started and finished a lively counter attack with a point and after two poor misses from Hannon and Walsh, Ronan Sweeney levelled the game with an injury-time effort.
There was a sense that Kildare's time in the league's top flight this season would come into play in the second half but Wicklow came out the hungrier.
They continued to play all the football and nudged over the half's opening four points through Hannon (0-03) and Furlong, who was proving to be a quality target man.
The underdogs should have been further ahead than 0-09 to 0-05 but their only and only goal chance was knocked off the post by Dean Odlum.
Furlong found plenty of space in the Kildare rearguard, he raced through and might have pulled the trigger himself but he offload to his right for the unmarked Odlum whose punched effort agonisingly bounced back off the right upright.
Kildare's response was muted and McGeeney cut a dour figure throughout the 70 minutes. Although he emptied his bench, his players continued to disappoint and frustrate.
Smith offered some hope in the 47th-minute when he claimed a cross-field ball and his stinging shot grazed the crossbar for a point.
The young corner forward had a goal chance just a couple of minutes later, yet he overplayed the ball slightly and Wicklow net minder Mervyn Travers smothered his shot.
Without a Leinster championship win since 2000, Wicklow stuck brilliantly to their task. They continued to win the majority of breaking balls and one such break led to Furlong swinging over his side's tenth point.
The full-forward then added a free from an acute angle although there were some doubts as to whether the ball had drifted inside the post.
Doyle clipped over a vital free from the left wing to keep Kildare's hopes alive, however they lost White in the 56th-minute and were left trying to sniff out an elusive goal for the remainder.
White's dismissal was harsh, a yellow might have sufficed but referee John Bannon brandished a straight red card when the Kildare defender raised his hand to Furlong's face.
Hannon tapped over the resulting free for 0-12 to 0-07 and then followed a series of horrible Kildare wides as McGeeney's men got desperate.
Doyle twice failed to find the target, the second time under pressure from Walsh, and Killian Brennan was also wide of the mark.
Wicklow, in O'Dwyer's 116th championship match, looked nervy in the closing stages and Kildare did have their best spell of the match in the closing eight minutes.
The free-running Glynn powered forward to hit a wide when a ball into Earls may have resulted in a goal-scoring chance but Wicklow did move six points ahead in the 64th-minute when substitute Ciaran Walsh fisted over.
Tadhg Fennin added some thrust to the Kildare attack in the final minutes, winning and pointing a free.
The impressive Smith followed up with his third white flag in injury-time but Wicklow held on without too much hassle for only their second win over Kildare in 14 championship meetings since 1911 - their win in Aughrim in 1990 was their only other triumph.
While Kildare are bound for the qualifiers, this jubilant Wicklow side have a Leinster quarter-final clash against Laois on May 31 to prepare for, Laois being another of O'Dwyer's former teams.
Scorers: Kildare: A Smith 0-3, J Doyle 0-2 (0-2f), K Cribben, M Conway, R Sweeney, T Fennin (0-1f) 0-1 each
Wicklow: T Hannon 0-6 (0-4f, 0-1 '45'), S Furlong 0-4 (0-2f), P Earls, L Glynn, C Walsh 0-1 each
KILDARE: T Corley; M O'Flaherty, K O'Neill, E Bolton; A Rainbow, A McLoughlin, G White; K Brennan (capt), D Earley; J Doyle, D Flynn, R Sweeney; K Cribben, M Conway, A Smith.
Subs used: E Callaghan for Bolton (25 mins), P Mullarkey for Brennan (32-half-time, blood sub), M Scanlan for McLoughlin, P O'Neill for Sweeney (both 45), T Fennin for Cribben (51), P Mullarkey for Flynn (63).
WICKLOW: M Travers; C Hyland, D Power, A Byrne; M McLoughlin, D O hAnnaidh (capt), P Dalton; T Walsh, J Stafford; T Hannon, L Glynn, JP Dalton; D Odlum, S Furlong, P Earls.
Subs used: C Walsh for Dalton (16-18 mins, blood sub), C Walsh for Odlum (48), D Daly for Furlong (57-60, blood sub).
Referee: John Bannon (Longford)
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