Offaly gave their supporters major heart palpitations before they finally saw off a spirited Kildare side to set up a semi-final date with Louth.
Played in front of a tremendous crowd in Gracefield, Offaly were by far the better side and had they been clinical in front of goal, they would have won the game at a canter.
The game seemed as good as won when Kildare were reduced to 14 men early in the second-half. At that stage Offaly lead by two points however they only added one further point for the remainder of the game as they struggled to make their man advantage count.
To their credit Kildare rallied well and they had their chances at the end to at least force extra-time but thankfully for Offaly, three late shots went wide and Offaly were still a point to the good when the final whistle went.
While there were some impressive passages of attacking play from Offaly, this victory was built on their defensive strength which was typified by man of the match Eoin Rigney. The Rhode man again was the rock at the heart of the defence but as impressive were his occasional bursts forward which, particularly in the closing minutes, helped to lift the siege.
In fact all the backs looked comfortable in possession and showed willingness to rampage forward when the opportunity presented itself.
The problem in the later stages of the second-half was that Offaly’s forwards were back defending which meant there were few options for the player in possession when the ball was moved past the halfway line.
However that is only a minor issue which Pascal Kellaghan and his selectors can easily address and over the hour you could have nothing but praise for the way Offaly approached their task and the pride, team-spirit and determination they showed over the hour.
Kildare, as has become the trend in the county, were a physically strong and imposing side but Offaly never shirked a single challenge and in fact Kildare were lucky not to have a number of players sent off given the number of dangerous head and neck high tackles they dished on the night.
With Paul McPadden suspended, Offaly were also hampered by a host of injuries with Graham Guilfoyle, Mark Young and David Hanlon all being forced off although Guilfoyle later returned. However it is a testament to the team ethic and the strength in depth of the squad the the next man up each time stood up and was counted.
At half-time Offaly lead by a point at 0-5 to 0-4. They had lead by three points going into injury-time but a brace of points from Kevin Feeley for Kildare reduced the gap to the minimum.
Sean Hurley opened the scoring for Kildare with a free but back to back points from Anton Sullivan, one from a near impossible angle, edged Offaly in front.
With the wind behind him Kevin Feeley levelled matters for Kildare but a point from a free from Bernard Allen edged Offaly back in front.
After three wides from Offaly, Anton Sullivan put them two points ahead after 20 minutes and soon after the Rhode man had a glorious goal chance after a perfect long ball from Michael Brazil but Mark Donellan in the Kildare goal made a fine save.
With every Kildare attack perishing on the rock of the Offaly defence, Sullivan put Offaly three ahead with Brazil again supplying the pass.
Offaly deserved to have a sizeable lead going into the break but Feely’s late points reduced the gap to one at the break.
Shortly after the restart the sides were level with Padraig Fogarty on target from a free but Offaly were quickly back in front when Stephen Hannon pointed. The lead was back to two soon after when Bernard Allen pointed a free and not long after Kildare were reduced to 14 men Mickey was shown a second yellow card for an off the ball foul on Anton Sullivan, the last of several the Kildare man committed on the day.
However after that Offaly tended to drop back and defend and Kildare added two points to just one in reply from Colin O’Shea.
Offaly could have had a goal to seal the win when the impressive Stephen Hannon rampaged forward but his powerful shot went just wide.
In the closing minutes Kildare had chances to snatch a draw with the best coming to Liam McGovern from a free but the full-forward curled it wide.
Offaly: Anton Sullivan 0-4 (0-1f); Bernard Allen 0-2f, Stephen Hannon 0-1; James McPadden 0-1
Kildare: Kevin Feeley 0-3; Sean Hurley 0-1f; Fionn Dowling 0-1f; Padraig Fogarty 0-1; Liam McGovern 0-1
Offaly: 6 (4 1st half)
Kildare: 6 (3 1st half)
Offaly: 3 (Bernard Allen; Eoin Rigney; Anton Sullivan)
Kildare: 9 (Darroch Mulhall; Tommy Moolick; Liam McGovern, Mickey Kelly x 2; Eoghan Doyle; Willie Burke; Fionn Dowling; Eoin Powderly)
Kildare: 1 (Mickey Kelly – 2 yellows)
Offaly: Gavin Shiels; David Hanlon, Eoin Rigney, Jake Kavanagh; Stephen Hannon, John Ledwith, James McPadden; Michael Brazil, Derek Kelly; Declan Hogan, Anton Sullivan, Graham Guilfoyle; Tom Spain, Bernard Allen, Mark Young. Subs: Stuart Cullen for Graham Guilfoyle (28mins), Cian Donoghue for David Hanlon (42mins), Graham Guilfoyle for Mark Young (49mins), Aaron McDonagh for Tom Spain (55mins)
Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Mickey Kelly, Michael Konstantin, Barry Egan; Eoin Powderly, Eoghan Doyle, Colin O’Shea; Willie Burke, Kevin Feeley; Cian Reynolds, Tommy Moolick, Sean Hurley; Darroch Mulhall, Padraig Fogarty, Liam McGovern. Subs: Cian Bolton for Darroch Mulhall (29mins), Fionn Dowling for Tommy Moolick (42mins), David Hylan for Barry Egan (49mins), Daniel Flynn for Cian Reynolds (55mins)
Referee: David Gough (Meath)