Seanie Johnston made his Kildare debut in the crushing of his native county Cavan in Round 2 of the All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers at Kingspan Breffni Park on Sunday last.
Seldom before has the scoreboard at the end of a game more fairly reflected the gulf in class between two sides as was the case on this occasion, although Cavan did lead by 0-2 to 0-0 after five minutes.
Two Jack Brady frees had edged the hosts in front but five minutes later the Lilywhites were on the path to victory, leading by the odd point in five.
Buoyed by a provincial title success in the 2011 MFC and back-to-back Ulster under 21 title successes in 2011 and 2012, Cavan football has been on a relative high of late but last Sunday’s demolition of the county’s short-term ambitions was a real eye-opener.
Cavan ploughed the depths of Division Three of the National League this season and narrowly avoided relegation. Kildare won the Division Two title and looked like a team at least two tiers above their hosts in front of over 14,000 fans.
The Lilywhites showed Cavan no mercy as they steadily went up through the gears and when team manager Kieran McGeeney introduced Cavan old boy Seanie Johnston to the fray some ten minutes from time, the travelling brigade raised the biggest cheer of the day.
The game was a contest up until the 19th minute when Mikey Conway made it 1-6 to 0-3 with a sweet finish to the net after a sweeping move fuelled in the latter end by the running power and handling of Emmet Bolton and Tomas O’Connor.
Three minutes later, Cavan notched their final point of the first half when Niall McDermott converted a free.
Kildare, it appeared, had been playing well within their comfort zone in the opening quarter and as the interval grew closer they seemed to decide that it was time to move up through the gears with Conway’s goal being their cue.
And there was simply no stopping the all-white powerhouse with its superior physique, experience and guile setting them out as a class apart.
James Kavanagh’s mis-hit attempt at goal in the 25th minute was latched onto by Emmet Bolton and, in an instant, the Cavan net was billowing and suddenly it was a 2-7 to 0-4 game.
Cavan’s heads visibly dropped after Kildare’s second goal and they went from the 22nd minute to three minutes into the second half without scoring.
After Mikey Conway added to Kildare’s well cushioned 2-11 to 0-4 interval lead with a point just 90 seconds after the restart, Cavan did at least gave their fans something to cheer about with a goal in the 38th minute.
Kevin Meehan floated in a high ball that had ‘hit and hope’ printed all over it but after out-fielding Peter Kelly on the end-line, Eugene Keating cleverly slipped the ball under advancing Kildare ‘keeper Connolly.
With the Lilywhites on easy street and leading by 2-15 to 1-8, Eoghan O’Flaherty recorded his team’s first wide of the game in the 53rd minute.
Cavan went from the 49th minute to the 69th minute before they added to their tally when Ronan Flanagan beat Johnston to the incoming ball and in the ensuing move up the field, Gearoid McKiernan shot over the bar.
Kildare - and more specifically Johnston - had the last say though with a free after the newly-adopted Lilywhite dusted himself off after a late tackle by Niall McDermott and pointed the resultant free.
CAVAN: James Reilly: Killian Clarke, Padraig O’Reilly, Darragh Tighe; Kevin Meehan, Damien Reilly, Jason McLoughlin; David Givney, Thomas Corr; Niall Smith, Gearoid McKiernan (0-2), Ronan Flanagan; Niall McDermott (0-2, two frees), Eugene Keating (1-1), Jack Brady (0-4, all frees).
Subs: - Joshua Hayes for D Reilly (injured, 33 mins); Mark McKeever for D Tighe (half-time); Robert Maloney-Derham for K Meehan (half-time); Declan McKiernan for T Corr (43 mins).
KILDARE: S Connolly; Aindriu Mac Lochlann, Michael Foley, Peter Kelly; Emmet Bolton (1-0), Morgan O’Flaherty, Hugh McGrillen; Eoin Doyle, Robert Kelly; Eoghan O’Flaherty (0-7, five frees), Mikey Conway (1-5, three frees), Alan Smith (1-5); Johnny Doyle, Tomas O’Connor, James Kavanagh.
Subs:- Ollie Lyons for A MacLochlann (43 mins); Dermot Earley for M Foley (53 mins); Ronan Sweeney for M Conway (57 mins); Seanie Johnston (0-1, free) for E O’Flaherty (61 mins); Padraig Fogarty for T O’Connor (61 mins).
Referee: M Duffy (Sligo).