On a night when any self-respecting duck was curled up in front of the fire, Kildare’s Under-20 footballers made it through to the semi-finals of the Eirgrid Leinster Championship with a hard-earned three-point win over a battling Louth outfit at Darver.

With the game moved from Stabannon due to the heavy rain, the Louth Centre of Excellence pitch held up well and the sides put on an entertaining game that was in the balance right down to the wire.

After an early Callum Bolton point for Kildare, Louth looked the livelier outfit for much of the first half. An outstanding block from Harry O’Neill denied Kieran McArdle a goal after Bolton’s point but Louth did find their feet with three points in a row from Harry Butterly and two McArdle frees.

Bolton, who was outstanding firstly in attack and later in midfield, scored a marvellous second point from out on the right wing before Kyle McElroy pointed a free to restore Louth’s two-point advantage after 20 minutes.

Manager Brian Flanagan felt Kildare had been too tentative in the opening period but a run of four successive points straddling the half-time break took them two ahead after 34 minutes. Oisín O’Sullivan put Clane clubmate Adam Fanning in for the first of those points and a Ryan Sinkey free levelled matters at 0-4 each at the break before Kildare opened the second half with a fisted Shane Farrell point and another Sinkey free.

Kildare were hit with a Louth goal, though, in the 35th minute when a piercing run from Cameron Maher opened the defence and he offloaded for McElroy to bury his shot past visiting ‘keeper Cormac Barker.

That left Louth a point ahead, but Kildare reacted well and had superior bench strength to their hosts. A Farrell free from the ground levelled matters at 0-7 to 1-4 before three in a row from Bolton, Colm Dalton, and another Farrell free gave Flanagan’s side a three-point advantage.

Sean Reynolds, a lively playmaker for Louth, almost caught Barker out with a low drive which the Kilcullen ‘keeper managed to claw away with the help of the crossbar before the same Louth player pointed to leave two between the teams heading into the last ten minutes.

Kildare themselves might have had a goal when O’Sullivan wriggled through the defence, but his shot was saved on the line and Niall Dolan’s follow up was deflected for a ’45.

Carbury’s Eoin Cully made a big impact as a late substitute, pushing Kildare three clear again within two minutes of coming in on 52 minutes and after Seán Callaghan scored for Louth three minutes from time, Cully was on the spot again to round off the scoring with a second point three minutes into injury time.

Kildare will now meet Laois in the semi-finals next Tuesday in Portlaoise (7.30pm) with Meath and Dublin clashing in the other tie, with fixture details to be confirmed.

KILDARE: Cormac Barker (Kilcullen); Harry O’Neill (Clane), Ryan Burke (Caragh), Tim Ryan (Naas); James Harris (Castlemitchell), James McGrath (Athy), Jack McKevitt (Naas); Luke Killian (Sallins), Shane Farrell (Kilcock) 0-3 (2fs); Colm Dalton (Sallins) 0-1, Niall Dolan (Raheens), Callum Bolton (Sarsfields) 0-3; Adam Fanning (Clane) 0-1, Ryan Sinkey (Naas) 0-2 (2fs), Oisín O’Sullivan (Clane). Subs: Fionn Cooke (Raheens) for Killian 30, Ethan Mountaine (Sarsfields) for Harris 45, Eoin Cully (Carbury) 0-2 for Dolan 52, Daire Guerin (Naas) for Bolton 56, Seán Hanafin (Naas) for O’Sullivan 59.

LOUTH: Josh Finlay; Mark Holohan, Cillian Taaffe, Fionn Tippings; Liam Flynn, Tadhg McDonnell, Cameron Maher; Dara McDonnell, Seán Callaghan 0-1; James Rogers, Seán Reynolds 0-1, Harry Butterly 0-1; Tom Mathews, Kieran McArdle 0-2 (2fs), Kyle McElroy 1-1 (1f). Subs: Darragh Dorian for Mathews 46, Daniel Reilly for Butterly 56.

Referee: David Hickey (Carlow)

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