You could feel the sigh of relief disturbing the mild evening air, you could hear the hearts beating, you could touch the joy. Nineteen years after Stefan White drove home that famous goal with Davy Dalton crumbling in his slipstream, Louth again came, saw Kildare standing in front of them and conquered. But this was far more impressive, far more comprehensive and far more ruthless than their efforts in Drogheda in 1991. In total their full-forward line kicked 10 points, eight from play, their half-forward line chipped in with five and, behind them all, Brian White was the puppet master.
It was a game that tugged and tore at the emotions and a game that pulled and ripped at the scoreboard with 40 flags raised in total. And while it was flawed in many ways, referee Michael Duffy's efforts to impersonate his brother almost as bad as the Peter, Paul and Mary act put on by Kildare's full-back line, it still was brilliant. And for that Louth can take the majority of the credit.
They were hyper from the very start, like men sensing an upset, encouraged by the wretched beginning suffered by Emmet Bolton. He gave away possession for a Shane Lennon score inside a minute and gave away a free that put his side two down 60 seconds later. It was little wonder he was dragged to the bench 18 minutes in, but by then the entire Kildare defence had capsized as Gary White couldn't live with the brilliant Lennon while JP Rooney was rampant.
But the root cause was further from goal. There wasn't a person in the 7,125 crowd who couldn't have told you Kildare would struggle at midfield without Dermot Earley but their plot to break ball was flawed. If Daryl Flynn and David Whyte were going to swat at kickouts there had to be a savagery from the six in white either side of them. Instead it was the Louth half-backs and half-forwards that were shovelling ball – they won every break for the first 10 minutes – while in the middle Brian White provided the full-forward line with sublime ball. In fact Louth were already 0-5 to 0-2 up when they briefly lapsed on 12 minutes.
All six of the Kildare forwards were back together for the first time since last year's quarter-final defeat to Tyrone yet only James Kavanagh in the first half and John Doyle after the break looked up to standards set in the past. On 14 minutes after an Adrian Reid mistake, it was Kavanagh who picked up the ball 30 out, dummied sweetly before sending Pádraig O'Neill in on goal. His finish levelled matters and when Kavanagh repeated the trick moments later Ronan Sweeney should have added another three but opted for one.
But back came Louth. To describe it a midfield battle for the remainder of the half would be libellous. There was no battle. Kildare's midfield wilted like lilies in salt water while White again took over and Louth reeled off eight straight points. And it could have been more had Mark Brennan finished to the net instead of shooting straight at Hugh McGrillen.
It looked briefly like it could be a costly miss. Kieran McGeeney had introduced Dermot Earley towards the end of the opening period and Tomás O'Connor upon the restart and both played well. But it was Doyle who fired Kildare back into the game. The gap had been reduced to just two when a quick Rooney free allowed Ray Finnegan in on goal but there was one last kick in Kildare. Doyle sent over five points in the next seven minutes and when Kavanagh sent a shot into the clouds that came down on the roof of the net. The score was 1-17 to 1-15 with 12 to play.
But Louth deserved to win and grabbed hold of the game by the scruff of the neck. Reid and Judge both scored down the stretch while Andy McDonnell finished strongly as Kildare heads dropped like players from 2008 rather than 2009. Little wonder. It was they who were supposed to be looking at the bigger picture. Instead it's Louth who are left with grand ambitions.
LOUTH N Gallagher; E McAuly, D Finnegan, R Greene; R Finnegan (1-0), M Fanning, J O'Brien; P Keenan, B White (0-6, 0-5 frees); A McDonnell (0-3), M Brennan (0-1), A Reid (0-1); C Judge (0-4, 0-2 free), S Lennon (0-4), JP Rooney (0-3) Subs D Byrne and A Hoey for McAuly and Reid, 66 mins; D Clarke and S Fitzpatrick for Rooney and R Finnegan, 70 mins
KILDARE S McCormack; H McGrillen, G White, E Bolton; M O'Flaherty, B Flanagan, K Cribben; D Flynn (0-1), D Whyte (0-1); J Kavanagh (0-2), J Doyle (0-9, 0-7 frees), R Sweeney (0-1); A Smith (0-1), P O'Neill (1-1), E Callaghan Subs A MacLochlainn for Bolton, 18 mins; D Earley for O'Neill, 29 mins; T O'Connor for Callaghan, h-t mins' d Hendy for Cribben, 45 mins; Callaghan for Sweeney, 59 mins
Referee M Duffy (Sligo)