Kildare are in the Super 8s 'on merit', Cian O'Neill insisted.
The Lilywhites backed up their surprise round 3 victory over Mayo with a comprehensive 3-20 to 0-18 defeat of Fermanagh in Navan yesterday to secure their place in the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final round-robin phase.
The Leinster SFC exit at the hands of Carlow is now a distant memory for O'Neill and his players.
"These guys deserve nothing less," he pointed out to RTE Sport.
"A lot of stuff was said about them, thrown at them, about the management, and obviously as a manager at and rightly so based on performances. But it should never get to a personal level in any case.
"For them to show the character and the honesty and the resilience to come back, they deserve everything they get. Those Kildare footballers deserve to be in the Super 8s on merit."