Sunday 23 November 2014

Lilies enigma raises same old doubts

Published 25/05/2009 | 00:00

An umpire has his ear-piece adjusted prior to yesterday's Leinster SFC game between Longford and Wicklow at O'Moore Park
An umpire has his ear-piece adjusted prior to yesterday's Leinster SFC game between Longford and Wicklow at O'Moore Park

When it comes to exhibition football there is no better team than Kildare to produce the goods. We got a great example of this in the first half against Offaly in Portlaoise yesterday when Kildare simply blew the opposition out of the water with a devastating opening quarter that gave them a 1-7 to 0-1 lead after 20 minutes.

This was textbook football as the Kildare wing forwards tore the Offaly defence to shreds. And with full-forward Ronan Sweeney dispatched far outfield, the two inside men, Alan Smith and John Doyle, caused mayhem in a stuttering Offaly backline who hardly managed to lay a finger on these dancing predators numbered 10 to 15.

Changed times indeed in a game between Offaly and Kildare but then, as far as Offaly football is concerned, we do live in strange times.

As has so often happened with Kildare over the years and still under the Kieran McGeeney regime, it seems, exhibition periods are often replaced by more searching queries from opponents and then the whole picture changes for the Lilywhites.

Kicks get blocked down, gaps appear in defence and terrible attempts at scoring are kicked wide from easy positions.

Unfortunately for Offaly, their chance to change the Kildare players from swans to ugly ducklings came too late because this game was over at half-time.

In the first half, Offaly played as poorly as I have ever seen in a championship game. Only the outstanding Niall Smith at midfield prevented a total massacre in that opening period in which Offaly managed a total of two points from play, while Kildare scored at will from play.

But then a situation that Kildare followers are very familiar with emerged after half-time.

The scoring rate dropped to the extent that they only managed three points in the opening 20 minutes of the second half.

Some substitutions, mainly veterans like Ciaran McManus, Niall Darby and Shane Sullivan, at least made their physical presence felt, and, all over the field, Offaly players began to remind us how the county used to play all those years against Kildare and everybody else in Leinster.

But, of course, the result had long been decided, so the Offaly cause was hopeless through the second half.

Most worrying for Kildare fans was the disappearance of the flair, the running at defenders and the well-constructed scores that had dazzled everybody in the opening half.

So, once again, we cannot be sure how good, or bad, this Kildare team are, but most people would say that, on average, they have the cut of a good championship team about them. That's about the best we can say because a string of wides and signs of distress in the backline against forwards who were no world-beaters. This must leave some nagging doubts with McGeeney, as well as the fans.

That said, Kildare did win at a canter and are in pole position to reach the Leinster final, at least.

It is interesting to observe the referees' behaviour nowadays following the decision inspired by the managers to scuttle the experimental rules.

So far, it is business as usual -- pulling, dragging and other negative play largely going unnoticed.

Yesterday, within 20 yards of where the referee and a linesman were standing, Dermot Earley appeared to elbow Ciaran McManus, but no action of any kind took place. Some things never change.

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