Colm Keys: Where now for Kildare?
Published 28/06/2011 | 05:00
There's an eerie symmetry attached to Kildare's relationship with this Dublin football team. Anyone with a memory of the early 1990s will recall the difficulty the Lilywhites had back then with trying to barge past their metropolitan neighbours.
Under a new manager who brought different methods of preparation that the county had not been accustomed to, they improved their standards considerably but ultimately could not get past a Dublin team striving for the top in 1992, '93 and '94.
In the end Mick O'Dwyer, the new manager who brought those methods, gave up trying and walked away after their '94 replay defeat.
He did of course return two years later and in two championship campaigns, '98 and 2000, Kildare did have the measure of Dublin as they won Leinster titles.
The difference between the Dublin teams that O'Dwyer faced in his two terms was hunger. From '92 to '94 Dublin were roughly where they are right now, a top-three team just a little bit off what was required to make it to the top.
They lost two All-Ireland finals and a semi-final in the years that they beat Kildare in Leinster championships when there was no back door, but eventually they got to where they wanted to be in '95. After that they were there for the taking and Kildare obliged.
Kildare again have a management team that has revolutionised their preparation, but another log-jam with Dublin appears to have developed. History has a strange habit of repeating.
The Lilywhites may have to be patient on a couple of fronts. First they may have to wait until this Dublin team reaches its own attainable target of winning an All-Ireland title this year or next.
Twice in the last three years Kildare have failed to take advantage of an an extra man in games against Dublin for sustained spells. There were 51 minutes remaining of the '09 Leinster final when Ger Brennan was sent off, and 30 minutes left last Sunday when Eoghan O'Gara walked for his second yellow card. On both occasions Kildare failed to capitalise.
And they may now, it seems, also have to wait until players like Fionn Dowling, Tomas Moolick, Padraig Fogarty, Sean Hurley and Padraig Cribbin -- provided he returns from Australia in the near future -- reach maturity to give them new impetus.
It is the presence of these players that persuaded Kieran McGeeney to commit to a second three-year term last September that will bring his tenure up to 2013.
But a Leinster title in 2011, four years into his cycle as manager, would have provided tangible reward for the work they have been doing as a group in his time and given them a shot of oxygen to continue on the path of progress.
That is why victory on Sunday was of paramount importance to them and why lifting themselves for the qualifiers will be harder than it has been at any stage stage over the last four years.
Under McGeeney they have made serious strides, but are they progressing enough to land silverware from a mainstream competition? Kildare will press on and be as competitive and committed as they've always been. Their record in qualifier games is impeccable.
But there must be a nagging feeling in the county now that they are two or three short in vital positions.
Their disillusionment with the decision of the referee to give Bernard Brogan that late free will be tempered by the knowledge that for too long Dublin had them at arm's length until Eamonn Callaghan's goal.
McGeeney may not have to change much for the weeks ahead to get a reaction, but what he may have to do is encourage patience over a longer term. They may have to take a step back before they can push forward again.