Grimley factor not relevant -- McGeeney
NO SOONER had the draw for the final round of the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers been made than attention focused on the fascinating face-off between Kildare and Monaghan.
The clash pits Lilywhites boss Kieran McGeeney against Paul Grimley, a fellow Armagh native who had previously been his right-hand man and now fills the same role for Farney manager Seamus McEnaney. But any mention of his old friend was immediately swatted aside by McGeeney yesterday.
"It's not something I want to talk about or indeed anything I will be talking about this week," he stressed. "You might be able to argue it was relevant if either Paul or myself were actually going out onto the pitch to play against each other, but we're not, so it has no relevance."
That still won't stop Gaelic football's jungle drums booming ahead of Saturday's big game in Croke Park.
There will be inevitable speculation that Grimley's insider knowledge of the Kildare camp will be an advantage to Monaghan, who face the difficult task of bouncing back from their Ulster final flop in the space of a week.
McGeeney has challenges of his own, not least keeping his side fit and fresh for their fifth game in five weekends.
Tomas O'Connor is Kildare's only injury worry after last Saturday's impressive defeat of Derry; he went for a scan yesterday.
But with such a non-stop playing schedule -- lengthened by their first-round draw with Antrim -- McGeeney's back-room team have a tough task to get his players in peak condition.
One significant difference between the sides is that the Lilies are coming off a victory and McGeeney insists their psychological fitness is just as important as the physical element at this stage of the season.
"Obviously we'd like more time between games, but you notice that playing a lot of games in a row only ever becomes an issue when a team actually loses," he pointed out.
"Players are physically fit at this stage of the season and physical fitness is only ever about being at a level to sustain your technical ability.
"Some people thought we were physically flat against Louth but it was our skills -- our technical ability -- not our fitness, that let us down that day."
Post-match ice-baths and next-day pool sessions are now a habitual part of most inter-county teams' post-game recovery procedures and Kildare are no different.
"We came home from Derry on Saturday night and any of our squad who didn't play lined out for their clubs on Sunday," McGeeney revealed.
"We don't have any significant training until Tuesday but every game is different and can have a completely different impact on players."
He noted that playing positions can also affect the physical toll on players, pointing out that the full-back and full-forward lines tend to do a lot less running than the 'middle eight', though Eamonn Callaghan, Kildare's own 'Duracel Bunny', is clearly an exception to that with his tireless roving role.
"Every game is different, and while we all have management plans, they have to be adaptable," said McGeeney.
"The physical element of our training is down to Julie (Davis, Kildare's strength and conditioning coach)," he said.
"She monitors all of our players closely after games and during training and advises us throughout and we are very confident in her judgment."
Kildare bounced back impressively after being hit by an early Derry goal at Celtic Park last Saturday and McGeeney clearly believes that it is the Lilywhites' ability to continue improving their mental fitness that will be the deciding factor if they are to beat Monaghan and reach their third consecutive All-Ireland quarter-final.