Johnston's mooted move to Kildare underlinescounty's dire need for goals
WHEN the rumours first rumbled last winter about Cavan footballer Seanie Johnston contemplating a switch to Kildare, even the most fair-weather Lilywhite fan was intrigued.
The perception that the county could do with a flair-forward to play wingman to Johnny Doyle was magnified last summer, when Kieran McGeeney had to rob Peter to pay Paul by moving the fulcrum of his attack to midfield to compensate for the loss of Dermot Earley.
Anyone at the All-Ireland qualifier against Cavan in Newbridge on July 2008 couldn't have failed to notice Johnston that day.
Kildare won, but the mercurial Cavan Gael's forward -- a talented free-taker, who often kicks points from outrageous angles -- racked up 0-6 (3f) for the visitors.
Since being deemed surplus to Cavan requirements, he has attempted to switch counties -- a move that has been blocked thus far, and unlikely to happen unless he moves to a club in Kildare. But the very notion that the Lilywhites might pick up a new, seasoned attacker has understandably got the Kildare supporters excited. The perception remains that, despite their immense work ethic and dedication under McGeeney, Kildare do not have enough naturally gifted forwards to win an All-Ireland.
They did, however, open their season with a 2-11 tally against DIT and racked up another 17 points against Offaly last week -- encouraging, especially as Doyle isn't back yet. In both games they conceded single-figure amounts (0-9 and 0-4).
Though scoring 0-17 (0-13 from play) against Offaly, they created few goal chances against poor opposition, kicked 12 wides and dropped too many other chances short -- the same failings that continue to haunt them.
This is in sharp contrast to their opponents in tomorrow's eagerly anticipated rematch with the All-Ireland champions, who, admittedly, got the lucky side of a controversial refereeing decision in the dying minutes of last year's Leinster semi-final. The Dubs racked up 4-14 against UCD last weekend and that was without the last two Footballers of the Year -- Alan and Bernard Brogan -- whom they're still without.
Kevin McManamon repeated his All-Ireland supersub routine by slaloming through the defence to score and Diarmuid Connolly, Bryan Cullen and Sean Murray also goaled.
Mossie Quinn (0-5, 2f, 1 '45') and Michael McCarthy (0-5, 1f) also impressed. Quinn is a recognised top-class forward who got edged out of Dublin's starters last summer, while McCarthy (22) -- whose parents hail from Kerry -- is a newcomer from St Sylvester's.
His U-21 career was hampered by injury, but, a panellist last summer, he is now looking to break through, having scored 0-11 in three games since New Year's Day.
So far Kildare have no new names grabbing rave reviews up front and their best young talent may need another year or two.
Their minor team of 2010, who beat Dublin after a phenomenal three-game tussle, featured talented forwards like Paul Cribbin, Fionn Dowling, Padraig Fogarty (a cousin of Johnny Doyle's), Sean Hurley and Tommy Moolick.
Cribbin was lost to Aussie Rules, but Moolick, Dowling and Hurley were on the senior panel last year and Fogarty is now also there.
However, these players will probably concentrate on U-21 action for the moment, as will Darroch Mulhall, Cian Reynolds, Tony Gibbons and midfielder Kevin Feely (also juggling a soccer career), who were part of the young Athy team who won the 2011 county senior title.
Whoever is at their disposal, the notion of Kildare kicking four goals in any game is still pretty unthinkable.
They scored nine on their back door odyssey to an All-Ireland semi-final in 2010, but, with Doyle far from the danger-area last summer, managed just one -- against Dublin.
Okay, Tomas O'Connor's goal against Donegal in the All-Ireland quarter-final -- which would have given them a substantial lead -- should never have been disallowed and Dublin didn't hit too many subsequently either; their four-goal tally in Leinster drying up until McManamon's glory run in the final.
Yet the Dubs, crucially, had a man on the bench who could do that -- and the sight of Donegal's Christy Toye coming on as a sub and scoring 1-1 against Kildare only underlined the Lilywhite's lack of a goal threat, which still needs to be addressed.