New Kildare boss Cian O'Neill sees no signs of scars from Kerry drubbing
It's been a long journey home for Cian O'Neill but the new Kildare boss has been enthused by what he seen thus far as they look to bounce back from a seven-goal annihilation at the hands of Kerry during the summer.
O'Neill has travelled a long road, gaining acclaim with Tipperary's hurlers in 2010 and Kerry in 2014, as well as stints with Limerick and Mayo, before returning to take the reins with the Lilywhites.
As coach/selector with Kerry, O'Neill was in a unique position for the 27-point drubbing and despite being on the winning side, he admits he was disheartened by what he saw and he knows they're better than that.
"My only emotion after the match was disappointment for those guys," O'Neill said. "I'd know a lot of them and it's certainly not a reflection on what any of them can be. But it was a reflection of how good they were on that day."
Having commenced training with a squad of 48, O'Neill has been impressed with the application of his players and sees no visible scars from their quarter-final crushing.
He said: "It's very fresh what we've brought in. If it was year two for me I'm sure it would've been a lot more difficult, nothing would have changed significantly but I think the fact that we've come in, we've drawn a line under everything good, bad or indifferent.
"It's not that they've forgotten it but I think it's more that they're... and if I was a player I'd be thinking the same way, I'd just be looking forward rather than backwards to what we can bring next season."
While acknowledging defeats will come along the way, O'Neill hopes that under his tutelage, and that of selectors Pádraig Brennan, Brian Flanagan and U-21 boss Brian Murphy, they will not experience another harrowing defeat like it.
There are no guarantees, however, and he knows the acid test will come when their backs are to the wall in the white heat of championship battle.
"There has been no evidence that anything has carried forward into this year," he said. "One thing I would like to think is that nothing like that will ever happen with the current group of players and with the current management.
"But listen, until you're in a quagmire and you're four points down with six minutes to go, you're not really going to know how your players are going to respond or if they're thinking back on what's happened before.
"At the moment it certainly hasn't been brought up but that's not to say there's not going to be defeats, of course there will. Everyone loses sometimes but I think the most disappointing thing for the players was that they just stopped performing, they didn't play until the end."
As head of Sport, Leisure, and Childhood Studies in CIT and a qualified PE teacher, O'Neill will be hoping to implement his philosophies on his new Kildare students, but his tactical strategy will be delayed until he assesses the capabilities of his squad in the middle of January.
"Things like work-rate, positive team ethic, that's what I'd regard as a philosophy along with strong communication and mutual respect," he said.
"In terms of tactics, I think we'll only decide on that once we have the squad picked because I'm not a fan of trying to implement your tactics independent of the group of players,
"I think it needs to be based on their skill-sets, their attributes, the type of group you have. We've a large panel at the moment and we need to refine it."
Expectations on the Curragh will demand Division 3 promotion next year, but O'Neill is "not putting hard and fast targets on it" as he looks at the bigger picture in his attempt to seat Kildare at football's top table once more.
Having bided his time learning his craft around the country, O'Neill is in it for the long haul.
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