O'Neill 'disgusted' after defeat to Dubs third-string
Dublin 0-16 Kildare 2-8
What does this say about the relative state of football in Dublin and Kildare? Sadly for the citizens of Lilywhite land, the conclusion has to be hugely dispiriting.
Cian O'Neill lined up the vast majority of his first-string side, only to find that they couldn't beat what are essentially Dublin's third choices.
Not even home advantage in St Conleth's Park could provide a winning impetus for a Kildare squad whose confidence will have taken a serious hit in the run-in to the start of the Allianz League on the weekend after next.
O'Neill made no attempt to sugar-coat the reality of an embarrassing defeat from a position where Kildare looked as if they would book a place in the O'Byrne Cup final with some ease.
Goals by Johnny Byrne (12th minute) and Daniel Flynn (21st minute) gave Kildare a 2-4 to 0-4 lead and they had a third goal disallowed by Carlow referee David Hickey presumably under the 'square ball' heading, in the 29th minute.
"One of many decisions that didn't go our way today," reflected O'Neill, who also accepted that there were several other reasons for his side's defeat.
"I'm just disgusted that we lost a match we should have won," he said.
Dublin's gritty defiance was most effective, initially in scoring four unanswered points before half-time and later when they recovered from a three-point deficit. Kildare led by 2-8 to 0-11 after 54 minutes but failed to score again, whereas Dublin kicked five points in the final quarter.
The point which put them ahead in the 70th minute summed up how disjointed Kildare had become. Conor McHugh looked as if he would shoot from 40 metres but spotted Niall Scully ùnmarked, made a quick transfer and watched contentedly as Templeogue-Synge Street man fired over an excellent point.
For some unexplained reason, the Kildare players had switched off but then they hadn't been fully engaged with the action over the previous 15 minutes so it was no great surprise that they were caught again by a quick-thinking opponent.
"We played in fits and spurts. It's something that has been happening to Kildare teams for quite a while. That ruthlessness is not there," said O'Neill.
Asked what it meant for Kildare football that most of yesterday's squad would be in action in the League whereas few, if in indeed any, of the Dubs will get into their team, he said it wasn't something he would dwell on.
"All I care about is what we ourselves do and how we can improve," he said.
He faces an extensive list of 'things to do' if Kildare are to make any impression in Division 2, not least getting more even performance levels. They didn't score for the final 15 minutes of the first half and the last 20 minute of the second half, stretches that are far too long against any opposition.
Dublin's half-time repair work proved crucial, not least in creating a climate which Kildare found increasingly uncomfortable.
Paul Clarke, who is thoroughly enjoying his role as manager while Jim Gavin works with the 'A' team, was delighted with the manner in which his young side responded to the half-time corrections.
"We talked at half-time about things that had gone wrong and, in fairness to the lads, they improved on all those areas," he said. "We were conscious that Kildare were picking up a lot of their quick kick-outs and set about stopping that.
"We also had to improve our tackling and started to close them down more than we had done in the first half. We got in some great tackles in the second half and counter-attacked well when we got possession."
Frankly, Dublin looked a side that wanted victory far more than Kildare in the second half. They worked very hard all over the field, especially in the final quarter when they systematically squeezed the resistance from the Lilywhites.
McHugh, Ross Hazley, Scully, Jason Whelan and Colm Basquel all did well as Dublin grew in confidence and efficiency en route to booking a place against Louth in the final.
"We'll have another day out, which is great. We put a group together that started this journey and we'll be looking to finish it with another win next weekend," said Clarke. "The objective all along was to be able to say there are four or five players who are pushing to get into the team for the National League.
"I think we're at a stage where there could be six, seven or eight players pushing hard. If we give Jim Gavin a headache, it's no bad thing."
Defeats in pre-season competitions are usually forgotten very quickly but this one has deeper than usual implications for Kildare. If they can't beat Dublin's third team, how remote are the chances of them coming anywhere close to Gavin's slick outfit later in the year?
The truth is that Kildare badly need to win yesterday but failed to deliver against opposition they should be picking off relatively easily. O'Neill conceded that their game management was very poor at times, allowing Dublin to ruthlessly exploit their mistakes.
"Our scoring percentage is not where it should be either. And we had too many turnovers. These are things we can control," he said
"At times we tried to walk the ball into the net, instead of tapping over points and keeping the scoreboard ticking over. That affects the confidence in a team."
It remains to be seen how Kildare react to a setback they would never have expected.
"We played with a very positive edge in the first half and did a lot of damage but then went into ourselves," said O'Neill.
Scorers - Dublin: P Hudson 0-4 (2fs), C McHugh (1f), N Scully 0-3 each, S Boland, C Reddin, J Whelan, C Basquel, R Hazley, S Cunningham 0-1 each. Kildare: J Byrne, D Flynn 1-0 each, N Kelly, P Cribbin, N Flynn (f) 0-2 each, K Feely,B McCormack 0-1 each.
Dublin - E Comerford; J Smith, E O'Brien, R McGowan; R Gaughan, C Reddin, C Mullally; J Whelan, R Hazley; N Scully, S Boland, N Walsh; P Hudson, C McHugh, M Deegan. Subs: C Basquel for Walsh (31), C O'Gara for Deegan (ht), R McDaid for Boland (ht), S Cunningham for Hudson (42), G Ivory for Reddin (59).
Kildare - M Donnellan; M O'Grady, D Hyland, M Hyland; J Byrne, E Doyle, K Cribbin; K Feely, F Dowling; F Conway, N Kelly, P Cribbin; N Flynn, D Flynn, B McCormack. Subs: O Lyons for M Hyland (ht), T Moolick for Feely (ht), E Callaghan for McCormack (47), C McNally for P Cribbin (49), S Ryan for K Cribbin (57), C Hartley for Conway (63), D Slattery for N Flynn (64), C O'Donoghue for Doyle (66 b/c).
Ref - D Hickey (Carlow)