Thursday 21 September 2017

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Willie McCreery

(Former Kildare footballer)

Kildare were starved of success since their previous Leinster title in 1956 and when Meath drew level with just minutes to go in the 1998 Leinster football final, midfielder Willie McCreery feared the worst.

"We led the whole way and I remember thinking that we would be caught on the line again, but Brian Murphy scored a goal to put us ahead and there was huge satisfaction when we won."

Kildare went on to reach the All-Ireland final that year but the memories of that defeat linger and to this day McCreery has yet to watch a video of that match.

"Galway did more homework than us and that cost us on the day. You only get one chance and we didn't take it."

His second Leinster medal came in 2000 when Kildare gave their all to come back from six points down at half-time in the replay of the final against Dublin.

The midfielder retired in 2001 with knee problems but he retained an involvement in Kildare football and was one of Pádraig Nolan's selectors when Kildare reached the Leinster final in 2003. The narrowest of margins turned the tide in favour of their former manager that day.

"That was the year Micko won it with Laois. We had a point to draw level but it hit the post and came back to a Laois player and they went and scored a point from it and then another. It was a matter of inches."

McCreery comes from a family steeped in racing history. His father Peter trained dual Champion chaser Hilly Way and his uncle is Pat Taaffe, jockey of the legendary Arkle.

The Clane midfielder combined his football career with his job as assistant to trainer Charles O'Brien. He subsequently worked as a stud manager but took out a public training licence two years ago and is enjoying life as a trainer on The Curragh.

Kildare's footballers haven't won another title since the dawn of the new millennium and the tale of their quest for silverware in recent years has taken on epic proportions. McCreery thinks this could be the year Kildare get their happy ending.

"They had a very good league campaign and a great finish to it, beating Galway in Salthill and defeating Tyrone in the Division 2 final. The team is very well prepared physically and mentally and I would be hoping for big things this year. If we don't take anyone for granted, I would be hopeful of Leinster but Dublin seem better than ever."

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