Wednesday 16 October 2019

Eugene McGee: Cork clash will show whether Kildare are genuine All-Ireland contenders

Eugene McGee

Kildare and Sligo are poles apart, based on the result of their game on Saturday night. In all the key aspects of the game, Kildare were superior and many of Sligo's efforts to match them were little more than token gestures.

Sligo rarely looked like a team that believed they could actually win the game. Of course, they had guts and were playing for the honour of their county -- but Kildare were so superior that it was a fruitless exercise.

People who were not at this game, therefore, might be regarding the Kildare performance as All-Ireland class, but football is not as simple as that.

Their opponents are lodged in Division 3, while Kildare are now in Division 1, and as often happens in these situations, the more highly rated team can play below their own standards.

While the result of this game was never in doubt once Kildare won the toss, played with the strong wind and scored five unanswered points in the opening 10 minutes, that was actually the best part of their performance. Because in the remaining 27 minutes of the first half, Kildare only scored two points (one from a free) -- and that was not All-Ireland quality.

Having dominated the opening quarter in every way, the Lilywhites seemed to lose their way in the second quarter and Sligo began to enjoy the major share of possession at midfield, which explains the scarcity of Kildare scores during that period.


But so ghastly were the Sligo attack that they only managed one point (from a free) in the opening 30 minutes, and just two more from frees until half-time. That allowed Kildare to play the game on their terms thereafter, because they knew they had nothing to worry about and, as often happens, a lot of messing around took hold among some Lilywhite players.

They only scored five points in the second half -- which, incidentally, they dominated far more against the wind than with it earlier -- and two of these came from frees.

They had a particularly bad shooting period in the third quarter when only scoring two points as Mikey Conway, John Doyle and Eoin O'Flaherty all hit bad wides and James Kavanagh hit a careless ball into goalkeeper Philip Green, who was Sligo's best player.

Sligo decided to play an extra man in defence in the second half to cut off the supply to Kildare full-forward Tomas O'Connor, but the horse had long since bolted and this move should have been made at the start of the game when they knew they were playing against the wind.

Instead, they gave the freedom of the goal area to O'Connor and paid the penalty.

But all these statistical observations are not very relevant to the overall welfare of the Kildare team because, as a contest, the game was a non-starter. And in such a situation, it's not realistic to assess players or the team overall. Kildare did what was required of them to achieve their target of reaching the All-Ireland quarter-finals yet again.

The manner in which they got there is yesterday's news, although I am sure many Kildare supporters would have preferred a much sterner test -- particularly as they must now face Cork this weekend.

Not much changes about the way Kildare play under manager Kieran McGeeney. They work like fanatics all over the field and are perfectly happy to take part in the play far away from where they should be as per their listing on the match programme. Fitness and the ability to hit hard -- and be hit hard -- are their greatest strengths.

As regards scoring, it's well known that they shoot for points from all angles and distances, and while some people regard that style as hit and miss, they generally rack up between 15 and 20 points, which usually sees them in contention right up to the end of their games.

And equally well known is the fact that they are poor at creating and scoring goals in big matches, but that's unlikely to change much now after five years under the present system.

The game with Cork will be the ultimate test of this Kildare regime and their loyal and fanatical followers. The present Kildare system is set up to really put Cork to the test in a way that not many other counties are as well equipped to do.

Roll on the weekend...

And in what now appears to be a weekly event, we had another horrendously wrong umpiring decision in Hyde Park, but luckily for all concerned it did not impact on the result. A Sligo free from close range was waved a point when it was crystal clear to everybody other than the officials that it was well wide.

When will one umpire stand back 10 yards from the goals and concentrate on the posts, while the other one attends to square infringements? It hardly requires rocket science and certainly doesn't need expensive technology.

lWho said there is no culture in the GAA? This Thursday in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim the local Sean O'Heslins GAA club are launching a three-day readers' symposium called 'Dialogues Through Literature'.

This is a unique venture for a GAA club and it involves cross-border and cross-community events backed by the International Fund for Ireland.

After Liam O'Neill launches the event at 7.30, there will be a discussion on 'Sport, Culture and Leadership' in which Colm O'Rourke and former rugby international Trevor Ringland also will feature.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss