Kelly: Kildare need to begin to believe they can topple Gavin's men

NEWBRIDGE SCALP: Peter Kelly after the win over Mayo. Photo: Sportsfile

Conor McKeon

It has been an unwanted but arguably the defining feature of Kildare football these past few years: that every step forward they have taken has either been followed or preceded by at least one in the opposite direction.

So it was that on Sunday, when Cian O'Neill made public his provisional 39-man panel to begin preparations for 2019, the heavyweight presence of Kilkenny's former Hurler of the Year Michael Fennelly was revealed to have been added to his back-room setup.

ABSENT: Daniel Flynn. Photo: Sportsfile

The squad itself, meanwhile, included smattering of this year's All-Ireland U-20s winning team, including the great lily-white hope, Jimmy Hyland.

Yet Daniel Flynn, an All-Star nominee both this year and last, was curiously absent from the list.

O'Neill later confirmed that Flynn, who will complete a Masters in NUI Maynooth in the coming weeks before heading abroad for a stint of unspecified length, had opted out for the year.

Niall Kelly, Kildare's last great white hope, was similarly omitted, although there seems to be greater belief of the Athy man rejoining later this year.

"I haven't actually been talking to Dan about it but he obviously has his reasons for it," said Kildare defender, Peter Kelly.

"Yeah, look, he's a loss but as I said, you have seven or eight U-20s coming in from last year.

"Hopefully they can kind of fill the void.


"Ben McCormack, who stepped away last year, he's a serious footballer as well; very talented, so I can see him slotting in there too.

"Hopefully his loss won't be too hard felt."

It's hard to imagine how it wouldn't be.

Flynn was Kildare's hub of energy this year, particularly with Kevin Feely subdued due to an injury he carried through summer, another turbulent championship for O'Neill's side.

"Look, we know we're there or thereabouts," said Kelly, who lines out for his club Twomilehouse in Saturday's Leinster Intermediate final against Offaly side Shamrocks in Tullamore.

"Dublin are setting the standard at the moment and we just have to get to their level.

"I think we have the players at the moment but we just need to get that winning mentality and that lack of fear against these teams.

"Coming from Kildare you kind of always say, 'Oh, Kerry, Mayo, Dublin'.

"You kind of put them up on a pedestal, almost, but there's no reason for that.

"We have the same facilities as them, we have the same players as them, so there's no reason why we can't build and go a step further this year."

More than any other single factor, Kildare's competitive proximity to Dublin in the Leinster SFC has appeared to stunt their growth of late.

"Sometimes you can kind of get really close, then they can turn it on," Kelly pointed out.

"It's hard to put a finger on it. Are they just that good or is it our lads not believing and saying to themselves, 'Jeez, these lads are just that good, we can't beat them'?


"It's a tough one, obviously they're setting a standard.

"Look, it's up to the rest of the teams in Ireland to get to them. As I said, I think man-for-man we have the footballers in Kildare.

"I don't think we are that far away but it's building that mentality where we can get everyone on the same wavelength that we can beat them."

"There's nothing (lacking), man-for-man, talent-wise.

"I think it's just mentality; to believe you're good enough and to finish a game out.

"That's why I think the Dubs' mental strength is just incredible. They never panic.

"No matter if they're winning or losing with 10 minutes to go, they still believe they're going to win," Kelly added.

"Ultimately then it happens. They're just so comfortable within themselves."