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Big prizes elude them but Lilies can't get enough of O'Byrne

WHAT is it about Kildare and the O'Byrne Cup? In a nutshell, they keep on winning it ... and would you bet against them this month either?

Historically, the Lilywhites lead the way in Leinster's subsidiary competition roll of honour with 11 wins, ahead of Meath (eight) and Dublin (seven). However, what's especially intriguing is their recent upsurge in pre-season success: they've won three of the last four O'Byrne Cup finals. Just as curious is how this promising portent hasn't been followed through in league or, for that matter, championship.

It's a source of ongoing supporter angst that, since the first Leinster final of this millennium yielded a second title in three seasons for Mick O'Dwyer, Kildare's only senior prize of any significance was a Division Two title in 2012. Coincidentally, that was the only year in the last four that didn't end with the O'Byrne Cup residing in Newbridge.

The past fortnight has suggested there's every chance that Kildare could make it four out of five.

SNEAKED

They topped their group in emphatic fashion, the only close shave coming against Carlow when an experimental line-up sneaked victory at the death through a Pádraig Fogarty goal. Either side of that, however, they blitzed Louth by 12 points and UCD by 13.

Even in victory, Jason Ryan didn't cut a very happy figure last Sunday, primarily because UCD's Tommy Moolick, playing his third game in a week, had shipped a medial ligament knee injury against his home county - one that will rule him out for six to eight weeks.

More positively, Darroch Mulhall was in phenomenal point-scoring form - shooting 0-9, six from play, in just 53 minutes.

It's true that UCD were severely understrength and it remains to be seen how strong an ensemble DIT bring to St Conleth's Park.

The students won all three group games but have been forced to work for their victories over Wexford (by a point, courtesy of a Paul Brogan goal eight minutes into stoppage-time); Wicklow (by four points) and IT Carlow (by three, the younger Brogan helping himself to another goal).

Our suspicion is that DIT will have to find a higher gear - one they haven't produced yet - to upset Kildare on home turf. We also suspect that Jason Ryan would love to fine-tune league preparations with a late January showdown against either Meath or Dublin.

VERDICT: Kildare


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