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Blooming Lilies bring a sunny outlook to Kildare's reunion with Rebels

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2 February 2013; Niall Kelly, Kildare, in action against Leo McLoone, Donegal. Allianz Football League, Division 1, Kildare v Donegal, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

2 February 2013; Niall Kelly, Kildare, in action against Leo McLoone, Donegal. Allianz Football League, Division 1, Kildare v Donegal, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

2 February 2013; Niall Kelly, Kildare, in action against Leo McLoone, Donegal. Allianz Football League, Division 1, Kildare v Donegal, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

BACK in August, as Cork contemptuously crushed the wilting Lilies, there was a case to be argued that Kieran McGeeney's Kildare adventure had reached its anti-climactic end game.

Six months on and Kildare – along with 'Geezer' and his remodelled backroom team – are preparing to face the same county in Allianz League combat.

They've won their maiden outing in Division One whereas Cork have lost theirs. To the notable scalp of All-Ireland champions Donegal you can add an O'Byrne Cup title won in pulsating fashion the previous week.

And best of all? This mini-renaissance has been driven, to a pretty significant degree, by a new generation.

Daniel Flynn, Kildare minor in 2011, was many people's man of the match in the O'Byrne Cup decider against Dublin and followed this up with another energetic display against Donegal.

Niall Kelly, a minor starter in each of the last three seasons, has revealed a composure beyond his teenage years against Dublin and especially Donegal, doubling as a playmaker on the '40' with an ability to beat his man and take a score too.

 

CONVEYOR BELT

Paddy Brophy is also fresh off the minor conveyor belt, having played with them in 2011 and '12: he tallied three points against the Dubs and added another off the bench last weekend.

What better man to judge them than Bryan Murphy – the Cork native-cum-Lilywhite hero who won two Leinster medals during the Mick O'Dwyer era, and is now in his fifth year as Kildare minor manager.

"From the years I've been managing them at minor level, you certainly saw that they had the ability to go on and take the next step," Murphy told the Evening Herald.

The potential of Kelly and Brophy was there to see from an early stage whereas Flynn blossomed later.

"We certainly would have seen his huge, raw, natural ability when he (Flynn) came into us at minor level, and he probably lacked a little bit of belief," Murphy expands. "But it's growing now and he's working hard at his game, and obviously with Kieran's tutelage at senior level he's taken another step forward.

"He's a big rangy player. My own view, in the longer term, he'll move out to that general area in the middle of the field, or even into the backs... he's very comfortable on the ball, very good hands, and he has electrifying speed actually, which you probably won't have seen yet.

"Over three or four or five strides, it's amazing to watch when he takes off."

Of the rookie brigade, Kelly's contribution over the past fortnight has arguably been the real standout.

 

CONTROL

"He's not the biggest guy, but he's got a great centre of gravity and he's well able to control the ball and he's well able to ride tackles.

"But equally, what people wouldn't recognise about him is that he's very good off the ground – he can get up quite high. He's a ball of energy," Murphy enthuses.

Clearly, the above trio haven't suffered unduly for the experience of being crushed by two different yet equally awesome Dublin minor teams, managed by Dessie Farrell in 2011 and '12.

"The important thing is that these guys keep their feet on the ground; that they recognise there is a huge learning curve ahead of them and there'll be good days and bad days," Murphy advises.

They aren't the first of his graduates to make a rapid progression into the senior set-up: Fionn Dowling, Padraig Fogarty and Tommy Moolick, who played for the minors during their epic (and ultimately successful) three-game saga with Dublin in 2010, were all subsequently promoted by McGeeney.

Dowling has been 'unfortunate' to see his development curtailed by a run of injuries but Murphy believes he has all the attributes to come again.

Fogarty was on the bench against Donegal; Moolick is currently with the county U-21s.

As for tomorrow night's Pairc Ui Rinn showdown with his native heath, the Clane clubman concludes: "Cork are in a similar situation in that they appear to be trying to blood new players.

"I think Kildare have every chance of going down to Cork and getting a result."


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