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Five-star Lilywhites hit top form to see off UCD challenge


Padraig Fogarty, Kildare, in action against Rob Tiernan, UCD. Photo: Da¡ire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Padraig Fogarty, Kildare, in action against Rob Tiernan, UCD. Photo: Da¡ire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Padraig Fogarty, Kildare, in action against Rob Tiernan, UCD. Photo: Da¡ire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

IF defence-orientated football grinds your gears and puke football makes you nauseous, get on down to Newbridge next Sunday where the game's big scorers, Kildare and Meath, joust for the O'Byrne Cup, an afternoon guaranteed more waving flags than the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Yesterday, in putting 5-17 on the St Conleth's scoreboard next to UCD's ordinarily useful 2-11, the Lilywhites took their 2014 running total to 13-72 from four games.

In fact, a truer estimate of their early-season well-being would ignore the comparatively piddling 1-11 put on Carlow, given most of the players who fulfilled that dead rubber have since been dropped from the panel.

Which means that, in three matches featuring a recognisable Kildare XV, Ryan's team have scored 12-61 or an average of just over 32 points per match. In January.

Yesterday, it was Podge Fogarty who thrived most, feasting gluttonously on UCD's disinclination to either sweep or switch markers for a grand and handsome tally of 4-3.

"It's good for his confidence. He's a talented young man," reflected Ryan, who duly noted how there was slightly less of Podge Fogarty now than before.

"He worked incredibly hard with (physical trainer) Barry Solan and the other strength and conditioning guys to drop a bit of baggage and he's moving really well.

"But he has a lot of work to do as well. There's a lot of work to do with everyone. We will be grounded and that's going to be important for the next few weeks."

Truth be told, UCD's Wexford defender Rob Tierney has had more enjoyable afternoons than yesterday in Fogarty's company.



Winning the first ball that came the pair's way, Fogarty opened the scoring after 40 seconds and from there, he dominated totally.

For their part, UCD lined out with John Heslin – by some distance, their best player yesterday – at centre-forward and he finished a move for a goal which involved Ryan Basquel and Mark Hughes at a time when it seemed as though Kildare would streak away.

With Paul Mannion lively on ball-winning, rather than scoring duties, and Jack McCaffrey playing at wing-forward, it seemed as though UCD could hurt Ryan's team, but they took on far too much water at the back and never plugged the leaks.

Nine Kildare players scored. All of their six starting forwards registered from play and, at 1-8 to 1-2 after 20 minutes, they were primed for another easy afternoon's work.

Then, for no obvious reason, they fell asunder. Having won their first six kick-outs, Kildare lost five of the next seven, often to clean UCD catches, and leaked 1-3, a wide and another goal chance saved by Shane Connolly off turnover ball.

Duly, Ryan left his elevated vantage point in the stand and stood on the sideline for the rest of the half.

"It's about having enough composure to change the kick out when it wasn't working and make better decisions," he pointed out.

"You can't blame the 'keepers. You can't blame the midfielders or the half-forwards. It was kind of a combined thing."

Still, Fogarty got his second goal just before half-time to put Kildare 3-8 to 2-7 ahead and you kind of got the suspicion that, if their kick- out didn't melt quite so bafflingly in the second half, they would coast.



So it went, with Fogarty bagging another two to rapturous acclaim from the locals.

"I would like to think you learn far more when things don't work than you do when things work all over the place," said Ryan afterwards. "If we didn't have that period of pressure from UCD, today would have been like the Longford game or the Athlone IT game. We would have learned very, very little."

In other business, UCD player Alan English had the most colourful – literally – afternoon of any player after he was shown, in order, yellow, black and then red cards, but with so many frontliners missing and such experimentation, it's unlikely UCD manager John Divilly lost much sleep last night.

For Kildare, it's Meath next Sunday and a shot at retaining their O'Byrne Cup title, though Ryan knows his challenge is to sustain this form for when it's really needed.

"It's going to be ideal preparation for the following week (Kildare's League opener against Mayo). Each game has gotten a little bit more difficult, so when it comes to the Mayo game, we can't say our preparation wasn't ideal.

"We weren't knocked out in the middle of January. We have been getting competitive games," he added. "The games have been a little bit more difficult as we've gone along."