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Geezer calls for caution as Lilies blossom

IT'S just as well Kieran McGeeney avoids hubris or hyperbole on those occasions when he speaks publicly or the spread of Sam Maguire fever through Kildare would reach pandemic levels.

If they keep finishing matches in the manner of yesterday's 0-16 to 0-11 Division 2 final victory over Tyrone, his cautious words may well be ignored and washed away in a tsunami of expectation by the time the August Bank Holiday weekend rolls around but for the moment at least, the floodgates are holding firm. "The thing about having your main part of the year in the summer," mused McGeeney after Kildare had powered home to end Tyrone's unbeaten 2012 record in Croke Park yesterday, "if you peak in late spring, it's a dangerous thing."

"I know Armagh played Down out here two years ago and beat them in the Division 2 final and Down went on to an All Ireland final and Armagh were put out early. People soon forget."

Still, it's better to be playing good football in April than not. And yesterday will have nutritional benefits for Kildare on a number of fronts. Their 'powerplay' of the final 10 minutes was impressive and transformed a 0-9 to 0-10 deficit into a 0-16 to 0-11 lead in a match where chances, space and fluidity were at a premium.

There is also the sparkle of national silverware, a reward with which 'Geezer' was slightly less pre-occupied with than the Kildare public or, as he sees it, the media.

"Everybody wants silverware but that pressure is external rather than internal. Everybody plays football for the one reason, to win as many competitions as you can. But there are priorities as well," McGeeney explained before returning to his earlier theme. "But everybody wants to play well in the summer."

Then there is the identity of the scalp and the arena in which it was taken. Tyrone represent the first of the recognised recent football aristocracy that Kildare have beaten in a big match in Croke Park.

"They have a great system," McGeeney praised. "They break at pace so we tried our best to be able to counteract that.

"In fairness, Tyrone came out in the second half strong. They got a couple of points on the board but our fellas dug in and really kept at it."

As team performances go, this one was impressive yet one man, St Laurence's youngster Pádraig Fogarty made a major impact after his introduction. An under-21 this year, Fogarty clipped three well-taken points and won a converted free and displayed the sort of stylish forward play that Kildare are regularly accused of lacking.

"He's been pushing hard in training and he has stepped up on a number of fronts," explained McGeeney. "I'm glad for him and I'm glad for us that he produced it on the day."

Prior to that, Kildare lacked a direct route. Tomás O'Connor won scraps of ball and made a nice point for James Kavanagh (he also was involved in a point put over his own bar by Aidan McCrory, who was injured in the process and resulted in the first half running also 14 minutes over) but most of Kildare's scores were coming from runs from deep and frees.

Mikey Conway was key to most of what was good about Kildare. He can hit the early long ball better than everyone else on the team and the more he gets in possession, the more fluid they look going forward.

Clearly though, McGeeney has learned from watching Tyrone and Kildare were able to stop their surges at source by either fouling high up the pitch or getting enough bodies in the middle to stop the likes of Peter Harte, Aidan Cassidy and Seán Cavanagh before they changed through the gears.

"It's a very simple thing you can put it down to," surmised Harte afterwards, "one team was better than the other and Kildare were that team today."

Their first defeat of the season unveiled a couple of faultlines, though.

In the absences of Kyle Coney, Ronan O'Neill and Tommy McGuigan, Harte is utterly reliant on consistency from Owen Mulligan and Stephen O'Neill but against one of the best full-back lines in the country, both were largely muted.

Still, promotion and a Dr McKenna Cup isn't a bad return for the first four months of the season and Harte has demonstrated that the rebuilding process doesn't necessarily preclude success.

Kildare, meanwhile, are sitting prettier than ever -- even if McGeeney's final words were filled with caution.

"People go on about tradition but to me, that's just another word for belief," he said. "Being part of a set-up that talks about winning all the time. Kildare isn't like that. People might think they haven't been a football powerhouse for the past 70 years anyway.

"Getting into a habit of winning on big days ... they've been close enough but close enough is never good enough in sport. You have to be a yard in front of everybody else.

"We're not going to be measured until the summer no matter what we do," he added. "Come Offaly, that's when we'll be measured."


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