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Lilywhites must be meaner to combat champs


Kildare's Paddy Brophy. Picture: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Kildare's Paddy Brophy. Picture: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Kildare's Paddy Brophy. Picture: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

TRY this for a cricket scoreline: 6-36 to 3-16. A margin, make that a chasm, stretching to 29 points. Confused? Here's a clue: We're talking about the two pre-eminent teams in Leinster football.

Still none the wiser? Then for fear of prolonging your torment, this scoreline never happened ... unless you aggregate the tallies accumulated by Dublin and Kildare in Allianz League and Leinster SFC combat last season.

And no, you don't need to guess who scored the 6-36.

This Saturday night, our Sky Blue and Lilywhite protagonists renew battle under the Croke Park lights. Both sides lost at the weekend; yet if Dublin were merely deflated by their first reversal in almost 12 months (against Cork), Kildare were surely sickened to the pit of their stomachs by Tyrone's surreal ambush.

Whether by a quirk of the calendar or fixture-making design, they met on the same weekend last year. Entering that round four encounter, Kieran McGeeney's high-flyers stood three wins from three, joint top with Dublin on a maximum six points. What followed was carnage.


True, the gale-assisted Lilies actually led by a point approaching the half-hour ... but Dublin then cranked up the gears, scored the next 1-11 and ultimately cruised home by 2-20 to 2-7.

Here's our theory, for what it's worth: Kildare's 2013 campaign never fully recovered. Yes, they bounced back, in a fashion, by capitalising on some Mayo squander-mania to win in Castlebar ... but next they lost to Tyrone and Down, then Tyrone again in a Division One semi-final.

Onto Championship, where a slender four-point margin against unheralded Offaly hinted at the meltdown to come: Perversely, they enjoyed a 1-2 head start against the Dubs, only to finish on the wrong end of a 4-16 to 1-9 spanking.

Two qualifier games later, they were gone, beaten for the third time by Tyrone (now there's a recurring theme). Soon after, Geezer was gone too ...

The question now is how much Kildare have evolved with their change of bainisteoir? After all, Jason Ryan was also a central part of last year's management team.

This year, under Ryan, they've retained the O'Byrne Cup but after three league rounds have just two points, not six. Ergo, the spectre of relegation could loom if Dublin were to inflict further trauma now.

And yet, having watched two of Kildare's NFL outings on celluloid – their thrilling one-point win over Mayo and outlandish one-point defeat by Tyrone – our belief is they are playing more fluently now than 12 months ago.

Then, their seemingly soaring start was facilitated by the early-season travails of Donegal, Cork and Kerry ... whereas this season, one poor performance on Leeside (don't be fooled by the single-point margin) has been sandwiched by two scorefests in Newbridge. They hit 2-19 (2-17 from play) to pip Mayo at the death; then 1-21 last Sunday, only to be suckered by those two late, late Tyrone goals.

The most eye-catching performances have come from players of relatively recent county vintage – Paddy Brophy (above), especially against Mayo, Darroch Mulhall and Seán Hurley, who gave us the full repertoire of soaring catches and solo dummies two days ago.

Yet it was Hurley's sideline ball turnover that initiated Tyrone's comeback, while question marks will inevitably be raised about defensive naivety when you've (a) conceded 5-50 in three games and (b) allowed Mattie Donnelly so much leeway in the build-up to his namesake Mark's match-winner.

Even before the black card era, Kildare were never noted for their black arts ... but they'll have to get streetwise now Dublin, with a point to prove post-Cork, loom into view.