FOR a full 25 minutes after Derek Fahy ended Kildare's misery in Newbridge yesterday by blowing the full-time whistle on their opening NFL Division 2 clash with Down, the Lilywhite players stayed in a circle around the middle of the pitch conducting internal post-mortems.
Kieran McGeeney, meanwhile, stood near the clubhouse goalmouth with his selectors doing presumably the same thing. He had just witnessed the biggest defeat of his reign as Kildare manager, his team wiped 1-16 to 0-8 -- by Down.
He had watched as his team handed an albeit sleek Down team score after score through mistakes, turnovers, lethargy in possession, sluggish movement and stagnant speed of thought.
McGeeney had just witnessed another two of his players being sent off and a 45-minute spell in which Kildare scored just two points.
Most of Kildare's misery yesterday was of their own making but what frustrated McGeeney the most was his players' inability to follow instruction.
"They're not doing what they're being asked to do," McGeeney fumed. "You could put together a list of problems there after the game and say 'why do you do them?' If you had a list of things we said we'd do before the game, they would have been the exact opposite of each other.
"I talk about discipline -- I'm sick talking about it -- and we get two men sent off. I talked about getting quick ball from the half-back line and we have seven fist passes across the middle and go backwards."
"Down played very well there today but mainly because we let them. The goal was a decent goal but most of their scores came directly from our mistakes.
"I must be speaking French before the games because they're definitely not listening."
Evidently not. Kildare's penchant for holding on to the ball just long enough to get closed down by a pack of zealous Down defenders led to ball after ball being coughed up.
Down, displaying a newly acquired thirst for hard work, caused the Kildare half-back line all kinds of problems, with Martin Clarke orchestrating the attack, his brother John, acting as the pivot around whom all of the Mouremen's moves rotated, while Paul McComiskey was in sniper-mode in the corner.
Added to that, Ambrose Rodgers gave a master class in midfield play, ended up with three points and hassled and harried Daryl Flynn and Dermot Earley into states of frustration.
Centre-back James Colgan appeared to have some magnetic relationship with the ball and, in particular, on foot passes from Kildare half-backs.
McComiskey's goal off a brilliant Martin Clarke delivery in the 27th minute gave Down a material advantage for the first time and they followed that up with the last two points of the half.
Thereafter, the match degenerated into a turkey shoot, Down adding another nine points after the break to Kildare's two. To cap a true nightmare of an afternoon for Kildare, both Gary White and Flynn were sent off for second yellow cards, adding another dark smear to the Lilywhites' disciplinary record.
"Two things stood out there for me today: diving into tackles and holding on to the ball too long across the middle eight," McGeeney added. "If you're going to attack, you do it with speed. If you're going to defend, you do it with discipline. Today, we did neither."
For Down boss McCartan, the margin of victory came as a surprise and also a caveat. Down, he argued, were at full-strength and any internal delusions of grandeur would be nipped very quickly in the bud.
"I think the game probably meant more to us than in did to Kildare," he offered. "We're close to full strength. We have no rabbits to pull out of the hat. That's us. We've no secret weapons that we're leaving until later in the year.
"Their sendings off made it much easier for us. The gloss that was put on the game at the end, sometimes as a manager you'd prefer if those went wide and we had won by four or three points because some people start hyping it up."