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O'Flaherty determined to go through front door

KILDARE ace eager to excel and avoid qualifiers

THERE are certain tags in Gaelic football which carry positive and negative connotations.

For a player, 'super sub' is the obvious example. The individual who, on the one hand, has forged a reputation for consistently influencing games from the bench above and beyond the norm, but on the other, isn't deemed quite good enough to start in the first place.

Here's another example, this time a collective term carrying both positive and negative undertones: 'qualifier specialists,' a label which compliments a team's abilities to successfully navigate the choppy and unpredictable waters of the qualifiers but who, by definition, have repeatedly failed to win a provincial title.

"You don't mind ... if you were winning an All-Ireland through the back door, you would take it," says Eoghan O'Flaherty of Kildare, probably the only team worthy of such an epithet. "But yeah, it's something we have got the tag of the last few years – going through the qualifiers. But I think we realise now, there are not too many years left in this team.

"There are a couple of players in their last year or two so this has to be our year and definitely, our aim is to go through the front door.



"Obviously the qualifiers, if it were to happen, you would go that route. In fairness, we have done well week-to-week in that sort of situation before so we would have a good understanding of what it takes to go through that route but our aim is to go through and win Leinster."

And just as Kildare's performances in Leinster have often been a disappointment in Kieran McGeeney's five years in charge to date (one unsuccessful provincial final appearance), so too have their performances through the back door been hugely consistent.

The figures are well worn but worth repeating. Pre-McGeeney, the Lilywhites had played 10 qualifier matches, lost seven and won just three. Since his arrival, they have won 14 from 15, drawing the other.

"There are only a couple of lads who have a Leinster medal," O'Flaherty points out (following Dermot Earley's retirement, there are just two: Johnny Doyle and Ronan Sweeney). I certainly (know), and I know from speaking to the players, they all want to win a Leinster medal.

"The last number of years, we have come through the back door and got to the quarter-final but we have never come through the front door in Leinster, full of confidence and momentum.

"Definitely, that is our ambition this year, to go through the front door and the most direct route as possible. But you have to take it game by game and that starts with Offaly.

"There have been a lot of lads who have been around the six years Kieran has been involved and have nothing to show for it. I know we have been in the quarter-finals every year but we're not happy as a group to be seen as a top-six or top-eight team.

"We want to have some trophy or some medal to fall back on," O'Flaherty adds. "And we'll keep going till we get there. Hopefully it is this year."

SEÁN HURLEY has been dropped from the Kildare squad for their Leinster SFC opener with Offaly this weekend.

The promising Johnstownbridge midfielder will not be part of Kieran McGeeney's matchday panel this Saturday and, instead, was demoted to the county's junior team who defeated Meath 1-17 to 1-7 in Ashbourne with Hurley scoring one point.

Hurley has been cut from the squad in the past. Back in 2011 he was reprimanded after attending the Oxegen music festival in Punchestown at a time when Kildare were still alive in the qualifiers.