Tuesday 20 March 2018

Johnston 'circus' no excuse for Lilies lapse -- Doyle

NEARLY there. Thankfully. By this time next week, we hope he'll have made his debut and there'll be something else to talk about and something else to write about.

You know who we're talking about. The whole transfer saga has moved him into the territory where he needs to be referred to only by his first name, an honour normally bestowed upon the biggest characters in the game. To DJ, Henry, Davy, Tomas and Darragh, you can now add Seanie.

Kildare stalwart John Doyle remains nonplussed as to the fuss it has caused. As far as he's concerned, it's an inter-county transfer, simple as that. But Kildare can't escape it.

Still licking their wounds from the defeat to Meath, fresh fuel was poured on the fire that Monday morning by the qualifier draw that sends them to Cavan and to Kingspan Breffni Park, a venue Seanie Johnston regularly lit up for his former club and county.

The next day, Kildare hurling board chairman outlined the depth of the anger in the county's small hurling community at the decision to use the county's blue riband hurling competition to circumvent a rule.

Then news of a shoulder injury that could rule the former Cavan sharpshooter out of the game emerged. If and when he finally makes his debut for Kildare, the focus will ease a little, but Doyle's sympathy lies firmly with the newly inducted St Kevin's man.

"I'm baffled. If it was the first movement of a player from one county to another, you might understand some of it. I just don't know what it's all about. The media seem to have gotten their teeth into it and there's nothing I can say here that will change that," he says.

"It is what it is. It's something the GAA probably need to look at. You have a guy that wants to play football and all of a sudden there's a big circus."

Doyle flatly rejects the notion that Kildare were somehow distracted by the saga, pointing out that it has run for most of the year and Kildare won a league final in that time.


"There was no one saying anything about the Seanie thing being a distraction before the game (against Meath), so it's too easy to go down that road," he says.

"When the ball breaks you're not thinking of anything except winning the ball. You're not thinking about what went on or who said what. So that doesn't change. It's too easy to say that.

"People have their own thing, whether it's that we looked dead or were over-trained. We went out to play Meath and, as we saw with Kilkenny, there are no guarantees."

He doesn't mention it, but the loss to the Royals was particularly galling for Doyle. He was withdrawn in the second half and the defeat robbed him of the chance to lead Kildare into a Leinster final in his 60th consecutive championship appearance. Instead, he'll head to Cavan to take on a team who, like Meath, have every motivation and of whom nothing is expected.

"I suppose it was probably nearly inevitable, the way things are going," he smiles when asked about the draw. "It's Cavan in Breffni, a tough game and we have always struggled up there. Everyone will have their own spin on the Seanie thing.

"We have to get our game right, regardless of what is going on outside, regardless of what supporters think or media think or anyone thinks, because everyone seems to have given their opinion at this stage. It doesn't affect us on the field. We cross the line and we have to produce the goods."

Scoring became an issue against Meath, as the form that saw them notch up more points than anyone else deserted them as Meath dealt comfortably with the threat posed by Tomas O'Connor.

"There's a few things, but look, 1-11 isn't going to win you too many championship games," he concedes.

"We wouldn't have been happy with our build-up play. It was a bit slow and when we put ball into Tomas and he won it, we had given Meath time to get back and there was two or three around him and it wasn't as effective as we'd have liked.

"But there is no one route that is going to work, we're trying to mix every part of the game, be it running the ball or moving it directly. We just didn't do that."

It's back to the familiar comfort of the qualifiers for Doyle and McGeeney. The Lilies have never lost a back-door game under the Armagh man and are still considered among the top half-dozen contenders for Sam Maguire by the bookmakers.

"We have to perform to the level we expect of ourselves, not what anyone else expects.

"Whether it's Cavan or Kerry, we have to find that level and if we do that, we'll be there or thereabouts."

Irish Independent

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