Sport Gaelic Football

Saturday 21 April 2018

Johnston fired up for Dubs showdown

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

SEANIE Johnston maintained a stoic silence throughout the long drawn-out saga over his transfer from Cavan to Kildare last year, and now he wants to let his football do the talking.

The 28-year-old forward was in Kieran McGeeney's starting line-up for the first time and scored seven points, four from frees, en route to helping Kildare beat Offaly at Tullamore 1-12 to 1-9. One of those points from play in the second half illustrated Johnston's quickness and ability to find the posts.

He had his back to goal, and was under pressure from two defenders when he collected a pass into his midriff before turning and shooting for a crucial score.

Johnston started quietly as the Kildare forwards were starved of possession by Offaly's extended pressure on the visitors, particularly around the midfield area which they flooded with bodies.

But once Kildare got a foothold and launched some passing movements mixed in with long-ball passes towards target man Tomas Connor at full-forward, Johnston showed quality and cuteness in his support play.

By the end of the game, the Cavan native was happy to have played a full match – impressive, considering a calf injury restricted his work on the pitch over the last few weeks.

Last year, when the transfer finally came through, he made four successive appearances as a substitute in the All-Ireland series – nine minutes plus injury-time against his home county Cavan; 22 minutes plus 30 minutes extra-time against Limerick; four minutes against Sligo, and 21 minutes against Cork who ended Kildare's run in the quarter-finals.

In those truncated outings, Johnston scored just two points, but last Sunday he gave an indication of his potential for Kildare. Now he looks to contend for a place in the O'Byrne Cup final against Dublin at Parnell Park on Saturday night (7.0).

"It's always good to get the start, and good to get the game coming up to the National League. Everyone is hungry to play football. Dublin are one of the best teams in the country and they'll give us another test. Offaly gave us a very good test, but this will be another step up for us," he said.

Interesting to note that if the proposed 'black card' penalty was in place, Johnston could have been sidelined long before the end of the game when he made a two-handed 'third man tackle' to block the forward momentum of an Offaly player after the ball had been moved infield.

Johnston got away with it, but if the black card was in situ, he would have been sent off and Kildare would have been allowed a replacement.

He wasn't the only offender. Players from both sides had their runs checked throughout the match, but Johnston's was a great example of the foul that would lead to a black card.

For me, it illustrated that the habits of players in this regard – ie body-checking opponents – won't change unless the black card system is adopted and then rigorously applied.

There is also an argument that it would have been a pity for the fans and the match as a contest if Johnston had been sent off for such an annoying but minor offence. However, this little cameo strengthens the case for a trial period if Congress does go ahead and brings in the black card system.

Meanwhile, Tipperary have agreed to bring forward their McGrath Cup final with Kerry to Saturday as the Kingdom's boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice will be in club action with Finuge in Sunday's All-Ireland IFC semi-final.

Irish Independent

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