Friday 24 November 2017

Callaghan aiming high

Kildare are expecting a titanic tussle against Monaghan to reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals for a third successive season, but Eamonn Callaghan believes their ambitions are greater than that.

Nobody within the Kildare camp sees Monaghan's performance in their provincial decider as being truly reflective of their ability.

For that reason, they are braced for a furious backlash but, such is their self-confidence after an 11-point defeat of Derry last Saturday that Kildare just don't fear anyone. Kieran McGeeney has always set high targets for this squad of players, which he has frequently labelled "as good as any in the country".

Having taken a savage body blow when blitzed by Louth, they are aiming high again.

"I reckon we're a top-eight team at least," said Callaghan. "It's just a case of getting back to where we were last year and drive on again. Hopefully, we'll get to the quarter-finals and then push on to the semis and finals "cos that's where we want to be".

Qualifier victories over Antrim (after a replay and an incredibly emotional drawn game when Dermot Earley played on the same day his father, Dermot Snr, was buried), Leitrim and Derry mean that Kildare are the only team that participated in the first round still standing.

That says a lot for the burgeoning confidence and growing mental resolve of a group of players who might have been seen as soft touches in the past.

After last week's win, McGeeney said that Kildare's mental strength would be tested again, as all they would be hearing is that they must be getting tired playing for a fifth week in succession. He will be happy with what Callaghan has to say about it.

"Football is what you want. You're playing games every week and once you're not picking up injuries, it's a great way to be."

Certainly, the versatile Naas man is flourishing. His excellent form tapered off a little towards the end of last year, but he has relished being handed a play-making role around the middle, winning breaks and distributing brilliantly.

Irish Independent

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