Sunday 17 December 2017

Ciarán Whelan concerned over Kildare's Croke Park 'mental block' and Pat Spillane thinks they need another year

Daniel Flynn of Kildare celebrates scoring his side's second goal during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Meath and Kildare at Bord na Móna O'Connor Park in Tullamore, Co Offaly. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Daniel Flynn of Kildare celebrates scoring his side's second goal during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Meath and Kildare at Bord na Móna O'Connor Park in Tullamore, Co Offaly. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Kildare provided evidence that they may be able to provide Dublin with their sternest test in Leinster since 2010 with their commanding victory over Meath on Saturday.

The Lilywhites had nine points to spare over Andy McEntee's men in Tullamore and are back in a provincial decider of the first time in eight years.

With Jim Gavin's Dublin unbackable favourites against Westmeath in the other semi-final, Cian O'Neill's side look on a collision course with the All-Ireland champions.

Greater defensive organisation, the thriving midfield combination of Kevin Feely and Tommy Moolick and improved potency have already brought Kildare promotion to Division One but former Dublin star Ciarán Whelan has identified a potential stumbling block for Kildare. Croke Park.

GAA headquarters has not been a happy hunting ground for Kildare in recent years.

Since their humiliating 27-point defeat to Kerry in 2015, Kildare have been beaten in the Division Three final against Clare last year, they lost to Westmeath in a Leinster semi-final and came out second best to Galway in this year's Division Two decider.

There only victory at Croker in that time was an uninspiring 0-9 to 0-8 victory over Wexford.

"The biggest challenge for Kildare is that they haven't performed in Croke Park for the past few years. It's been a bad stomping ground," Whelan told The Sunday Game on RTE

"That's where the mental challenge is.

"They love to Westmeath last year, they lost a league final to Galway. Croke Park is not a nice place to go to and tehy need to get over that mental block to get to the next level.

"They were very, very good (against Meath). Probably, the best I've seen Kildare play in a number of years. Very well balanced, very strong defensive performance, well structured, well organised, cut off Meath where they were strongest, very good going forward, their inside line scored 2-9, Daniel Flynn excellent, Cathal  McNally excellent, they have a great midfielder in Kevin Feely... there are a lot of positives for Kildare."

Kerry legend Pat Spillane thinks they can give the Dubs a good rattle but believes the game might be coming 12 months too soon for this young team.

"I was very impressed with Kildare," he said.

"There is no doubt about it that Kildare have the physicality, have the pace, have the athleticism, have the skill, have the scoring power to put it up to the Dubs.

"Perhaps not this year, I think this is a Kildare team that's eveolving, that's developing, they have youth on their side and I think a year of Division one football (in 2018). I think you'll see the best of them next year."

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