Wednesday 17 January 2018

Comment - Go for win or avoid embarrassment? Kildare proved you can do both against Dublin and exposed weaknesses

Kevin Feely added to his growing reputation
Kevin Feely added to his growing reputation
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

Kildare scored 18 times against the Dubs, kicked 10 wides, dropped efforts short and missed numerous goal chances but ultimately lost.

Dublin haven't conceded that tally in Leinster since they shipped five goals to Meath in 2010 and it was the first time since the Royal ambush that they have been genuinely tested before an All-Ireland quarter-final.

They still won by nine points and were imperious at times but aspects of the game will eat away at Jim Gavin.

When Pete McGrath was preparing Fermanagh to play the Dubs in 2015, all he asked was that they score a tally capable of winning a game. They hit 2-15. It was an honourable defeat.

Cian O'Neill and his players have every right to feel demoralised but yesterday's display should also energise the Lilywhites and Armagh and their boss Kieran McGeeney should be very wary.

Two defensive blips ended the game inside 12 minutes, the Dubs don't score two goals and lose under Jim Gavin but Kildare showed enough in the last hour to suggest that they will be too strong for Armagh and have the guns to really test Mickey Harte's Tyrone in the last eight.

Their approach to yesterday's game was refreshing. This was not a damage limitation exercise.

For the first time in seven years, a team has taken on Dublin in Leinster with the genuine belief they could topple them.

They played smart in attack by mixing a strong running game using Daniel Flynn, the Cribben brothers and David Slattery effectively to the use of direct ball into their full-forward line.

Their tactic of allowing their big men to drift into the full-forward line worked and will be a cause for concern for Jim Gavin. Tommy Moolick was able to manufacture a goal chance in the first half and Paddy Brophy forced a late goal thanks to a direct ball.

The only problem was that they didn't do it enough and, although they tried, they couldn't deploy the excellent fielding ability of Kevin Feely further forward because he was needed in the middle third.

I'm sure Kieran Donaghy was thinking; 'That's the ball I want delivered in September'. It was kicked in at an angle that allowed the ball to be attacked and at the very least, it would be broken into a very dangerous area.

There were gaps in the Dublin defence and Kildare found them but it required their players to run ahead of the ball and take risks. When they were turned over, they were exposed at the back.

Teams are very hard to stop when players are moving into space at speed ahead of the ball but very few teams have had the guts to do it against Dublin, preferring to move the ball laterally and run from behind the ball, retain possession because if they have it, Dublin can't score.

This tactic is futile because no matter how long you keep it, the Dubs are the best in the game at turning over the ball in the middle third and Stephen Cluxton ensures that no team can build pressure on them after a score because he finds a teammate with his restarts most of the time. Over 70 minutes, the Dubs are going to get enough ball to beat you.

Packing defences and retaining the ball may frustrate the Dubs for a while but it's not a tactic that will ever beat them.

Feely was the dominant force in midfield, despite the presence of Fenton and Kerry will have watched the midfield battle unfolding yesterday with a lot of interest.

Kildare were clearly not used to the tempo they were subjected to yesterday but will have gleaned so much from yesterday's encounter. That experience will serve them well.

Their defence will probably be their downfall. Their six backs are very game, fit and athletic but lack the defensive nous that the top teams have carved out by playing at the highest level for years.

Momentary blips and poor decision making will be ruthlessly punished from here on in.

Cian O'Neill has his men on the right track but are probably a few years away from reaching their peak. That doesn't mean they are not capable of taking a notable scalp this year.

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