Feely and Kildare turning potential into results
Midfielder insists Lilywhites have learned lessons from their poor league campaign
How long has the word 'potential' been hanging around this Kildare football team?
They have four ex-professional sportsmen in their ranks, all at an age now when they should be at the peak of their powers.
The core of the side came off the most eye-catching U-21 team from the province, outside of Dublin obviously, for some time (they lost to Galway in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final) but delivering on that has too often been a case of one step forward, two steps back.
For three-quarters of Saturday night's fourth-round qualifier against Fermanagh however, the weight of that potential was felt in totality.
Kildare tick a lot of boxes as a team but this was the first time it all came together for such a sustained period in a match. Even the performance the previous week against Mayo was more fragmented than those 52 or so minutes in Navan.
On top of a Leinster U-20 final win on Friday night against a decent Dublin team, it is fuelling the belief that Kildare, despite their Carlow setback, are still best placed to give chase to Dublin in the province.
"That word 'potential' has been thrown around a lot with us," said midfielder Kevin Feely, one of that quartet - along with Daniel Flynn, Paddy Brophy and Paul Cribbin - of ex-pro sportsmen on the Kildare panel.
"A quote that one of our (previous) selectors, Padraig Brennan, said to us before is that potential is not playing very well a lot of the time. And that sums us up nicely. I think definitely, for large periods of the game, we played to that potential.
"Playing to our potential is when we make good decisions and manage the game well. I think physically and talent-wise there's massive potential but that only comes to fruition if you make good decisions and manage the game well.
"In the last two games, that's where we've grown as a team, in that we're not doing ridiculous things on the ball that we were maybe doing in the league in terms of taking shots from outside the scoring zone or trying passes through the eye of a needle or taking the ball into contact in the centre of the pitch, which are all the things that were letting us down in the league," said Feely,conceding that some of those ailments returned for the last quarter against Fermanagh.
Feely, who is now in his third year with the county since moving back home from the UK where he was on the books with Newport County, admitted there was relief to win their next game after the drama of 'Newbridge or nowhere'.
"The mood in the camp this week was ridiculously tense because of what was on the line," he said.
"After the elation of last Saturday wore off, it was very much a case of, 'we've been in this position before', where we've had a big win and the next week or a couple of weeks later we've let ourselves down completely.
"I think, this week, there was a massive emphasis on trying to focus on the job in hand because last year we let ourselves down in that respect, having a good Leinster campaign and then in the Armagh game taking our eye off the ball. We probably got ahead of ourselves.
"For that reason, I think this week we were very tense, very keen not to let the elation of last week go to our heads but at the same time bringing through that positivity that we had last week.
"I think there's definitely a sense of being able to breathe out a little after this game. Definitely, relief is the overwhelming emotion. I think the tension will be gone but there'll still be a massive focus," he added.
Kildare meet Monaghan in their opening quarter-final on Sunday and will have Galway at home in Newbridge six or seven days later.
"It's back to where we were in Division One of the league. We'll have a lot of the analysis done already for these teams," said Feely.
"That's going to be very helpful. We'll have in the back of our minds as well that we've let ourselves down in a lot of those Division One games, not all of them, but some of them we let ourselves down performance-wise. So we'll have a massive point to prove going into every single game we play in the Super 8s."
The tension will be gone, he predicts, but the pressure to perform will still be there.
"We'll still have an awful lot to prove. We haven't really proved anything yet, based on our league form. So going into the Super 8s against top opposition, we're going to have to show that we can consistently match them," said Feely.
He also feels they've got great energy from being more positive about themselves during the qualifiers, a big thing after the negativity of 12 successive defeats across all competitions.
"We've put a real emphasis on trying to give each other energy from the good things that we do, more encouragement instead of just focusing on negatives and getting onto each other for negative things," he explained.
"When people are doing things well, we're trying to give each other energy for that."
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