Saturday 24 March 2018

'It's a measure of the man' Kildare boss Cian O'Neill reveals how his skipper played with a broken thumb

Managers Cian O’Neill of Kildare, left, and Jim Gavin of Dublin, right, shake hands following the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Managers Cian O’Neill of Kildare, left, and Jim Gavin of Dublin, right, shake hands following the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Seán McGoldrick

Kildare captain Eoin Doyle will have surgery today on a broken thumb and is rated as extremely doubtful for the team's next outing in Round 4 of the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Manager Cian O'Neill revealed the centre-back insisted on playing despite suffering the break last week.

"It's a measure of the man," O'Neill said. "There was no way he wasn't going to be playing. He felt he could get through it and he put in a real stellar performance, considering there were obviously some parts he couldn't execute.

"But they were far superseded by the brilliant things he did, as he marshalled that defence for large periods."

O'Neill conceded Doyle was unlikely to be available for the Round 4 tie at the weekend against either Armagh or Monaghan.

While acknowledging Dublin were the superior team, O'Neill (below) suggested his side's lack of experience at the highest level had been a key element in the contest.

He pinpointed the period in the first-half when Dublin scored two goals and again in the first 10 minutes of the second-half, when Dublin outscored Kildare 08 to 0-2, as being particularly significant.


"In those periods when they pushed on to another level we were chasing our tail a bit. Not only are Dublin a great team, they have great experience. Even the players they bring off the bench, they have all that in their locker.

"The plan was to come here and try and play the type of football we have been playing all year in terms of getting that balance between a strong defence and a strong counter-attacking game.

"For periods of the game we did both, but unfortunately in those periods in which we didn't, we really got punished. We would be very disappointed with the amount of turnovers we had.

"We knew that turnovers are their oxygen and unfortunately I think they scored 1-5 directly off turnovers today. It's not just on the scoreboard, it is a psychological hit as well.

"That was their biggest thing, their execution was just ruthless. It was the high standard you would expect of champions. Ours was well below par."

Arguably O'Neill was more expansive in his explanation of Dublin's strengths than their own team boss, Jim Gavin.

After the fireworks at the post-match conference following the Westmeath game, this was very much back to a Gavin-esque performance.

Even the fact Dublin became the first Leinster football team to win seven football titles on the spin didn't generate any great degree of exuberance from the man who guided the side to five of them.

"I think when the guys look back on their careers and probably for Pat Gilroy, who came before me, and his group of players that are no longer with us, they'll take some satisfaction today," he said.

"But for the current team it's about being present in 2017 and provincial titles mean a lot to us. We'll certainly celebrate with our family and friends, that's for sure. And then we will move on to the next challenge ahead."

Gavin praised the influence of team captain Stephen Cluxton, who equalled the all-time championship appearance record of 88, held jointly by the Ó Sé brothers, Tomás and Marc, and looks virtually certain to break it now.

"He's selfless, determined and very ambitious. He has a great passion for Gaelic games, he's a credit to his family, to his club Parnells and we are really lucky to have him in Dublin GAA," said Gavin.

"His application and how he works at his game continuously is a great example, not only for the younger players in the squad, but for the older members and for the management team as well."

Gavin also said he expected Jonny Cooper, Michael Darragh Macauley and Paul Flynn - none of whom were in the squad - to be fit for the All-Ireland quarter-final.

For Kildare, the test now is to end the poor record of beaten Leinster finalists in the fourth round of the qualifiers. Not since 2009, when Kildare defeated Wicklow, have the beaten Leinster finalists managed to reach the All-Ireland quarters.

"We will get back to work this week and really give it a good go, be it Armagh or Monaghan. It will be a mighty test,'' said O'Neill, who suggested that the scars caused by a horrific defeat to Dublin could be a reason why beaten Leinster finalists fared so poorly in this decade in fourth round matches.

"I don't think we will have those scars," insisted the Moorefield clubman. "We will see how we can build ourselves up again."

Irish Independent

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