Monday 21 January 2019

Kildare and Roscommon face tough task in no man's land

Cian O'Neill:
Cian O'Neill: "We still have a big match to play in two weeks' time". Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

When Cian O'Neill was asked to reflect on the season after Kildare's defeat by Galway last Sunday week, he made it clear that while their championship ambitions were dead, their season was not.

"There can't be any reflections until the year is over. We still have a big match to play in two weeks' time," he replied.

He was referring to Saturday's clash with Kerry in Killarney, a game the home side have to win to have any chance of remaining in All-Ireland contention, whereas a win by even a big margin would not save the Lilywhites.

It's the same for Roscommon against Dublin in Croke Park on Sunday, a mammoth challenge they must take on without the guiding hand of manager Kevin McStay.

He is serving a three-month ban, arising from an altercation with a linesman during the game with Donegal last Saturday week.

Playing a championship game in August with nothing at stake is new in the GAA so it will be interesting to see how Kildare and Roscommon react to the strange challenge.

Kildare have more to play for as a win would take them ahead of Kerry on the Group 1 table.

It would bring a positive end to a season of highs (winning four qualifier ties against Derry, Longford, Mayo, Fermanagh) and lows (losing to Carlow in the Leinster quarter-final and being relegated from Division 1).

Roscommon will finish bottom of Group 2, irrespective of how they fare against Dublin, who are guaranteed to top the table after beating Donegal and Tyrone.

It's a tough proposition for Roscommon, who have taken some heavy beatings in Croke Park over the last two years, including a 21-point trimming by Dublin in the 2017 Allianz League and a 22-point defeat by Mayo last August in the All-Ireland quarter-final replay.

Jim Gavin is conscious that Dublin have an All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday week but he has so much talent at this disposal that there will be no let-up, especially among those players who haven't seen as much action so far as they would like.

Roscommon have lost to Galway, Tyrone and Donegal in three of their last four games, results which don't augur well for a game they could well have done without, especially after their manager was suspended,

Kildare ran Monaghan and Galway close in the first two 'Super 8s' rounds, but it remains to be seen if they have retained the resolve to go flat out in what is a 'dead rubber' for them.

And with Kerry needing to win, not only to have a chance of remaining the All-Ireland race, but also to regain lost ground among their bewildered supporters, it could be a difficult evening for Kildare, especially if they get off to a bad start.

Irish Independent

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