Monday 23 October 2017

Kildare may get top billing for Johnston debut

Seanie Johnston faces a trip back to his native county
Seanie Johnston faces a trip back to his native county
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The GAA's Central Competitions Controls Committee will this morning consider giving the Cavan v Kildare qualifier a Sunday billing.

Because of the anticipated interest in the match, which will be fixed for Kingspan Breffni Park, the CCCC will weigh up whether a Sunday afternoon slot would prove more attractive and draw in crowds from neighbouring counties like Monaghan and Longford, who are also involved in qualifiers that weekend.

The Munster hurling final and Connacht football final take place that afternoon, however, which could impact on what would be the obvious choice for a live qualifier match that weekend.

Just when Kildare might have thought they could get respite from the whole Seanie Johnston episode, after his hurling cameo for Coill Dubh last Saturday cleared him to play football for the Lilywhites, he is faced with the prospect of perhaps making his debut in his home town against his old colleagues.

It was a bizarre turn of events in the TV3 studios yesterday morning as, for the second successive year, the plum draw came up trumps against considerable odds.

The odds on Louth meeting Meath last year and Cavan meeting Kildare this year were something like 80/1 but it has happened and it has now left Johnston and Kildare in what appears to be a difficult dilemma.

The Kildare management will be conscious of the need to integrate Johnston in a competitive environment as quickly as possible, even if it attracts hostility, and any failure to do so in Cavan of all places may be perceived as a sign of weakness.

It could also potentially galvanise them as they pick up the pieces from a very poor performance against Meath on Sunday.

Kildare have much to reflect on as they come to terms with another failure in Leinster. But their record in qualifiers and the investment in time and effort they have made over the last number of seasons guarantees that they won't go quietly in the All-Ireland.

One of the most surprising aspects of their performance was the absence of pressure they placed on the Meath defenders. It was hard to recall any of Meath's sextet at the back getting blocked down or being placed under sufficient pressure to turn the ball over.

Work rate has been a trademark under Kieran McGeeney's management but it appeared to be lacking, which suggests an underlying complacency they took into the fixture.

Contrary to the general perception, created by Conor Gillespie's apparent dominance, the return from kick-outs broke evenly, with statistics recording 25-24 in favour of Kildare for gaining direct possession.

The other qualifier pairings pale into insignificance beside the obvious appeal of Johnston returning to his home town, where he still works and has so many close links.

Leitrim will consider the visit of Wicklow as one of their best chances to end 11 years of participation in qualifiers without a win.

Longford will also be confident that their fine season can continue unabated against Limerick.

Kerry return to the midlands and a match against Westmeath, three years after their visit to Longford which kickstarted a season that ended with their last All-Ireland title.

second round qualifier draw

Antrim v Galway; Leitrim v Wicklow; Westmeath v Kerry; Roscommon v Tyrone; Longford v Limerick; Cavan v Kildare; Laois v Monaghan; Tipperary v Wexford.

Irish Independent

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