Monday 22 January 2018

Kildare must face reality – they don't have players to mount serious title assault

Eugene McGee

Eugene McGee

'Kildare footballers are a bit of a mystery, aren't they?'

If I had a euro for every time I have heard that over the past quarter century I would be a wealthy person and it just shows how little thought many GAA people put into the game of football.

There is no mystery about Kildare. They are simply not producing enough top-quality players to regularly feature at the serious end of the All-Ireland championship.

If ever that was shown up in stark relief it was in Croke Park yesterday when the county suffered one of its worst ever defeats at the hands of a rampant, confident and smart Dublin team.

Kildare, despite getting a dream start and leading by five points after as many minutes, were absolutely wiped off the field and even a cursory look at the statistics, so beloved of team managers nowadays, shows the horror story that unfolded.

Worst of all was that in the second half Kildare managed a meagre four points while Dublin amassed a staggering 2-9 to add to their 2-7 in the first half.

CAPABLE

There is no mystery to solve here. Kildare do not have enough quality players capable of playing at a very high level or adapting to changed conditions during the course of a game.

These are the facts and no amount of training, strength and conditioning or psychological promptings will change that.

Kildare need to produce more quality footballers, starting at underage levels, and thankfully for the county there are signs that such a development is now in place, but it will take a long time.

Dublin were outstanding for nearly all of the game. For a short period early on –when Kildare adopted a new approach of opening up their recent tight handpassing game, spreading the ball out to the wings and then lofting high balls into the allegedly suspect Dublin full-back line – it seemed that something big was about to happen.

The Paddy Brophy goal seemed to be the start of trouble for Dublin. But then regular full-back Rory O'Carroll was switched to mark Brophy and, as quickly as the new Kildare initiative had started, it died a death.

After their initial five-minute burst, Kildare only scored one point in the following 17 minutes as Dublin advanced over their opponents like a tank, crushing all before them.

In a 20-minute blitz Dublin scored 1-7, to which Kildare only managed two points in return, and when Bernard Brogan scored a great goal just before half-time the game was over as a contest.

One of the amazing things in this game was the number of times Kildare players, despite intensive physical conditioning over several years, were shoved out of the way by younger Dublin players with far less such training under their belts.

This would indicate that it is attitude and motivation levels driving the Dublin players on and a lack of the same that is hurting Kildare .

The Dubs were very sharp in the close exchanges, exemplified by how many times they took the ball away from the opponent in possession. This is very demoralising for any player and Kildare suffered badly in that regard yesterday.

Dublin have guts and several key players also show leadership qualities that most of their opponents seem to lack at present. Stephen Cluxton scored four points from placed balls, which is 33pc of the entire Kildare score tally. That's leadership.

Michael Darragh Macauley, despite getting many wallops, never wilted, and was the crucial man in the middle third when the the game was there to be won.

Ciaran Kilkenny played his most productive game so far for Dublin and could be the fulcrum of their side for years to come. And Ger Brennan is an old-style centre-back who is lord and master of his particular domain.

So, Dublin have big players in the right places and have a wide selection of subs who can change the course of a game, such as the direct-running Kevin McManamon.

They will be hard to stop now, but the standard of football in Leinster has declined drastically in recent years and Jim Gavin knows that. Much sterner assignments lie in wait for Dublin.

Irish Independent

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