Friday 22 March 2019

Kildare on rise but this is a different ball game

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Click to enlarge graphic
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Losing the Leinster final can have serious repercussions for a team's championship health. For the last seven years, the beaten finalists have lost in Round 4 of the qualifiers, leaving Kildare in 2009 as the last to successfully re-mount.

By tomorrow evening, it's a challenge they will almost certainly be facing again.

Obviously Kildare will be primed to make a supreme effort to pull off the shock of the decade but, if they don't it's important that they remain sufficiently competitive to avoid having their confidence reserves completely drained.


Kildare look better equipped now than two years ago to take on a Dublin side that's seeking to extend their run to 19 straight wins in Leinster.

The Lilywhites' Allianz League objective was reached when they secured promotion to Division 1 and they followed up with comprehensive wins over Laois and Meath in the Leinster championship, so all the season's boxes have been ticked so far.

And then along come the All-Ireland champions, fresh from their demolition of Westmeath, a game that proved beyond doubt that if lower-ranked teams take on Dublin in an open contest they will be scattered to the four corners.

Carlow adopted a far more cautious approach and succeeded in frustrating Dublin well into the second-half.

Turlough O'Brien's side eventually lost by 12 points but took enough encouragement from the experience to underpin a successful relaunch in the qualifiers.

Cian O'Neill will have noted the contrast between the Carlow and Westmeath games, making it far more likely that he will set up defensively.

Kildare are ahead of Carlow on all fronts, so when the opportunities for break-outs arise, they will be better-equipped to test Dublin.

Kildare were excellent against Meath, working smoothly through the gears early on and having the game won by half-time, when they led by nine points.

"If we perform as well as we can, we can put it up to any team in the country," said O'Neill.

It was a clear statement of intent about a likely clash with Dublin.

Significantly, O'Neill pointed to a 10-minute spell early in the second-half when Meath dominated Kildare, pointing out that it could be fatal against Dublin.

The Lilywhites will be encouraged by events last Saturday when Meath stretched Donegal to the limit before losing by a point. It makes Kildare's performance look all the impressive.

Dublin have won the last three Leinster finals by 15, 13 and 19 points respectively, margins which were in keeping with their overall superiority in Leinster.

They are still way ahead of most but Kildare have narrowed the divide. To what degree remains to be seen but it's most unlikely to be enough to cause the shock of the season.

Irish Independent

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