Monday 23 April 2018

Lilies bloom as Red rose wilts in summer heat

Kildare's Cathal McNally up against Cork's Barry O'Driscoll
Kildare's Cathal McNally up against Cork's Barry O'Driscoll
Eugene McGee

Eugene McGee

Kildare football followers usually wrap themselves in euphoria at the drop of a hat and often with no great reason but sure what's wrong with that.

On Saturday night, they were definitely entitled to share in the euphoria for a few important reasons. First of all, their players played tremendous quality football from start to finish and scored an impressive 1-22. But, more importantly for people who like to cling to statistics, this was the first time since the Mick O'Dwyer era in Kildare that they beat a top-class team in the championship.

The importance of that fact should not be overlooked and for the much-maligned - in Kildare - Jason Ryan this is one of the biggest benefits of this result. I have rarely seen so many Kildare players do well consistently over the full period of a big championship game this past decade.

The arrival of injury-free players at long last has changed the dynamic of the team, players like Tommy Moolick, Niall Kelly and Paul Cribbin for example who garnered a remarkable 33 possessions in this game. Could he be the new midfield dynamo to replace people like Dermot Earley or Willie McCreery in the past?

Those three were ringleaders in a team of leaders such as you rarely see in white-jerseyed players. Of course detractors can claim that Cork were a beaten docket before they ever set foot in Semple Stadium after their two disastrous results against Kerry over the previous 14 days and that is certainly a valid point. The early departure of Alan O'Connor through injury meant Cork conceded the midfield battle for the remainder of the game but the overriding impression I got of Cork was that they were mentally and physically tired.

But this was Kildare's day because of the quality of football and the utter determination they showed for the battle that took place throughout the game.

Kildare manager Jason Ryan
Kildare manager Jason Ryan

One possible source of trouble for Kildare as they face Kerry the next day was the number of goal chances at close range that Cork still managed to create but blew most of them through their own ineptness and the ability of Kildare to get bodies back in time. It will not be as easy against Kerry but that is for another day.

There are a lot of young players on this Kildare side and meeting Kerry before a big crowd in Croke Park will be a vital part of their football education. There has been damn all to smile about in Kildare in 2015 but Saturday's splendid performance has changed all that. That's the sort of miracle that Gaelic football can produce now and then!

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