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Lilies far too powerful for dire Faithful


Ken Casey of Offaly is closed down by Kildare’s Ollie Lyons at Newbridge yesterday

Ken Casey of Offaly is closed down by Kildare’s Ollie Lyons at Newbridge yesterday

Ken Casey of Offaly is closed down by Kildare’s Ollie Lyons at Newbridge yesterday

A place in the Leinster quarter-final will be at stake when this pair next meet on June 16 and, presumably, Offaly will bring more substance to Portlaoise than they did to Newbridge yesterday.

Defeats in January don't define a season but performance levels are always important, a reality which seemed to escape Offaly, whose limp attempt to match Kildare reaped what it thoroughly deserved -- a complete wipe-out.

Offaly scored three goals against Westmeath a week earlier but rarely got close enough to test Kildare goalkeeper Shane Connolly, while they were also hopelessly inept when it came to creating point chances.

They didn't score at all in the first half and managed just two points in the first 30 minutes of the second half before Willie and Alan Mulhall -- their only two scorers -- scored late points.

By then, Kildare were already looking forward to an appetising semi-final clash with Dublin in Newbridge next Sunday but, as if to emphasise their total superiority, they put on a stoppage-time spurt which yielded further points from Morgan O'Flaherty and James Kavanagh.

Having led by 0-10 to 0-0 at half-time, it was understandable that Kildare would drop the tempo which had mesmerised Offaly in the first half, but they still did the basics well enough to ensure the easiest of wins.

"Our structure broke down a wee bit when we made a few changes in the second half but overall it was a very good performance in most respects," said Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney.

The one reservation about Kildare's performance -- and it has something of a history about it -- centred on their score-to-chance ratio. Their final yield of 0-17 was impressive but it could -- and should -- have been a whole lot higher.

They kicked 12 wides and dropped several point attempts short, failings which would have been punished by better opposition. As it was, Offaly were hopelessly ill-equipped for the challenge, losing out all over the pitch.

Brian Darby battled gallantly in defence but, as a unit, Offaly weren't in the same class as Kildare, who injected such a high tempo right from the start that it was pretty obvious from early on that they were poised for victory.

All that remained in doubt was the extent of the success as they swatted Offaly aside with ease. Kildare's pace and precision bewildered Offaly who lost the vast majority of individual battles.

Ollie Lyons, Eoghan O'Flaherty and Tommy O'Neill were superb in the Kildare defence, Ronan Sweeney and Daryl Flynn ruled midfield, while in attack, Alan Smith, James Kavanagh and Tommy Moolick were well on top.

O'Neill produced a man-of-the-match performance which drew praise from his manager, who was also impressed by Moolick and Sweeney.

"Tommy had 31/32 possessions and never gave away one. His tackling was superb too as was Tommy Moolick's. Roly (Sweeney) put in another good performance in the middle of the field too," said McGeeney.

There really was nothing positive for Offaly to take out of this performance so new manager Gerry Cooney, who missed the game due to overseas commitments, has a lot of work ahead of him if Offaly are to hit the Division 3 NFL campaign as promotion contenders.

It's all so different for Kildare who look to be in a very strong position. They were without first-team regulars yesterday, yet looked extremely formidable.

"We're trying to give as many fellas as possible a chance while still putting out a strong team. You're looking at individuals and judging what they have to give," said McGeeney, who also made an interesting point about pre-season games.

"You find at this time of year that fellas who are trying to break into the side often play better than those who are already there. There's more at stake for them -- everyone is trying to nail down a place so you can get a level of performance that you wouldn't necessarily get from your full first team," he said.

So then, all the pointers are positive for Kildare, although it would be unwise to value their share price on the basis of yesterday's win, as the opposition was so poor that most counties would have beaten them. "We know Offaly will be a lot different in the championship," said McGeeney. And while that will be the case, they appear to be starting from a very long way back.

Kildare will learn a lot more about themselves against Dublin this Sunday, an occasion that is likely to test the reduced capacity of St Conleth's Park. "Hopefully, we'll fill this place and have a bit of an atmosphere," said McGeeney.

The Dublin game is coming at precisely the right time for Kildare, who need a bigger challenge than they got in the first two rounds of the O'Byrne Cup.

They are clearly in very good shape physically. Some of their passing moves were so quick and slick that they might have been straight out of the summer catalogue, and while they did waste several chances, a 0-17 yield in January is pretty good shooting.

It was all very impressive as they completely dominated the possession stakes.

Willie Mulhall finally opened Offaly's account in the first minute of the second half, but they didn't score again for another 18 minutes. Truly, a dismal afternoon for Offaly who have three weeks to regain stability for the start of the league.

Scorers -- Kildare: J Kavanagh 0-4 (1f), A Smith, R Sweeney, E O'Flaherty (2f) 0-3 each, M Conway (1f) 0-2, T Moolick, M O'Flaherty 0-1 each. Offaly: W Mulhall, A Mulhall (1f) 0-2 each.

Kildare -- S Connolly; P Kelly, C Fitzpatrick, O Lyons; B Flanagan, T O'Neill, E O'Flaherty; D Flynn, R Sweeney; A Smith, M Conway, T Moolick; J Kavanagh, T O'Connor, K Ennis. Subs: M O'Flaherty for Ennis (46), R Kelly for Flanagan (46), P Dunne for O'Connor (48), H McGrillen for E O'Flaherty (53), C Brophy for Flynn (58).

Offaly -- K Meehan; S Pender, R Dalton, B Darby; D Kelly, P McConway, L Hiney; R Brady, N Smith; G Guilfoyle, A Keenaghan, F Daly; W Mulhall, A Mulhall, K Casey. Subs: G Treacy for Daly (27), D Currams for Casey (27), B Hanamy for Smith (48), K Lynam for Guilfoyle (54), J Keane for Brady (59).

REF -- S Goff (Meath).

Irish Independent