Saturday 20 January 2018

Lilywhites defiant on O'Byrne selection

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

KILDARE have denied that they are deliberately fielding a 'junior' team for tonight's rescheduled Bord na Mona O'Byrne Cup final against DCU in Portlaoise (7.30).

But they do have a significantly experimental line-up and will also be without manager Kieran McGeeney.

Kildare's starters will include just four of the team that started last week's Allianz League loss to Monaghan, and the side will not even be managed by McGeeney, who will be abroad.

"This is a rearranged fixture and when management gave the lads their schedule at the start of the season, they gave them this weekend off and a lot of them are away," team spokesman Morgan O'Callaghan explained yesterday.

That includes McGeeney, and it means that Tony Kelly, the county's junior manager, is taking charge. John Doyle, Emmet Bolton and Mikey Conway are all unavailable as they are on duty for Leinster on Sunday.

Of the rest of the Lilywhites' regular starters, only All Star Mick Foley, Eamonn Callaghan, Hugh McGrillen, Alan Smith, Ken Donnelly and Karl Ennis are involved.

Donnelly will start his second successive game as he continues his recovery from a cruciate ligament injury and Callaghan will be team captain.

Reserve 'keeper Robbie Eyres is between the posts and Paddy Dunne, one of the stars of Athy's 2011 senior championship success, starts in midfield alongside Confey's Conor Feeney. Des Lawlor of St Laurence's also gets his first start.

They face a DCU team that blitzed DIT by 10 points mid-week to reach the Sigerson Cup semi-finals, despite being without Michael Murphy and holding Mayo's Robert Hennelly, Sligo's David Kelly and Roscommon's Cathal Cregg on their bench.

Kildare were one of the counties to suffer under a new rule change regarding eligibility for the county junior team made by Central Council last weekend.

The Lilywhites junior team has proved a valuable nursery for some of their senior panellists in recent years but the rule change means that Kildare, Dublin and Meath can only field players from junior and intermediate clubs in this year's county junior teams.

With no win from their first two Allianz National League games, Kildare face arch-rivals Meath in their next NFL game on Saturday, March 3 and have already lined up a tough challenge match, against Kerry in Ballymacelligott tomorrow week.

Elsewhere, Johnny Murtagh's bid to switch county allegiance and line out for Louth's footballers this year has failed. The former-Armagh footballer, who has also played championship for New York, now plays his club football with Parnells in Dublin.

He had sought a transfer to the Wee County on the basis that he was born in Louth and it was his father's home county.

But Croke Park officials have told him he can only play for Armagh or Dublin (on the basis of where he is playing his club football) and he has accepted that his transfer bid is over.

KILDARE (SF v DCU) -- R Eyres; S Bergin, H McGrillen, D Barker; K Murnaghan, M Foley, K Ennis; C Feeney, P Dunne; C McDonnell, E Callaghan, T McCann; A Smith, K Donnelly, D Lawlor.

Irish Independent

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