Lilywhites told to make most of qualifiers or face long summer in shade
KILDARE selector Niall Carew has called on the Lilywhites grab their chance at redemption with a prolonged run in the qualifiers, starting with a win over Antrim at Newbridge on Saturday.
With the county still reeling with the manner of their shock Leinster championship loss to Louth, Carew wants the squad to use that defeat as motivation ahead of the clash with Liam Bradley's Saffrons.
"We went to the well too many times in that game," Carew said. "Every time we landed a few points or cut the gap, we'd let them back in for a goal. We made life hard for ourselves and they finished stronger than us too. It was obviously very disappointing and a big blow."
Kildare haven't embraced the qualifiers since their inception in 2001 but Carew senses a renewed enthusiasm for the back door this time around.
"We came together on the Monday after the game and set out our stall as to what we wanted to achieve in the qualifiers.
"I don't think there was any complacency on our part (against Louth).
"You can tell lads how good the opposition are all you want, but I suppose, deep down, you don't know what they are thinking. But we haven't won anything in so long so there shouldn't be any complacency."
Kildare have since beat Offaly in a challenge match with management pleased with the effort and application on display.
However, veteran Anthony Rainbow looks set to miss out on the tie after picking up a foot injury, while David Whyte is also unavailable after deciding against appealing a four-week ban that was handed down by the CCCC retrospectively in the wake of the Louth game. Mikey Conway and Rob Kelly are long-term absentees with knee injuries.
There is better news for manager Kieran McGeeney as talisman Dermot Earley, who has struggled with a knee cartilage problem this season, is set to feature from the start after being sprung from the bench against Louth, while Ken Donnelly is likely to be listed among the substitutes.
"The good thing about sport and the back door is that there is always a chance to redeem yourself. We have Antrim at home and we want to start there. They are a good side who defend in numbers and like to move the ball quickly," Carew added.
"They have come up in the league in the last two seasons and only lost championship matches last year to Kerry and Tyrone, so there's nothing wrong with that. They are definitely a team on the rise. It's an important game for us because if we lose, it's going to be a very long summer for everyone involved."