Wednesday 21 February 2018

McGeeney facing 'biggest job' yet to revive troops

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

TALK about nothing going your way. There was no chair at the top table for the post-match interview so, after his side's biggest false dawn against the Dubs, Kieran McGeeney had to suffer the ignominy of fetching one out of a corner while the firing squad laid out our digital weapons before him.

His top still bulges with the physique of an inter-county footballer, but underneath, the Kildare boss suddenly looked a shell of a man and described himself as "pretty gutted".

The blows rained down immediately, especially about his decision to stay man-to-man for so long when Dublin were filletting them down the centre.

"You're always going to have numbers back anyway because they attack in numbers there. There is never a problem with the numbers there, it is the contact," he insisted.

"They (referees) are playing this year what I would regard as a slow whistle. There is contact allowed in the game now and you can't just let fellas walk through. I could be very bravado here and give you loads of good headlines but there is not much point."

McGeeney admitted that lifting his side for the qualifiers "will be the biggest job I've had since I've come here." Did you personally get it wrong tactically? Did you learn nothing from that 13-point league defeat?

"I've heard over the last 12 months I'm tactically naive and perhaps I am," he accepted, while arguing it wasn't tactics but his players' tendency to sloppily pass their way into traffic that was the real issue. "But that's twice that Dublin have tanked us in the second half where we're usually better. If it's me that'll soon be found out."

He didn't quibble with the line-ball that yielded Dublin a second goal just before half-time and said the reason Dublin had composure and his team didn't is possibly down to tradition.

"In all sports it comes down to belief and how that can be shattered. That's what tradition can give you. Kildare are constantly being berated they can't play and they've no forwards.

"I've been part of a set-up (as an Armagh player) that had to break through that ceiling too but you have to keep working and believing.

"Four or five of our key players didn't turn up today and I think they know at this stage that they need to be tough on themselves. Courage doesn't exist unless there's fear and at this moment there is angst in Kildare. You need courage to stand up and be counted and the players know that, they're not stupid.

"They're going to get torn apart in the next few days and so am I, but that's life, you just keep coming back.

"It can be tough to take when you're a young fella, reading in the paper that you're no good or you're cowardly or whatever. They're just going to have to learn how to deal with that and bounce back," he added.

Dublin's only problem now will be to try to keep a lid on the hype that will engulf them but, judging by the ice-cool demeanours of Jim Gavin and Stephen Cluxton, it won't be an issue.

Asked if they'd taken any inspiration from the hurlers' skinning of the Cats the night before, Cluxton replied that it was irrelevant because his own team carried the 'Kilkenny' tag.

Was he worried by Kildare's early goal? "It's not so long ago a Kerry team scored a goal against us in an All-Ireland final," Cluxton said.

"The game is played over 70 minutes, you're not going to be able to change what happens in the first two or three, so you've just got to keep going and go about your business."

Jim Gavin was asked, how will he control the hype? "It won't be driven by me, the players will keep it down themselves and they're well used to and accustomed to playing within that environment of expectation on Dublin teams," Gavin insisted. "This year is no different."

Irish Independent

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