Tuesday 24 October 2017

McGeeney hails team's character after Earley injury

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Kieran McGeeney has hailed the character in his side after they came from six points down early on to book an All-Ireland semi-final place without Dermot Earley.

McGeeney believes Kildare have learned from setbacks that they were unable to recover from in previous quarter-finals in 2008 and 2009.

"Against Cork two years ago we gave them a seven-point lead, but maybe hadn't the know-how to claw it back. We missed a penalty that day too," said McGeeney. "Last year we started well and then maybe succumbed to a few things that happened throughout that game. We just didn't have the finishing touch.

"Today the boys showed real character. We lost Emmet (Bolton) before the Tyrone game last year, when we were already without Mikey Conway. Those things hit a team hard but today we lost Dermot and the boys stood up.

"They put their bodies on the line, and that's what you need against a team like Meath, who are a hard, tough physical team. We were losing the battle at different stages but the boys stuck at it."

There was no immediate prognosis about Earley's knee injury, but McGeeney, no stranger to battling the odds with debilitated knees himself, is confident he'll be fine.

Understandably, he saw the second goal from Alan Smith as a defining moment. "It was a great response. We scored a goal and, you have to give credit to Meath, I think they hit four unanswered points after that, especially a point of the season from Joe Sheridan, 55 yards out on the sideline," he said. "We hadn't been getting the ball into our inside line, we worked on that and today we got the goals we haven't been getting. It was good to get it."

As to the fall of all four provincial champions in the quarter-finals, McGeeney believes teams are adapting better to the stigma of losing in their provinces.

"In 2001, when the qualifiers started, people found it difficult to get beaten and bounce back, but now it's a natural thing. You have that ability to not treat defeat as the be-all and end-all. Now it's a learning process."

The Meath manager, Eamonn O'Brien, is against the concept of a second chance.

"My view is that I don't like to see teams who are beaten coming back through," he said. "I don't know how you do it, but you probably need to restructure the provinces because I think only winners should be coming through into an All-Ireland quarter-final. I'm saying that as on principle, rather than about any of the teams that have won this weekend."

O'Brien detected no adverse effect from the Leinster final fallout. "If that was the case, it would have happened at the beginning of the game," he said, "but we started brilliantly I thought and it's just that we weren't able to keep going and to some extent the same happened to us here in the first match against Laois."

Irish Independent

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