McGeeney pleased by Kildare's early statement of intent
You won't hear any bold public declarations emanating from Kildare's football camp but there is a solemn promise among themselves to deliver silverware in 2010. Anything that gleams is a recognised target.
This O'Byrne Cup first-round fixture in Newbridge yesterday was always going to be robustly contested as UCD, with a Sigerson Cup opener against DCU in three weeks' time, faced a Kildare side with a season of promise rolling out in front of them.
If this is to be Kildare's year then they have to find the winning habit. Twelve months ago DCU dumped them out of this competition but the desire to avoid an exit at the hands of another Dublin university was evident in the opening eight minutes as the home side reeled off six unanswered points.
Kildare's progress wasn't always smooth and in the first half a Francis McGee goal closed the gap back to the minimum. But there was intent in every Kildare kick, challenge and move they made.
Kieran McGeeney had served notice of this intent beforehand by starting 11 of the 20 players that featured against Tyrone in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final defeat. Padraig O'Neill's second-half introduction made that 12.
It's another indication of how tight McGeeney wants to keep it this season. There is no wild experimentation, no gambling with personnel. What they have, they hold and they'll work with it.
As McGeeney pointed out afterwards, they have 11 or 12 games to get it right before the championship and they don't intend wasting those opportunities.
"I'm in the minority in this but being over-played or burnt out, I can't understand," McGeeney said. "You're on about 11 or 12 games for your county. The way I would look at that is, if they were fit to play we would have played everybody. If you're playing well at training you'll be picked. I'm not going to pick anyone just to use a squad or on reputation."
Winning every game they play has been their approach in the past two seasons according to McGeeney, but the underlying conviction in Kildare this year is that there must now be tangible reward.
"I would hope that they want to win every game. If you look at the mentality of other teams, Kerry or Tyrone, regardless of what (match) they play they want to win it. That's the mentality you're looking for. It doesn't mater if you have four months' training behind you or four days. It doesn't guarantee you anything but that's the way we want to approach it. That's the way we have approached it for the last two years."
For McGeeney, the only frustration on the day was the efforts to come to terms with the latest set of experimental rules foisted upon his players.
The mark, not what it is officially known as, particularly perplexes him, as does the problems with differentiating between what constitutes a proper fisted pass and what doesn't.
"I can't understand the mark. I don't even understand what they are thinking," he said. "For a game that they say is stop-start, they do something else that stops and starts. If the player makes the mark it's not up to him if he takes it or not, it's up to the referee so that's a bit funny.
"I don't see why one skill is being rewarded over another. Why, if somebody blocks the ball don't they give them possession, why a catch? It's usually people who already physiologically have all the attributes, a player 6'4" or 6'5", but I suppose there are smarter men than me up there making the rules so we'll have to stick with them.
"I know they want more people catching but if they want more catches they'll have more people trying to stop those catches."
Robbie Kelly's performance from centre-forward was a reason for cheer as he landed eight points, five from frees, with some unerring accuracy. Kildare lost Dermot Earley to a second yellow card when he lashed out at John O'Loughlin at the second-half throw-in, but their influential midfielder's absence was disguised well by a great work-rate throughout the side.
Midway through the second half the numerical advantage for UCD was lost when Dublin's Rory O'Carroll was dismissed on a second yellow card.
Gary White, Morgan O'Flaherty, Mark Scanlon, Daryl Flynn and Ronan Sweeney all supplemented Kelly as they protected and built on a 0-9 to 1-4 lead.
UCD featured eight Dublin players including current hurler David O'Callaghan, who showed up well in a threatening attack where McGee and Ciaran Lyng were prominent.
Afterwards UCD's Dave Billings commented on Kildare's physical strength and suggested that they'll be a significant entity again in 2010 if they "add finesse to their football".
Scorers -- Kildare: R Kelly 0-8 (5f), R Sweeney 0-4 (4f), D Earley 0-2, D Whyte, K Donnelly 0-1 each. UCD: F McGee 1-4 (0-2f), C Lyng 0-3 (2f), D O'Connor 0-2, D O'Callaghan, M McGowan 0-1 each.
Kildare -- T Corley; A Rainbow, G White, A McLochlainn; E Bolton, M Scanlon, M O'Flaherty; D Flynn, E Earley; D Whyte, R Kelly, K Cribbin; K Donnelly, W Heffernan, R Sweeney. Subs: R Walsh for Bolton (46), D Lyons for Rainbow (56), P O'Neill for Whyte (62).
UCD -- M Savage (Dublin); P Kelly (Kildare), C Forde (Galway), M Fitzsimons (Dublin); M McGowan (Donegal), C O'Sullivan (Dublin), Rory O'Carroll (Dublin); N Corkery (Dublin) C Murphy (Dublin); F McGee (Longford), Ross O'Carroll (Dublin), P Kelly (Longford); D O'Callaghan (Dublin), J O'Loughlin (Laois), C Lyng (Wexford). Subs: J Fitzpatrick (Down) for Ross O'Carroll (41), D O'Connor (Leitrim) for Murphy (45), T Warburton (Westmeath) for Kelly (50), D St Ledger for McGowan (66).
Ref -- F Kelly (Longford).