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McGeeney rules out backroom changes

Kieran McGeeney has opted not to introduce fresh blood to his backroom team in the wake of Paul Grimley's departure from Kildare more than four months ago.

Instead McGeeney and his remaining selector, Niall Carew, will officially go it on their own, in what is shaping up to be the former Armagh captain's make-or-break year in Kildare.

McGeeney and Grimley took over Kildare in autumn 2007 and in two seasons they managed to put a very firm structure in place for a tightly knit squad to operate within.

Grimley's departure in the wake of their All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Tyrone, however, threatened to have a destabilising effect given the input he was making.

The one-time assistant to Joe Kernan lives in Armagh and was not prepared for the lengthy travel involved in commuting three times weekly to Kildare.

Grimley subsequently linked up with Monaghan as assistant after spurning a chance to become manager of Armagh.

McGeeney had a look around for a potential replacement but, in the end, was satisfied that himself and Carew, with the right support team around them, could continue on.

However, there is the possibility that Alan Barry, the current U-21 manager and former midfielder, could be involved later in the year once the Lilywhites' interest in the U-21 championship is complete.

So far they have resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to a squad that served them well in '09, coming close to winning a Leinster title before exiting to Tyrone in a quarter-final that they lost by just a point.

Anthony Rainbow, Gaelic football's longest-serving player, has committed to the cause once again after extending an inter-county career that stretches back to 1992.

Rainbow had indicated that '09 would be his last involvement but he has made himself available again and, despite the limited exposure he can expect to have at 38 years of age, his presence will no doubt fortify morale.

In all, six of last year's squad are not involved for a variety of reasons. Mikey Conway is still recovering from a cruciate ligament injury he sustained in last year's qualifier against Wicklow while one of the replacement goalkeepers, Ellistown's Philip Hennessy, is also out with the same injury.

Eamonn Callaghan, who made such an impact as a half-forward throughout last season, has been ordered to rest a groin problem for up to six months, meaning he could miss most of the league campaign.

Two more players fringe players, Declan Brennan and Eoin O'Flaherty, have elected to concentrate on their studies in the year ahead while Michael Hartnett has emigrated to Canada.


Another squad member, Keith Cribben, is understood to have picked up a bad ankle injury in recent weeks.

McGeeney has introduced three players for now, with David Lyons the most significant addition. Lyons has played full-back in the past but has missed most of McGeeney's two years in charge because of travel, despite some fleeting involvement in the '08 championship.

His return could give Kildare options in a full-back line that did not always convince in '09.

Cappagh's Ronan Walsh and Confey's Hughie Lynch have been added to the squad as they prepare for their opening match against UCD in Newbridge on Sunday.

McGeeney's desire not to shake things up too dramatically will reassure Kildare supporters that they are still on the right track and are now as short as 9/4 to collect their first Leinster title in 10 years.

Kildare spent almost two weeks between November and December in San Francisco and New York, having once again staged a successful white-collar boxing night in Naas to help raise funds for the trip. In New York they played a local selection in a challenge match.

Meanwhile, in Munster the McGrath Cup programme of games postponed because of the weather last weekend have been refixed for this Sunday.

Kerry's game with Tralee IT will go ahead at Austin Stack Park; Tipperary will take on UL at Sean Treacy Park in Tipperary town; while Limerick and Waterford IT throw-in at Kilmallock. All games are timed for 2.0.

Irish Independent