Saturday 26 May 2018

Old heartache and new faces an inspiration for O'Flaherty

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

A WEEK ago he was being quizzed about what it was like to be kicked to the curb by the stampede of Kildare's eager new young guns.

Yet Morgan O'Flaherty (29), who replaced younger brother Eoghan against Offaly, finds himself back in, named among the starters for their latest clash with the old enemy.

U-21s may now be snapping up Kildare starting places, but O'Flaherty replaces the injured Ollie Lyons in defence tomorrow. He also started in their last two championship games against the Leinster champs.

Ask him if it's intimidating to walk out and hear the Hill at full volume and he shakes his head and grins. "My first time was the 2009 Leinster final. It's the bigger teams you want to be putting yourself up against. I'm relishing it," says the civil engineer from Carbury.

This is only Kildare's third SFC clash with the Dubs in his six-year involvement and he's expecting it to be as dramatic as the other two. He recalls that controversial one-point defeat in 2011, when Andriu MacLochlainn was judged to have fouled Bernard Brogan and Dublin nicked it with a last-gasp free.

"Eamonn (Callaghan) got a late goal and maybe a point and we got level, but, where other teams would have panicked, Dublin didn't. Stephen (Cluxton) kicked a short kick-out and they came straight up and got a free. They showed their composure and their experience.

ADVANTAGE

"We were caught on the hop. We got ourselves back into it (from six points down) and just fell asleep for a split second," he concedes.

Many argue that their 2009 loss to the Blues was even worse, when they leaked goals in the early minutes yet scored 0-18 and still lost with a one-man advantage.

That, in particular, hurt, he admits, as it was their only Leinster final appearance under Kieran McGeeney. Yet he insists the provincial title, not Dublin, should be the measure of this Kildare side.

"It's not about the Dubs, it's about silverware. We haven't beaten a top-two or three team over the last few summers," O'Flaherty accepts.

"It's not that we don't have belief, but (we need) one big performance, one big result and it can only be a stepping stone to greater things for Kildare and for this group."

A few niggles found him out of the team at the start of the season but, despite the U-21s going so well, staying motivated wasn't an issue.

"It's pretty easy. We look on it as a challenge," he says.

"The U-21s are adding a lot to the squad in their freshness and belief and confidence. They probably keep you young. They're in the thick of the slagging all the time. You can't say too much without them getting in your ear and letting you have it," he laughs.

"But I wouldn't still be here if I didn't think I could improve as a footballer."

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport