Monday 26 February 2018

O'Neill set to plot a more conservative Kildare gameplan for Dubs

O’Neill: Expecting difficult challenge. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
O’Neill: Expecting difficult challenge. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Cian O'Neill has hinted that he will put a more defence-minded team on the pitch in Croke Park in Sunday's Leinster final clash with Dublin.

Having watched his side comfortably dismiss the challenge of Meath in a very open Leinster semi-final in Tullamore, the Kildare boss is making no secret of the fact that his side will have to alter their game-plan for their showdown with the All-Ireland champions, given their ability to rack up huge scores.

The Moorefield clubman reckons his players won't have encountered anything like this Dublin team by the time the game throws in at 4pm on Sunday.

"We've been playing quite well this year, obviously we've had a few speed bumps along the road, up in Derry and the league final where we under-performed, but by and large we've been fairly happy with how we've performed in each match," he said.

"Now we've never met anything like the level that Dublin can play to and to be fair we've never met a Division 1 team yet (this year) so that has to be factored in.

"But we've invested a lot of time, energy, hard work in getting our game-plan right that suits the players that we have, which is a uniquely different squad to what we had last year.

"Will we be more defensive minded? Of course we will. Will we need to put in 20 or 30pc more intensity? Of course we will. That won't change, of course you will. You're playing the All-Ireland champions, two-time champions, but we'll still play attacking football.

"I suppose the real challenge will be to get the balance right between the two.

"You certainly can't leave any of your defenders or your defensive line exposed against a team like Dublin, so we're obviously going to work really hard on that.

"But we're still going to play the type of football that has made some progress for us and for the county this year."

O'Neill has made notable progress in his time in charge. Having taken over Kildare as a Division 3 side for the 2015 campaign, they will play their football in the top flight next spring. Sunday also represents their first Leinster final appearance since 2009.

But O'Neill pointed to his side's defeat to Galway in the Division 2 league final as their 'Red Sea' moment.

"To be fair to Galway they didn't play their best match either. We just played worse than they did and they came out on top.

"You'd like to think your opposition won't have a good day and you will have a good day and you'll catch them.

"I don't think either of us played to our potential that day. 

"But I think we learned a lot. For me, that was our Red Sea moment.

"I think in every season, there is a Red Sea moment, where it's almost a light-bulb moment, whereby player, management, backroom team all wake up to some type of realisation, whether it's part of your gameplan or attitude or what you need to do in training.

"And I think the team really tightened up after that and we realised that we had some good runs, some good wins in Division 2, but Galway were the best team we played by some distance in that final and we came up short.

"And they still weren't a Division 1 team. So I think that kind of was a reality that dawned on us."



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Irish Independent

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