Monday 18 December 2017

O'Rourke handed chance to haunt shaken Lilywhites

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

KILDARE'S football summer took another unwelcome twist when they were drawn to meet Louth in the qualifiers on Saturday week.

Manager Kieran McGeeney had already described the task of picking up his demoralised team after their devastating 16-point defeat by Dublin as "the toughest two weeks" of his six-year management.

Since his arrival in late 2008, Kildare have not lost a qualifier, but things didn't get any easier with yesterday's second-round draw.

Kildare not only drew the team that sensationally knocked them out of the 2010 Leinster championship (1-22 to 1-16, in Navan) but Louth are also managed by Aidan O'Rourke.

O'Rourke is a former Armagh team-mate of McGeeney's and was once his right-hand man as part of the Lilywhites' back-room team.

He spent two years as a Kildare selector before moving on to Down and then taking over the Louth job last year. So O'Rourke's experience and contacts in the 'short-grass county' means that he will have a lot of valuable inside information on Kildare.

His Louth side also racked up an impressive 10-point defeat of Laois this summer before getting pipped by Wexford next time out in Leinster. They accounted for Antrim in the first round of the qualifiers at the weekend.

The only break Kildare got yesterday was that they didn't draw Tyrone. They also got home advantage and Newbridge, ruled out of hosting qualifiers last summer, has been passed fit to hold the game.

However, with St Conleth Park's capacity currently set at 7,500, it will almost certainly be an all-ticket affair.

The second-round qualifiers draw also threw up two reprieves from this summer's Ulster championship, a second all-Leinster clash and one other unfortunate flash of deja-vu for Roscommon.

Down's defeat of Derry (2-17 to 1-15) was regarded as one of the most attractive games of the summer and the sides have now been drawn to meet again, in Derry's Celtic Park, this Saturday.

Peter Canavan's Fermanagh, buoyed up by beating Division 1 side Westmeath last week, are also getting another shot at Cavan, but they have to travel for Saturday week's rematch.

It's groundhog day too for Roscommon, who face the difficult task of taking on Tyrone in the qualifiers for the third successive season.

Two years ago they lost to them in the fourth round in Croke Park (3-19 to 1-14) and they also went down to them (1-16 to 0-8) in Dr Hyde Park in the second round last year.

Tyrone are coming off a 22-point victory over Offaly, but the Rossies, at least, have home advantage again on Saturday.

Mick O'Dwyer is also set for a blast from the past as his Clare side have been drawn against Laois, the county he memorably led to Leinster glory in 2003.

With the Banner already lined up to meet the Laois hurlers in this weekend's SHC qualifiers, the Central Competitions Control Committee have put the two games together on a double-bill in Ennis on Saturday, starting with the hurling at 3.0 and the football at 5.0.

The second round of the football qualifiers also threw up another all-Leinster tie as Longford and Wexford face off in Wexford Park on Saturday week, while Leitrim's Connacht semi-final replay defeat to London has left them with a tough draw too.

They face Armagh in Carrick on Saturday week – the Orchard County are coming off a 25-point victory over Wicklow.

ALL IRELAND SFC QUALIFIERS

Round 2 (extra-time if necessary)

Saturday, July 6

Galway v Waterford, 2.30, Salthill

Clare v Laois, 5.0, Ennis

Derry v Down, 5.0, Celtic Park

Roscommon v Tyrone, 6.0, Dr Hyde Park

Saturday, July 13

Longford v Wexford, 2.0, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park

Leitrim v Armagh, 5.0, Carrick-on-Shannon

Kildare v Louth, 7.0, Newbridge

Cavan v Fermanagh, 7.0, Kingspan Breffni Park

Irish Independent

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