Sunday 25 February 2018

Reaction to heavy defeat to Kingdom is there for all to see in Kildare system

Fergal Conway of Kildare in action against Graham Guilfoyle of Offaly - the Lilywhites face Mayo today. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Fergal Conway of Kildare in action against Graham Guilfoyle of Offaly - the Lilywhites face Mayo today. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

During the week some footage emerged of the last time Kildare and Mayo met in the championship.

British Pathe captured the action from the 1935 All-Ireland semi-final accompanied by an impossibly plummy commentator.

Kildare were in the autumn of a golden era at the time and would win that game, before losing the final to Cavan. They wouldn't return to the big dance for another 63 years and the two sides hadn't been drawn together since until this week.

But they come together again in Castlebar this afternoon. It's not too long since Kildare, under Kieran McGeeney, were kings of the qualifiers, while in the past there has been something about the back door that doesn't seem to sit with well with the Mayo soul.

However, it is with a certain amount of angst that Kildare people will watch their side suit up today. It's the first championship meeting with a heavyweight since last year's demolition at the hands of Kerry in Croke Park and the reverberations of that result are still felt and seen today.

As a direct result of that game, Kildare have made defensive security a priority under new manager Cian O'Neill.

It doesn't come naturally to the Lilies, says former forward Tadhg Fennin, but it's something that Kildare people are willing to try to ensure there are no more days like last year's All-Ireland quarter-final.

"There's a general feeling in the county that that Kerry game was a watershed moment," Fennin offers.

"I think Kildare people are happy to set up with a system that means that sort of things won't happen again. Of course it takes time to bed in and it means you might struggle at the other end. But if you're being honest, Kerry could have had another three or four goals that day.

"I think it has affected the mentality of people here. They still talk about the Kerry game. Kildare had nobody to slow the thing down or be cynical or take a black card. When the floodgates opened there was no one there to close at least one of them."

The logic is plain to see but the system has not been without its teething problems. While they kept Wexford to eight points, they managed just nine themselves.

Against Westmeath, a scoreless period of 28 minutes in the second half proved their undoing. There was a return towards a more traditional style against Offaly last weekend but Fennin expects the Lilies to try and shut up shop early on in Castlebar.

"They were a little bit more orthodox against Offaly but they were at home and could probably afford to be a little bit more positive but the concession of 2-14 is a worry.

"Historically Kildare wouldn't have played that way but look better counties than Kildare have tried to put these sort of systems in place and taken longer to get used to them so it takes time for players to get used to them.

"I expect them to try and frustrate Mayo early on and if they are still in the game with 20 minutes to go then who knows?"

Fennin sees the core of a good team emerging and believes that whatever else happens out west they need to deliver a gutsy performance.

"There are some talented lads there. There is the core of something there and I don't think they have quite produced what they are capable of yet.

"It's been a bit of a mixed bag to be honest this year. The league final was a setback because we looked to be in control.

"Against Wexford, they got over the line and I just think against Westmeath, they were caught a little for experience. Having played in the Leinster final last year, I just think Westmeath had a little bit more know-how. And that is ultimately what got them over the lines.

"Paul Cribbin is a big loss. He was our best player last year. Daniel Flynn is very important too and he's out. They'd be massive additions.

"Look Mayo are in new territory and Kildare aren't expected to win and this game will bring them on a bit.

"I think most people would say that if Mayo were vulnerable, it was probably last weekend when you are just trying to get back on the horse.

"And I think Fermanagh showed where they could be got at. But by the second half, they were dominant and looked a lot like their old selves and a team that will be playing in Croke Park again before the year is out.

"Look it was a little like this last year when they went and beat Cork. I'm not saying that's going to happen here but it's important they keep going.

"When Offaly got level last weekend, they kept their heads and dug it out. Whatever else, it's important they show the same bit of character this weekend."

Irish Independent

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