Ryan admits 'buck stops' with Kildare dugoutamid criticism over Meath collapse
Kildare manager Jason Ryan has defended his decision not to pack his defence when it was being over-run by Meath in the first half of the Leinster semi-final.
He has made two changes for tomorrow's do-or-die qualifier in Newry, bringing in Kilcock's Ciaran Fitzpatrick to replace Mick Foley in the full-back line and starting Gary White in midfield in place of Sean Hurley.
But, as the Lilies regroup to try to keep their championship hopes alive, he has stood by his call. "The buck stops with management. We had bodies there," Ryan said of conceding so many goal opportunities to Meath last time out.
"We'd be very much of the belief that, in Division 1 and 2 football, if you bring back an extra defender, the team (opposition) will just carry the ball.
"What are you going to do? Are you going to bring back an extra defender or defenders and allow a team to just run at you?
"Stephen Bray was causing damage, Andrew Tormey was causing damage. You had a situation where if you were bringing back a sweeper it wouldn't have made any difference at all to deal with Damien Carroll, who was involved in both goals and scored two points from play and had two other assists.
"The way we want to play is that we want to be able to have our defenders win their own one-to-one battles," he argued.
Ryan also said he did not feel the need to press the emergency 'sweeper' button because "we were two points down coming in at half-time and that's not panic stations.
"Panic stations is when you're 12 points down eight minutes into the second half, that's when you're really in trouble.
"At that stage we started making lots of changes. At no stage did we bring anybody back, but we started to win more ball.
"We won ball in the middle all the way through but we started to retain possession better, we attacked with pace better and most importantly we started putting more pressure on the opposition," he said of the way they rallied and kept Meath scoreless for 20 minutes. "It didn't go according to plan but we'll learn from it."
With their season hanging by a thread, Kildare now face a side who racked up a huge 4-18 against Leitrim.
By coincidence they actually played Down in a challenge game this summer, in a post-league friendly in Carton House before they opened their respective provincial campaigns.
Ryan pointed to Conor Lafferty and Mark Poland as the Mourne County's dangermen. "We know how mobile they are and it's (about) dealing with their mobility and their large number of bodies at the back and their ability to counter-attack at pace."
He said he's confident that his team have picked themselves up mentally but acknowledged that if they aren't up to scratch then he and his management have to take responsibility.
"I'd say in every game we (management) make mistakes and we would look at our approach to the game.
"We felt our preparation (for Meath) was spot on but the reality was we were flatter than what we were the previous day (against Louth).
"Even at half-time we obviously hadn't addressed things properly because at the start of the second half we went out and they scored 1-4 in nine minutes.
"So it's something that we as a management team are looking to change and hope we can do better. The buck stops with the coaches and your management team."
KILDARE (SF v Down) – M Donnellan; A Fitzpatrick, H McGrillen, O Lyons; E Bolton, F Conway, K Cribbin; T Moolick, G White; C McNally, N Kelly, P O'Neill; E Callaghan, P Fogarty, P Brophy.
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