Sunday 21 October 2018

Squad depth seals win but Lilies must raise the bar

Kildare 1-16 Longford 1-13

Longford’s Diarmuid Masterson loses his footing as he is challenged by Kevin Flynn at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Longford’s Diarmuid Masterson loses his footing as he is challenged by Kevin Flynn at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

John Brennan

That it's all about the strength of the squad is one of the oldest lines in the book of sports quotes for a manager trying to keep all his group happy.

But they rang true in Longford's Pearse Park on Saturday night when it was the power of Kildare's bench that saw the Lilies finally come to bloom against a gritty home side.

O'Neill:
O'Neill: "If those two Longford goal chances had gone in during the first half, it might have been a totally different game." Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Kildare sub Chris Healy got the decisive score of this second round All-Ireland qualifier, the 72nd minute goal that settled the contest.

Kevin Feely sprang from the sideline to score a great point and to take a towering mark just as Longford were trying to get back into the match.

And two more replacements, David Slattery and Johnny Byrne, made several lung-busting runs that helped finally break the brave Longford resistance.

Triumph

In stamina-sapping heat, it was always going to be the team with the better reserves to call on that would triumph.

Donal McElligott of Longford is tackled by Paul Cribbin, left, and Fergal Conway of Kildare. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donal McElligott of Longford is tackled by Paul Cribbin, left, and Fergal Conway of Kildare. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

And when you have a small pick like Longford, you just cannot carry the absences of key forwards James McGivney (suspension) and Rian Brady (injury) in the circumstances.

How they were missed as Longford went 19 minutes in the second half, from the 56th to the 75th, without scoring.

Yet it was still, in Wellington's words about Waterloo, "a damned close run thing".

Kildare never led until 30 seconds from the end of normal time. And, a couple of times, as the teams traded points for most of the match, Longford pulled two points clear.

Seán McCormack of Longford in action against Kevin Flynn of Kildare. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Seán McCormack of Longford in action against Kevin Flynn of Kildare. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

However, they could never stretch it to three or four - to the point where Kildare might get jittery. And eventually those substitutions told in Kildare's favour.

"It had to be a big factor in the game," admitted Kildare boss Cian O'Neill (right).

"We're playing again next Saturday and, if we win that, we'll be out the following Saturday. We are going to need everybody.

"Kevin (Feely) and the medical staff worked so hard for him to be able to give us even ten minutes in this match.

Liam Connerton of Longford shoots under pressure from James Murray and Kevin Flynn, right, of Kildare. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Liam Connerton of Longford shoots under pressure from James Murray and Kevin Flynn, right, of Kildare. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"We hoped not to have to use him,"O'Neill added. "But we had to. If those two Longford goal chances had gone in during the first half, it might have been a totally different game. We've a lot of work to do for next week."

Despite being the bigger team, Kildare managed to cough up a lot of ball to good Longford tackling. They were also, despite having the excellent Eoin Doyle at centre-back, vulnerable to swift runs through the middle from Longford players coming from deep.

There are teams left in the qualifiers draw who would make hay with the scoring chances Longford had here, but Kildare got there in the end.

Healy's goal, off a swift counter-attack, was the crucial strike two minutes into six of added time.

Even then Robbie Smyth got a goal for Longford to give them hope with still two minutes to be played.

But that was when Feely plucked that ball from the blue sky for the Boys in White and the day was saved.

Kildare go on, but there is work to be done, and a lot of football to be played, before the Super 8s hover into view.

 

 

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