Wednesday 21 February 2018

Veteran John Doyle insists Kildare's luck starting to turn as Lillies gear up for Leinster and All-Ireland Championships

Kieran McGeeney. Photo: Sportsfile
Kieran McGeeney. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

FIVE years into his Kildare project and, whisper it, things look to be coming together for Kieran McGeeney.

The Lilies have made the last eight of the championship in each of those seasons, but at times they have been plain unlucky in their quest for Leinster and All-Ireland honours.

Injuries to the likes of Dermot Earley, Daryl Flynn and Mikey Conway have played their part. On other occasions, high-profile decisions -- like the one to allow Benny Coulter's goal to stand for Down in the 2010 All-Ireland semi-final -- have gone against them.

Other reasons for their failure to join football's elite have been offered up.

McGeeney never seemed to put much stock in the theory, but the lack of a trophy of any significance was held up as a shortcoming until last month's NFL Division 2 final win over the form side in the country, Tyrone.

But it was their profligacy in front of the posts and an inability to hit the net that have been much more serious shortcomings.

Last year, the Lilies forward line came in for some stinging criticism after racking up 35 wides in their first two championship games, but Kildare boasted the most prolific attack in the top two divisions this spring.

The goals started to flow, too. After a slow start, Kildare hit nine goals in their last four league games, a significant turnaround for a side that previously hadn't managed to find the net from play since their second-round qualifier win over Laois the previous July.

And, although Seanie Johnston has never scored a championship goal, could yet add further firepower to a Kildare attack that, with Conway orchestrating, is starting to find its rhythm.

For veteran John Doyle, there has been no major change in McGeeney's approach to spark their impressive form in 2012, though he does believe the Lilies' luck is turning.

"I don't think (McGeeney) has really (changed much)," he said.

"You might look back and say, 'why didn't it work other years?'. But we probably got a bit of luck and he has introduced a few young lads that have added a different dimension. A few injuries have cleared up too.

"Throughout the league we probably had different occasions where we had a bit of luck and you need that in any sport. That night in Navan (against Meath) we were probably a little bit lucky to get away with a win and we kept it going for the rest of the league."

Doyle's role with Kildare has changed again this year. After spending last season in midfield, he has operated more in the half-forward line, removed from his more familiar spot in the full-forward line, while Conway and Eoghan O'Flaherty have also taken over the free-taking duties.

"I'd have my own ideas of where I want to play, but you have to fit into the team and what Kieran wants. That responsibility has spread through the team," he said.

"It doesn't matter whose leather the ball leaves as long as it goes between the sticks. Mikey and Eoghan have been doing that really well and that's the most important thing. You're being put under pressure from the lads coming off the bench too, so to be in the team is the big thing for me at the moment."

Kildare have been tipped for a Leinster final showdown with Dublin later this summer and, after their league success, the expectation will gradually build on the Lilies once more. However, Doyle argues that looking past their championship opener against Offaly would be foolish.

"Every year there will be tags put on different teams. Realistically you don't get too involved in it and you worry about the challenge that's in front of you," he said.

"People outside, like journalists and supporters, will have their own spin on it. We have learned to our detriment in the past that if you start looking ahead of yourself you are in trouble. The most important game for us is Offaly. If we get over that we'll look at the next challenge.

"Football is strange. You ask people to call it and the majority of people would say, 'Kildare will win that'. But you have to win it on the day.

"Rory McIlroy can sink 99 out of 100 putts, but on that one day he can miss it. We have to go out and perform. It's a local derby and Offaly have always raised their game for Kildare. We'll be happy if at the final whistle we have one point to spare -- that's all it has to be.

"Offaly have nothing to lose with no one giving them a chance. That's the position we'd love to be in."

Irish Independent

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