Monday 19 March 2018

'We can put it up to any team in the country' - Dominant Lilywhites power past Royals

Kildare 2-16 Meath 0-13

Kildare's Daniel Flynn celebrates scoring his side's second goal against Meath in Saturday's Leinster SFC semi-final against Meath Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Kildare's Daniel Flynn celebrates scoring his side's second goal against Meath in Saturday's Leinster SFC semi-final against Meath Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Cian O'Neill will hardly have a happier video session than this one.

When he sits down to go through this Leinster semi-final, there won't be too many entries on the debit side of the ledger. Save for a little bit of bad shot selection in the first half, Kildare's report card is pretty much flawless.

Eoin Doyle of Kildare Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Eoin Doyle of Kildare Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Right through the pitch, his side dominated. Defensively Kildare were excellent. Meath kicked 27 points in their last championship outing but by half-time here they had managed just four.

Joe McQuillan let the game flow and didn't blow for a free until the 13th minute but Meath's attack couldn't get into the game.

David Hyland did a superb job of pushing Graham Reilly to the fringes of the game. Reilly hit seven points last time out but he didn't score in Tullamore and was eventually replaced, as was one of Meath's other main threats, Cillian O'Sullivan. Only Donal Lenihan and sub Ruairi O Coileain managed to provide any sort of resistance.

In midfield, Tommy Moolick worked tirelessly and everything Kevin Feely did was laced with class. They made hay on Paddy O'Rourke's kick-outs too. The Meath stopper went long regularly with his restarts but a physically superior Kildare were dominant in the middle third.

Meath manager Andy McEntee at half-time Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Meath manager Andy McEntee at half-time Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Up front the Lilies were strong too, even without Niall Kelly playing to his usual high standards. O'Neill's starting full forward line hit 2-9 from play with his decision to start Paddy Brophy proving to be a good one. Brophy had only recently returned from the AFL and looked like something of a gamble considering how little football he has played since his return. But, like most things Kildare did on Saturday, it proved to be the right decision.

"It's a big step forward because...shocking is probably the word to use, to be a Kildare person and not be in a Leinster final for eight years," O'Neill reflected.

"I was part of that problem, obviously, last year when we failed against Westmeath. Today was an important match for us. It's not the kind of thing you want to say to players before a match.


"You want them to focus on performance but, definitely, from my own perspective, to be there again this year and not jump over that hurdle would have been disappointing and a step back after the League form we showed.

"But, true to form, they put in a massive shift there and they reaped the rewards of all the work they put in all year."

Meath grabbed the first point of the game after 13 seconds but it was the only time they led in the match. Cathal McNally was rampant up front and racked up 1-3 by half-time, his goal coming after Donnacha Tobin slipped. Kildare went in at the break nine points to the good (1-10 to 0-4) but might have been further ahead but for some wayward shooting.

Meath kicked the first four points after half-time to cut the gap to five but that would be as close as they got as Kildare saw the game out in relative comfort. For Meath manager Andy McEntee, the defeat represented a significant set back.

"No excuses. No excuses here. We weren't good enough. We were beaten in most areas of the pitch and everything in the build-up was fine. We just didn't perform on the day. Too many fellas didn't perform on the day and that's what happens. We're not good enough, when we don't perform to our maximum, we're there to be taken."

"You think you are making progress and then you play a team the quality of Kildare you get a good spanking and you have to have a look again and see where you go from here.

Meath head for the back door and despite the manner of this defeat McEntee doesn't think there'll be any problem getting his side focused again.

"But sure what's the option? We don't have any other option. They either want to play this game or they don't want to play this game. We just got to go at it again and try and get ourselves right for the next game."

O'Neill's next game is a Leinster final. Kildare haven't won the provincial title since 2000 and while All-Ireland champions Dublin will be expected to join them in the decider, O'Neill insists his side can live with the best in the country on their day.

"If we perform as well as we can, we can put it up to any team in the country. And I mean that.

"But that means doing it for 75 minutes. That's what the best teams do. Those crackers with Dublin and Mayo, Dublin and Kerry in the semi-finals, they were 75 minute matches, they never dropped for that period.

"And we haven't showed that, even today. There was a 10-12 minute period when Meath really got on top of us.

"That won't work against Dublin, or a Kerry or a Mayo. But I think that, if we really continue to improve and develop, we can be competitive. And, any one day, we've seen it in the last few weeks, there could be a shock there. So I'm all for shocks."

SCORERS - Kildare: D Flynn 1-4, C McNally 1-3, K Feely 0-5 (4f), P Brophy 0-2, E Callaghan, N Flynn (1f) 0-1 each.

Meath: D Lenihan 0-5 (2f), R O Coileain 0-3, B Menton 0-2, J Toher, S McEntee, M Burke 0-1 each.

Kildare: M Donnellan 7; O Lyons 8, M O'Grady 8, D Hyland 8; K Cribbin 6, E Doyle 6, J Byrne 6; K Feely 8, T Moolick 7; F Conway 6, N Kelly 7, D Slattery 6; C McNally 8, D Flynn 8, P Brophy 8 Subs: E Callaghan 6 for Brophy (49), F Dowling 6 for Moolick (59), C Healy 7 for McNally (61), P Kelly 6 for D Hyland (65), N Flynn for Byrne, E Bolton for Doyle (both 69).

Meath: P O'Rourke 5; C McGill 6, D Keogan 6, D Tobin 6; P Harnan 6, M Burke 7, S McEntee 7; B Menton 8, R Jones 6; J Toher 6, C O'Sullivan 7, E Wallace 5; G Reilly 5, B McMahon 5, D Lenihan 7 Subs: J McEntee 6 for Toher (28), R O Coileain 7 for Wallace (HT), B Conlon 6 for Jones (46), T O'Reilly 6 for McMahon (51), S Tobin 6 for Reilly (56), A Douglas for O'Sullivan (68).

Ref: J McQuillan (Cavan).

Irish Independent

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