KILDARE manager Kieran McGeeney set his stall out in no uncertain terms for returning forward John Doyle after Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup victory against Wexford.
Doyle, by now a Lilywhite legend as well as last season’s captain, opted to continue his inter-county career over the winter having toyed with the notion of retirement during the winter months. But the 35-year-old Allenwood man is far from guaranteed a game.
“Johnny is stepping it up. He knows if he wants to get on he has to be scoring but I wouldn’t expect anything less from Johnny,” said McGeeney.
Doyle operated closer to goal than usual against Wexford and the move paid dividends as he responded with seven points, four from play.
Despite being the better side it looked like Kildare were heading for defeat when Shane Roche’s injury time goal put Wexford ahead.
That was until Morgan O’Flaherty’s last gasp intervention. The Carbury man has been Kieran McGeeney’s centre-back for the last four years but has lined out at number 12 this year.
“I like the fact that even though there was a point in the game and Morgan had a chance to fist it over the bar he went around the your man and went for the shot,” said McGeeney, who also praised the pass made by James Eaton in the build-up.
The manager felt the response to Roche’s goal is the kind of winning mentality that the team needs.
“It was brilliant, that means they are thinking like winners. We were fairly comfortable at one stage but let them back into it with some sloppy passes and free kicks. They turned us over at the end but the boys still stood up and got the scores when it counted so that was good,” he said.
The start of the second half was Kildare’s purple patch.
“They were moving really well and I suppose one of the best moves of the game resulted in a 45. Johnny just got blocked in front of the goals which was a pity but it was a great move. That’s the sort of stuff that you are looking to see but you’d still like to see them finishing it off.”
That said, Kildare were very close to throwing a game away that they once led by seven points. That blistering start to the second half wasn’t sustained and before O’Flaherty’s goal, Kildare had been outscored by 1-7 to 0-2 over the previous 20 minutes.
“That happens but we have to learn to deal with that. The subs coming on have to learn to think ‘If I’m coming on, I’m going to make an improvement instead of taking away from the team.’ That’s something they have to be aware of,” said McGeeney.
It was a significant day for Kildare coach Jason Ryan as his new team lined up against the side who he managed for the previous five years. McGeeney felt he dealt with what may have been a difficult day for him in style.
“Jason is very professional in everything he does. He obviously has fierce time for the Wexford players, he spoke very highly of them but that’s what you would expect from Jason. There’s a touch of class about him in the way that he does things. He wasn’t trying to give away any secrets before the game, he was focused solely on Kildare, that’s the way he is.”
McGeeney was happy with a number of individual performances, particularly the three new boys in the forward line: Cathal McNally, Paddy Brophy and Daniel Flynn.
“They are showing great courage in going for the ball which is always a great start when you are kicking the ball in,” he said.
Others to catch the eye included Sarsfields’ Gary White and Nurney’s Mikey Conway.
“They seem to relishing in the roles. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest and they seem to be enjoying it but each week is a step up and it will be the same again next week,” said the manager, whose side now face Offaly on Sunday (20 January) in Tullamore.
“They are going to be well up for it and will be keen to lay down a marker. That’s good, that’s what we want.”
The manager is hoping that his options will be bolstered for that game with a number of players getting close to full fitness.
“We’re hoping that if Fionn (Dowling), Seanie (Johnston) and Daryl (Flynn) get a full week’s training under their belt they’ll be definitely be pushing. Daryl is always very keen, he’d play with his leg hanging off if needs be so we have to pull him back sometimes.”