CERTAINTIES on the Kildare team are a diminishing number at the moment as a raft of young players get their chance to shine in the National League.
On Saturday night in Castlebar, Mark Donnellan and David Hyland made their senior debuts and with three under-21s already in the starting 15, competition for places has rarely been as keen during Kieran McGeeney’s six-year reign as manager.
“They’re class. And they want to play for Kildare. There’s a desire there to be there and ultimately at the end of the day that makes a big difference,” said McGeeney of his young stars, who will be on under-21 duty in the Leinster championship against Laois on Wednesday night.
“If there’s no competition at training, you’re not going to be able to compete on the pitch. People were saying over the last couple of years there wasn’t anything out there but there is at the minute,” said McGeeney who began last week with the news that Brian Flanagan would miss the rest of the league campaign after injuring his knee at training.
“It was his posterior cruciate that went, it can be anything from six weeks to three months. He’d been playing really well for us. He was playing brilliant. Even last week (he was taken off against Dublin early in the second half) it was harsh on him because he was probably one of the few winning breaks for us but we thought we needed a bit more height to win primary possession. It didn’t work out but those things, they’re the calls I make, they’re the mistakes I make.”
Flanagan had nailed down a place in the starting 15 during the O’Byrne Cup having not featured in last year’s championship so the injury is a big blow to the Johnstownbridge man. With the likes of Eamonn Callagahan, Dermot Earley and Daryl Flynn getting closer to a return from injury, it will be even tougher to get back in the side come this year’s championship.
“Leper’s (Eamonn Callaghan) pushing hard,” said McGeeney. “We just gave David (Hyland) a chance tonight and like most of those young fellas, he took it with both hands. He’s (Leper) coming back, he’s getting stronger at training and hopefully that’ll continue.”
Moorefield’s Daryl Flynn is also nearing a return.
“We just have to get him match fit,” said McGeeney. “He’s back, 100 per cent physically so we just want to get football under his belt.”
After Wednesday night’s under-21 game against Laois, McGeeney’s attention will turn to Tyrone, who visit Newbridge on Sunday for round six of the league.