KILDARE boss Kieran McGeeney will have some hard choices to make in the coming weeks as he cuts his panel for the championship.
In total, McGeeney has used 32 players in this year’s Division 1 campaign. Only four of those players – Mick Foley, Hugh McGrillen, Peter Kelly and Padraig O’Neill – have started all eight games while another five – Seanie Johnston, Tomas O’Connor, Eoghan O’Flaherty, Eoin Doyle and Ollie Lyons – have featured at some stage in each game.
Last week third choice goalkeeper Robbie Eyres and forward James Eaton left the panel and there will be more names crossed off the Kildare list before the opening round of the championship against Offaly on 1 June.
“There are already two gone. There’ll probably be a few more,” said McGeeney after Sunday’s defeat in the Division 1 league semi-final.
McGeeney started six under-21s against Tyrone while three more – Jonathan Byrne, David Hyland and Fionn Dowling – were unused subs. That leaves players like Hugh Lynch and Ronan Sweeney under pressure to make the cut for the championship as there may well be more under-21s added to the senior panel when their All-Ireland campaign concludes in the next three weeks.
“We’re probably top-heavy on forwards rather than defenders. David (Hyland) and Johnny (Byrne) and Fergal Conway are pushing through so there’s going to be a couple of decisions but we’ve had a lot of injuries,” said McGeeney, who was without Sweeney and Lynch on Sunday because of injury. Nurney’s Mikey Conway, who captained the side to the O’Byrne Cup title back in January, has not featured since he was substituted in the first half of the round four league defeat to Dublin.
Moorefield’s Daryl Flynn was listed to start on Sunday but didn’t feature.
“The pace of today’s game was probably a wee bit too much, too early,” said McGeeney in reference to the late decision to drop Flynn.
Kildare’s loss to Tyrone was their third straight defeat although it was a successful campaign for the Lilies – and by far the best of McGeeney’s six seasons in charge.
“Getting a settled team is the big thing,” he said afterwards. “Playing so many newcomers (six under-21s) especially from a different age group, it’s hard to have a settled team. We’re getting there. We felt we put a strong team out today and we were competitive but they didn’t take key chances.”
Kildare’s lack of killer instinct up front cost them against Tyrone as they paid a heavy price for nine first half wides.
“We just have to be more clinical,” said McGeeney. “We probably had more scoring chances than they had. When we were in front of the posts, we dropped it short. Things like that, they’re killers. Even for two points (we got) when goals were on, maybe we need to be a bit more ruthless at finishing it off.”
It was a sentiment that veteran attacker John Doyle agreed with.
“The big difference was that they (Tyrone) took their scores and we didn’t,” said Doyle. “We had plenty of the ball, particularly in the first half (but) we took some wrong options. We just needed a little bit more composure in front of goals. When you’re playing the likes of Tyrone and you don’t take those chances, they’ll punish you.”
Doyle was guilty of wasting four good chances in the opening half as well as missing a free in the second but he was still upbeat after the game.
“I thought there was an awful lot of things we did very well. We did some really good work to get it (the ball) in to good positions and we were just over zealous I suppose to get the shot off. We didn’t take them but in fairness the lads kept working really hard at it and they never stopped. You have to be encouraged by that.”
And having started Division 1 as favourites for relegation, Doyle had no reason to be too down-hearted about a semi-final defeat.
“We pushed Tyrone all the way today. It’s been a good league campaign with a lot of new lads coming on and lads coming back from injury. We’re not in a bad place at all.”