AFTER Sunday’s league semi-final defeat to Tyorne, Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney wore an anguished look as he bemoaned his side’s poor shooting return.
“We just have to be more clinical,” he said after watching his side suffer a four-point defeat having kicked nine wides in the first half. All told, Kildare failed to get a score from 20 of their 33 shots on goal during the game but it wasn’t the first time this season that their shooting has cost them.
You only have to look back at the previous meeting between Kildare and Tyrone this season to find more damning statistics. Kildare’s second half display in the previous game at Newbridge mirrored their opening half performance at Croke Park on Sunday. They hit 10 wides in the second half of that round six clash and they finished the game with an abysmal return of just 28 per cent in front of goal. Of the 36 shots Kildare attempted that afternoon, only 10 hit the target.
Those poor returns, particularly in two of the games Kildare lost, accounted for the fact that they had the second worst scoring difference in Division 1 despite qualifying for the semi-finals. Ironically Kildare’s best shooting performance came against Dublin in round four when they were annihilated on the scoreboard. Kildare lost that game by 13 points (2-20 to 2-7) but they converted 9 out of 14 shots, a return of 64 per cent, more than double what they did in the first game against Tyrone.
Kildare’s problem that night was their inability to win possession, which limited the number of chances they created up front. Against the very best teams Kildare have to play above their average, which helps explain why they often fall agonisingly short in the big games. Last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final defeat was the first time Kildare were overwhelmed in a championship game under McGeeney but when a weak midfield crumbles and a suspect attack malfunctions, there remains the potential for a repeat of that result as there was against Dublin this year.
In fairness to Kildare, they do an awful lot of good things in games and it was something that their talisman, John Doyle, alluded to after Sunday’s defeat.
“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,” said Doyle, who had a mixed day in front of goal despite finishing the game, and the league, as Kildare’s top scorer. Doyle hit 0-6 against Tyrone, four of them from frees, but he also missed six shots – four of them wides, including one free, plus a goal chance that was saved. However if the rest of the forwards managed the same 50 per cent return on their shooting that Doyle did, Kildare would probably have matched Tyrone on the scoreboard.
When you consider also that Stephen O’Neill kicked three points that no other forward in the country would have even attempted, it puts the game into a little more context. Kildare are closer to the top teams than they are often given credit for but their enduring weakness, allied to their attacking instincts, leaves them open to sucker-punches. Until they get a stronger platform at midfield, they will not seriously contend for an All-Ireland and the attack has to be more clinical if they are to win some championship silverware.
When he reviews this year’s league campaign, McGeeney won’t be able to escape that reality.
KILDARE’S SHOOTING IN DIVISION 1
SHOTS SCORES %
R1 v Donegal 34 16 (2-14) 47
R2 v Cork 27 12 (2-10) 44
R3 v Kerry 25 10 (2-8) 40
R4 v Dublin 14 9 (2-7) 64
R5 v Mayo 21 12 (1-11) 57
R6 v Tyrone 36 10 (0-10) 28
R7 v Down 37 13 (1-12) 35
SF v Tyrone 33 13 (2-11) 40
Average 27.75 11.875 39.375