KILDARE will have to up their performance considerably if they’re to reach this year’s All-Ireland under-21 football final.
The Leinster champions were rarely through during the provincial campaign but manager Kieran McGeeney believes his side will have their work cut out to beat Connacht champions Galway on Saturday.
“It’s going to be a big step up with Galway and we’ll have to be ready for it,” said McGeeney. “Galway are a good outfit, they really did it the hard way against Roscommon (in the Connacht final) but they did it in style when they did move into a different gear and they’ll hold no fear with us. They are good inside, have a big strong midfield and a big solid defence as well. It’s going to be a big game for us.”
Galway trailed Roscommon by three points in the closing stages of their provincial final but drew level before winning the contest in extra-time. Having won the under-21 All-Ireland in 2011, the Tribesmen have a proven pedigree though McGeeney has huge talent at his disposal.
“It’s no different to any other football team. If they are willing to work hard and go for the ball they are going to be in there with a shout and that is what they (Kildare) are doing. It’s not confidence, it’s just that when they work hard they don’t see any difference from club to county, they just go out and do the same thing. That’s the best thing about them. Everybody is trying to build them up into something. They’ve won Leinster, other teams have won Leinsters too. They’ve still a fair bit of work yet to push themselves beyond that,” said the Armagh man.
As well as picking up the county’s first Leinster title at the grade since 2008, the squad have backboned the county’s senior panel. In previous years, Tony Kelly’s junior squad acted as the main back up for the senior panel but this year a group of super talented young players pushing the more established players.
“I’ve been on record before as saying that nobody who wanted to give the commitment to play senior was any better than the ones we had. Others might disagree. These fellas want to give the commitment, they want to work hard, in fact you have to put the reins on these boys more than push them which is good. That pushes on a lot of the senior players,” said McGeeney.
“I’m just keen to work with fellas who want to play. Anybody who wants to work at that age I’m all for it. I’d rather have them in because pace and youth are great things to have. Not all players are like that but as soon as you see ones that are you want to work with them.”
McGeeney has often talked about developing a winning mentality within Kildare football, so with a Leinster title in the bag, can this group of players go on to foster that mentality in Kildare?
“It’s hard to say, it’s still very early,” said McGeeney. “Up until this year they haven’t won anything. It’s good to get that (Leinster) because they know they are good enough to do that.. There are no guarantees that just because you are good it’s going to come, you have to keep working hard. They should have had titles before and were very unlucky but it’s about knuckling down and getting things across the line. The only thing in their mind now is Galway.”