While Kieran McGeeney has been a constant for Kildare in the last six years, his backroom team has always evolved.
When the Armagh man first arrived in Kildare, he brought with him Paul Grimley. Aidan O’Rourke and John Rafferty also had spells working beside McGeeney and up to the beginning of this year, Niall Carew was never too far from the manager’s side.
Last year’s defeat to Cork led to the departure of Carew, who had been there since the start, and Rafferty. In came former Lily Damien Hendy and the highly-rated former Wexford manager Jason Ryan.
“Damien has come in and been brilliant, so has Jason,” says new Kildare captain Eamonn Callaghan. “Knowing Damien from playing with him, I knew exactly what we were getting with him. Jason was an inter-county manager which is great experience to have. He’s fitted straight in. He’s brought his own ideas as well. Hopefully we can repay these lads because the effort and commitment they have put in is huge. They certainly deserve silverware so it’s up to the players to deliver it,” said Callaghan.
“They are both coaches and Kieran gets involved as well, they are all part of it. Jason would be more forward-orientated but he has his ideas with the defence too. They all work together, the understanding they have for the game is massive,” said the Naas man.
McGeeney himself is certainly pleased with their input.
“The two of them are fantastic, not just for the players but for me as well. Jason’s enthusiasm knows no bounds. Damien is maybe a wee bit more conservative than most but he is very thought-provoking, he challenges you the whole time on different things,” said McGeeney.
“Jason works with everybody but probably dedicates more of his time to the forward play and hopefully we’ll see the benefits of that by getting silverware this year,” says forward Eoghan O’Flaherty, who has also dabbled with the frees.
“Sometimes a change is good. Niall (Carew) did a lot for Kildare and gave a lot of time and effort over the previous five years, did a lot of work with myself personally and other players, played a big part in my game improving over the years. Jason has come in with a fresh impetus, fresh ideas and whether we get the results or not will decide how people view that,” said O’Flaherty.
The general consensus among the squad is that a new voice in the dressing room can be a big help.
“It’s brought a bit of freshness to the whole thing which is never a bad thing,” says All-star defender Peter Kelly. “Jason has brought a new outlook, a new face, a new voice. He has fresh ideas, he is very positive. Damien too, we know him well, I played with him for a year, he was a very good full-back so he has a lot of ideas defensively. He is only just out of the inter county scene so he has his head screwed on in that respect. Everybody is enjoying the training at the moment,” said Kelly.