Having crumbled in Croke Park
Kildare’s players owe their manager
a big performance against Louth
FEW people in Gaelic football do confrontation better than Kieran McGeeney.
Whether it’s opponents, teammates or journalists, the Armagh man has never shied away from airing a grievance. In fact he seems to relish the chance to put someone on the spot. McGeeney knows that you don’t get what you want by being Mr Nice Guy all the time.
As a player he was never one to hold back in training but he expected just as much from his teammates. During his Armagh days he was known to bring the training session to a halt if there wasn’t enough intensity.
He has been no less demanding since he came to Kildare. For him, there is no such thing as diplomacy, instead he favours brutal honesty and when his remarks are pointed, they hurt. That’s why his players won’t have been spared in the
aftermath of the defeat to Dublin.
That doesn’t mean he won’t be immune from criticism either – not that it would be unusual for him to hold his hands up. His confrotational nature might cost him a few friends every now and then but you have to admire his willingness to admit
mistakes in public.
Former Dublin footballer Tomas Quinn described Kildare’s performance as ‘tactical suicide’ and there was no sense that McGeeney was hiding from such a verdict in
the immediate aftermath of that crushing, 21-point defeat. Asked if he had got things wrong tactically, he said:
“I’ve heard that a lot over the last 12 months that I am tactically naïve and perhaps I am.”
For every one of his previous campaigns with Kildare, McGeeney has managed to turn things around in the Qualifiers. He has been lucky to avoid any of the big guns in those back-door games but he has shown a remarkable ability to mend his side. His team have shown the kind of resilience that was not evident before his appointment but which was the very hallmark of his own playing career. For that he deserves
much credit and for that reason, Kildare can be expected to perform
against Louth on Saturday evening.
But this weekend’s game is as much about the players as the manager. Too many of his senior men let him down in Croke Park and McGeeney has a right to expect
they will make amends against Louth. Experienced defenders like Mick Foley, Eamonn Callaghan and Emmet Bolton were nowhere near their best and their mistakes were some of the most costly in the game.
At no stage did someone on the field of play take charge for Kildare and try to slow the tempo. In the opening league encounter against Donegal at Croke Park in February, goalkeeper Shane Connolly recognised a shift of momentum in Donegal’s favour and
promptly delayed a kickout. Donegal were so infuriated by the delay that trainer Rory Gallagher sprinted onto the pitch to give out to Connolly and urge the ref to hurry him up.
Sadly that kind of awareness was lacking against Dublin. In any event Kildare needed more than just Connolly delaying kickouts to buy them time. The high-tempo game played into Dublin’s hands and when Eamonn Callaghan kicked
two woeful foot-passes in the first half, Kildare were wide open on the counter-attack. Defenders given man-marking jobs were way off their men and there seemed no hurry to get back into position.
The kind of workrate and never-say-die attitude that Kildare have developed under McGeeney’s watch was virtually absent from the start and visibly so as early as the fourth minute when James McCarthy sprinted through for Dublin’s first shot on Connolly’s goal. As the team sat down to watch the video of the game last Tuesday at training, many will have hidden their faces as they witnessed half-hearted attempts to
If Kildare were physically under-cooked going into the game then the management need to seriously review their strength and conditioning training. At one stage Michael Darragh MacAuley blew past Daniel Flynn like he wasn’t there. While Kildare had much success around Stephen Cluxton’s kickouts, they were continually caught for pace while their ball-handling and passing let them down on far too many occasions – simple hand-passes went astray for no good reason.
At least against Cork in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final, Kildare could point to the extra man as reason for the walloping that ensued but they had no such excuses against Dublin. They were found wanting in so many areas of the pitch and so many facets of the game that it was hard to believe these were the same players that we had seen in previous games.
Kildare fans can expect a backlash from their team against Louth because the players owe it to themselves as well as their manager to put on a display. They have felt the pain of the last two weeks and now is their chance to make amends.