THE Kildare Minor Footballers begin their Leinster Championship campaign on Bank Holiday Monday 7 May when they entertain Wexford in St Conleths Park at 2pm.
The game will dawn the start of a new era for Minor Football as it will be the first time that it will be under 17s taking to the field after GAA Congress reduced the age grade from 18 last year.
Former Longford star Padraig Carbury is in charge of the Kildare side and he is no stranger to the minor job having managed the side over a decade ago. Back in 2004, he led a Kildare side containing the likes of Padraig O’Neill, Alan Smith, Gary White, Mikey Conway and Tomas O’Connor to a Leinster minor final where they lost to a Donie Brennan led Laois. Also on his impressive coaching CV, albeit from a long time ago now, is an All-Ireland Schools ‘B’ with Scoil Mhuire in Clane in 1988 with a team containing Kildare legends Martin Lynch, John Finn and Ken Doyle.
Carbury is in two minds as to whether the changed age grade is a good thing. The positives are that he only has two players sitting their Leaving Cert this year, while on the negative he still feels that there is a lot of developing for the players to do. He was in control of the under 16 squad that won the Fr Manning Cup last year and those players make up a good portion of the squad. He is happy with how things are going ahead of Monday’s game.
“Preparations are going well, we started on 2 January with trials and we have been averaging training three times a week since and that’s basically four months ago so a lot of preparation has been done for next week,” said Carbury.
“We’ve thrown the net out there and had trials going on at a phase basis right through January so I know we won the under 16 Fr. Manning Cup last year but we still invited all the clubs to send in players who weren’t on the squad so we have brought in a number of players from clubs as well as development squads and the panel of 35 is now an end product of all of that,” he added.
The layout for the competition has changed dramatically for this year. There are now two groups with Kildare placed in a five team group along with Monday’s opponents, Longford, Laois and Carlow. The top two teams qualify for the semi-finals.
Carbury is also in the fortunate position of having the likes of Drew Costello, Alex Beirne, Paddy Wall, Padraig Behan, Paddy McDermott and Nicky Jackman all available from last year’s squad to add valuable experience ahead of a punishing few weeks.
“I think having four games will help us, when I was manager before it was straight knockout but back then you had a Leinster Minor League as a precursor to the Championship but there was a lot of shadow boxing in that competition where in this championship each game in its self will be like a final.
“You just have to show your hand here from the get go as if you lose your first game you are then on the back foot,” said Carbury.
Looking ahead to the first game, the manager admits he won’t have a full deck to play with as he still has some injuries to contend with.
He also acknowledges that he doesn’t know much about their opponents but knows from being a teacher in Scoil Mhuire, Clane that the Wexford schools have a good football tradition so he is expecting a big test.
“We wouldn’t know too much about Wexford to be honest and that’s being up front about it. We would have played them in development squad games from under 14s up but you can always judge it on Schools football and they have been strong there with St Peters and Good Counsel.
“From our own point of view we know our own strengths and weaknesses and we have played about eight challenge games since February but from the point of view of Wexford it would be a step into the unknown” he said.
Kildare team to play Wexford: John Ball (Clane); Oisin O’Loughlin (Rathangan), Sean Hill (Kilcock), Jack Hamill (Raheens), Daniel Caulfield (Sallins), Liam Broderick (Ballymore), Paddy McDermott (Naas); Drew Costello (Naas), Marcus Kiely (Two Mile House); Tom Browne (Naas), Alex Beirne (Naas), Michael McGovern (Raheens), Muiris Curtin (Rathangan), Padraig Behan (Kilcullen), Jack Smyth (Carbury).
By Robert Cribbin