Thursday, May 26, 2022

IN this week’s Kildare Nationalist, in your shops now or on line at www.kildare-nationalist.ie, our columnist, The Supporter, looks at the success of the Kildare hurlers at LGFA teams and looks forward to the Leinster Football Final between Kildare and Dublin in Croke Park on Saturday evening at 5pm. The column also includes a stab at what the Kildare team might/could look like for Saturday. 

“GET the Hell out of Dodge” may as well have been the motto for the Kildare hurlers these last couple of months.

The Christy Ring Cup is no place for a team of gunslingers such as ours. It has served its purpose over the past decade for us, whetting the appetite for silverware and big days in Croke Park. But no more.

The Joy of it All: Niall O Munieachain was captain when Kildare won their first Christy Ring Cup in 2014 and he was still involved when they won their fourth title on Saturday Photo: Sean Brilly

Having Kildare in the Christy Ring Cup was like having Usain Bolt line up in the dad’s race at the school sports. There should really have been no teams relegated from the Joe McDonagh last year when the “round robin” consisted only of two games followed by a relegation play-off.      But we dropped out and it was testament to the character of David Herity, his management team, and the players that they not only stayed on for another shot but remained in Division 2A of the league despite the late availability of Naas players.

Speaking of the latter, I am in awe of the achievements of Brian Byrne and James Burke over the last year. Think about it. They’ve won two county hurling titles, one county football title, a provincial hurling title, an All-Ireland, and now a Christy Ring Cup. With barely a week off in the ten months from start to finish. Hurlers rarely get the limelight in Kildare but these two are among our greatest sporting heroes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Now, of course, the work begins again, with Herity and his team able to look forward to ten lip-smacking games against high quality opposition next year in the league and championship. Division 2A of the league features Offaly, Down, Kerry, Carlow, and Derry while the McDonagh Cup pits us against Offaly, Down and Carlow once more as well as two from Antrim, Kerry, Laois, and Tipperary.                                The club championship draw is this week and Herity will be looking for a couple of teams to feed off the success of the county team and to push themselves closer to the level of Naas as they seek a four-in-a-row. Celbridge, to be fair, got closer to anyone last year in the final. Now it’s up to the Coill Dubhs, Ardcloughs, Maynooths and Confeys of this world to push on too.                                                                                             It was a disappointing night last Wednesday for the minor footballers against Dublin. I don’t think that was the best that the team can offer by any means having seen them a couple of times this year and by the quirk of GAA competition structures they arrive in the All-Ireland quarter-finals just as their conquerors do. Answers on a postcard explaining that one. But we’ll take it and I wouldn’t rule out a much better outcome on 11 June 11 against the Connacht Champions (Mayo, Galway or Leitrim).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             The ladies game goes from strength to strength with their own minors win over Dublin and the under-14’s capturing the All-Ireland Gold championship with their win over Tipperary. I’m not sure I agree with All-Irelands at under-14 level to be honest. It should be about fun at that age surely, something the men’s game seems to have recognised a while back.                                                                                                             There used to be a fairly serious under-14 boys competition but those were different times when lads weren’t far off finishing school at that age.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Saturday sees the latest instalment of Kildare v Dublin in what has been a historic year. I’m reliably informed that this is the first time ever that the same two counties have contested the Leinster Finals at Senior, Under-20/21 and Minor level.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         I am firmly of the opinion that Kildare have the brightest future outside of Dublin in Leinster GAA. We still get lumped in with Meath as the under-performers who have “given up” on catching Dublin but that ignores the great work and commitment at under-age level and the number of good teams we are producing in both codes.                                                                                                                                                             If reaching all three finals is another step in asserting ourselves as Dublin’s closest competitors in the East, then Saturday’s performance needs to back that up. We can dream of bringing home the Delaney Cup to make it two to one in our favour in the trilogy of 2022 and if the stars align it’s not altogether impossible that we catch them out on the day (when was the last time we said that?).                                             But the signs are that Glenn and the boys may need another year to get the level of consistency of performance that is needed to bridge that gap. Some have dismissed the Westmeath performance but from start to finish we were loose and, if I can use the term, “unprofessional”. That manifested in our poor tracking and the scarcity of our tackling. How can that happen in a Leinster semi-final? Take that and the Mayo performance into account and the fear of a Kildare team not turning up on the big occasion remains a real one. That can’t happen on Saturday. We need to be “at it” from the start.                                                                                                                                                                              If Kildare fans do anything this week it should involve prayer, to whatever greater being you believe in, for the sacred hamstrings of Ryan Houlihan. If you don’t have a god, go and worship at the new Squires Gannon statue in Kildare town.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         We are not blessed these days with defenders (how times change) but badly need a back trio of O’Grady, Ryan and Houlihan to curtail that Dublin inside line. At the other end of the field, I expect us to go with four out-and-out forwards in a 2-2 set-up (McCormack, Flynn, Kirwan and Hyland).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      That leaves room for seven players between half-back and midfield, and I think their orientation needs to be primarily defensive with Kevin Flynn given license to drive forward when the opportunity arises in support of the front four. He also has the engine to track Fenton, while Kevin Feely can match him at kick outs.                                                                                                                                                                                    That leaves five slots where a mixture of experience, pace and physique is needed. I’d love to see Fergal Conway back in there sitting behind the midfield with Tony Archbold tracking Kilkenny and the remaining spaces going to Kevin O’Callaghan (physique), Paddy McDermott (pace and energy) and James Murray (blocking and tackling). That would relegate Paul Cribbin and Alex Beirne to the bench but with a part to play later on.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It’s a formation that looks something like a 3-4-3-2-2: Donnellan – O’Grady, Ryan, Houlihan – Archbold, Murray, Conway, McDermott – O’Callaghan, Feely, K Flynn – McCormack, D Flynn – Kirwan, Hyland.

You can thank me afterwards, Glenn.

Cill Dara Abú

The Supporter appears in the Kildare Nationalist each Tuesday.

Contact Newsdesk: 045 432147

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