THE Supporter Column in this week’s Kildare Nationalist, in your shops now or on line at www.kildare-nationalist.ie has a take and an opinion on Kildare’s Leinster Final defeat to Dublin and we repeat that Column below:
We’ve all seen it. The brilliant employee who gets promoted to manager because they were great at doing the things they’ll no longer be doing. The top sales rep who is promoted to manage a team and lo and behold two things happen: the company’s sales drop, and the new manager finds he preferred the commission that came with the old job.
In the world of sport, evidently the best players don’t necessarily become the best managers, either. For every Mick O’Dwyer or Kenny Dalglish, I can offer you a Roy Keane or a Bobby Charlton. Ask Newcastle fans about Alan Shearer or, going back a bit, Leeds fans about Allan Clarke. Conversely, some of the greatest managers had little or no playing success. Former AC Milan and Italy manager Arrigo Sacchi was famously a shoe salesman before becoming one of soccer’s most famous managers. Closer to home Seán Boylan was a little-known hurler who became one of the greatest football managers. Kildare’s only All Ireland winning manager of the last 57 years saw his playing career cut short before it really began, thanks to a couple of cruciate injuries. Being a great player tends to earn you the gravitas that opens doors to GAA management positions and the good thing is, in most cases, any failures off the field generally don’t diminish the esteem with which the playing legend is held. I hope the same applies if Kildare’s star-studded management set up proves unsuccessful and in my eyes you won’t find five men more deserving of legendary status in the county than the lads managing the football team. Whatever happens, it won’t be for lack of effort on the part of those men. Whether that is enough, on early evidence is a very big question. Saturday could set Kildare football back years. The five goals in twenty odd minutes, the fact that it was Croke Park, the fact that it was Dublin who we are fated to meet every couple of years until the provincials are put out of their misery. Tony Archbold, Paddy McDermott, Alex Beirne, Paddy Woodgate and Darragh Kirwan, lads used to good days in Croke Park, good days against Dublin teams, now have to deal with the trauma of the mother of all beatings by the blue machine. The older lads on the team have never gotten over theirs and appear unable to run or think when they set foot in the place. Frozen rather than startled earwigs. Players ultimately win or lose matches, but you have to have some sympathy for them. They were set up to lose and lose badly. The Bill Gannon statue in Kildare town could have told you Kildare needed to adjust their system from the Mayo and Westmeath matches. I gave management a system last week that at least might have clogged up the very area that Dublin penetrated at will, acknowledging that bodies are only of use if they actually seek and relish contact with the ball carrier. There were so many curious things about the tactics, at least in terms of how the players carried out the plan. The talk beforehand was that there would be no conservative damage-limitation approach but I didn’t expect that to be taken to naïve extremes. If we were going to go gung-ho with all guns blazing surely a press on the Dublin kick-out had to be part of that approach? It seemed we started off with that game plan and even earned an early point off a Comerford kick. Why then did we stop doing it? It was disastrous to allow the two Dublin corner backs pick up the ball from their keeper and then travel the length of the pitch on more than one occasion without a hand laid on them. There were three problems here: one, the absence of a press, two the fact that Gannon and Murchan had the legs on Kirwan and Hyland, and three, no one saw fit to tackle them. The next disastrous tactic may not even have been a tactic as I as confused as everyone I have spoken to as to what the role of the two wing forwards was. Alex and Paul are two very different players, but both have always been out and out forwards. I am assuming Cribbin’s intended purpose was to track James McCarthy runs from deep. But it’s no good running alongside McCarthy, you need to be willing and able to put a challenge in on the ball. With the best will in the world that’s not Paul’s game, for all the qualities he has. To play wing-forward nowadays you must be athletic, fit and have the football brain of a defender. When has Paul demonstrated that attribute? What modern wing-forward worth their salt would allow McCarthy to hog the sideline time and again. Cribbin was often caught in no-man’s land between a ball carrier streaking through the middle and McCarthy standing on the sideline creating that space. Alex is a workhorse, and clearly in the team for that purpose, but he looked puffed from early on. To be asked as a 21-year-old with a young career spent in the forwards to form a key part of the defensive structure was beyond optimistic. To ask a lad with so little experience to fill a sweeper role, albeit when the game was lost, seems ludicrous when you have David Hyland and Fergal Conway on the bench with a mere 179 competitive appearances between them. It made no sense to me whatsoever. My point regarding the wing forwards is this: surely with four outstanding scorers (on their day and Saturday turned out not to be theirs with Ben McCormack the honourable exception) up front and facing an in-form Dublin, you’d go with defensive reinforcement and positioning rather than forwards at 10 and 12. A lot of the blame for the space in front of O’Callaghan is being directed at James Murray, a great club player with Moorefield, but who does not have the presence or experience for such a pivotal role. But again, management fed him to the wolves by not packing the area in front of Con and Mick O’Grady. You can bet your bottom dollar that every team that plays Dublin for the rest of this championship will have two men on Con. Ulster teams will probably have three. So, management, legends or not, need to have a long hard look at the work they’ve been doing with this team and the style of game they think they have the players to play. If that means playing four forwards the next day and boring the pants off Kildare supporters that may have to be the approach. Derry-light I suppose. It has been evident in three of the last four games that we have over-stated the Kildare defensive improvement earlier in the year. One win away from Newbridge (against Division 3 opposition in seven games this year illustrates that). We clearly don’t have the man-markers to go man for man in Croke Park. Maybe as suggested on TV we were one step ahead conditioning-wise of the bigger teams at that stage and they’ve caught up. Maybe our better days were down to Paul Galvin, who seems to have disappeared off the scene, not that much information comes out of Hawkfield. We still don’t have a panel list. We can’t forget the other end of the pitch either, where our forwards underperformed and maybe aren’t as good as we thought they were. Even Ben had a few throwbacks, poor efforts, before putting in the mother of all second half displays on his own at full forward. Dan caused Dublin a few scary moments but generally was too far from goal to manufacture a “Dan special”. Darragh and Jimmy will have better days although the latter grew into it. Clearly a lot of work to be done on the training ground in the next two weeks. Speaking of which I wonder has it dawned on anyone to create a pitch there with the exact dimensions of Croke Park? I’m not sure if the pitches they train on are much bigger than St Conleth’s, if at all.
Cill Dara Abú