Going into last Sunday’s Leinster semi-final, Kildare were expected to win easily and they were also being touted to win the All-Ireland.
But they weren’t able to handle that level of expectation and, frankly speaking, I don’t think they were given any protection from that by the management.
The Seanie Johnston saga didn’t help them — in fact it played a major role in scuppering their chances. If the management want to make Seanie Johnston a regular Kildare player, rolling him out in a hurling game the day before a championship match isn’t the best way to start off his career. The massive media coverage of Kildare football was a sideshow they could have done without.
But Johnston aside, they didn’t play well enough to win the game last Sunday.
For the first time this year we saw Kildare playing a brand of football that cost them. They played the long ball in, primarily to TomA?s O’Connor, and over the course of the game it stopped working for them.
For starters, the quality of delivery wasn’t good enough. O’Connor is an excellent target man with the right service, but he didn’t get it. Meath, too, were well set up to deal with it, dropping a player back to provide an additional security screen in defence.
Presumably, Kildare felt Meath would be vulnerable in the absence of Kevin O’Reilly but that was not the case. Bryan Menton countered their efforts perfectly, by knocking the ball away from O’Connor when it dropped in on them. It cost Kildare in the end because they persisted with trying to make it work. Kieran McGeeney should have changed tack. He could have got his side to play tidier football, perhaps if they’d even tried to work the ball up the field they would have fared better.
Donal Keoghan also deserves a mention; he did a great job on Johnny Doyle, by marking him with the utmost discipline. It was a fine display of good old-fashioned defending, nothing spectacular, just getting on with the job, something we always associate with Meath but which has probably been largely lacking in recent years.
Meath went into last Sunday’s semi-final under no pressure. Nobody gave them a chance and that’s an ideal way to go into a big championship match. They kept their counsel right up to the game and expressed themselves on the field.
They will be delighted with their performance but Dublin are after getting the wake-up call they needed ahead of the Leinster final.
If Wexford had a place kicker Dublin would have been in trouble. It showed once more that if a team goes to war without a consistent free-taker they won’t amount to much. There is nothing worse than winning an amount of play and not seeing that hard work translated into scores.
After Dublin scored the goal, Wexford came back and drew the game again and would have edged in front by one or two points if they had someone who could
convert a free when it matters. When a referee sends a player to the line it is amazing how often the team with 14 men find something extra. Mind you, I thought that last Sunday on more than one occasion, the bounce of the ball went Dublin’s way. They can’t rely on getting such fortunate breaks in every game.
Pat Gilroy was left without Bernard Brogan for most of the winter as he first took a break from football to go abroad and then had to have a minor knee operation.
Gilroy is now left hoping that Bernard, and Alan, are going to be able to turn it on for the Leinster final. It doesn’t work like that and the Brogans looked like players who were a good bit short. Let’s face it, they were rusty.
The manager needs to get them up to the pace of championship football quickly if he wants to win another All-Ireland.
- Paidi O Se
This article appeared in The Sunday Independent on Sunday 8th July 2012
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