Doyle in right frame of mind for Tyrone challenge
Kildare defender sees bigger picture beyond National League semi-final
Kildare’s Eoin Doyle: “If we don’t improve we’ll find ourselves on the wrong end of the result in the semi-final.” Photograph: Lorraine O'Sullivan/Inpho
The first thing Kildare need to get right going into Sunday’s Allianz Football League semi-final against Tyrone is their frame of mind, according to defender Eoin Doyle, and the rest should take of itself.
Defeat to Down in the last round hasn’t helped, and Kildare also lost out to Sunday’s opponents in the round before that, when Tyrone came to Newbridge and beat them handily, by six points. “That is something we will want to put right at the weekend,” says Doyle. “But I don’t think the games in the past are going to make an awful lot of difference to what is going to happen on Sunday. It’s a new game, new players on the pitch, all that.”
For such a young man, just turned 22, Doyle has a deceiving maturity, and a deceptively strong physique to go with it: he was one of the finds for Kildare last year, and underlined it with his league form this year, and looks to the bigger picture, beyond Sunday’s showdown at Croke Park.
Indeed Kildare beat them to claim the Division Two title this time last year, although Doyle they are among the in-form teams. “Luckily enough we got the win against them in the Division Two final but then this year they came up to Newbridge and gave an exhibition of football.
“They are serious opposition, you have to play them to actually realise how good they are. The two Cavanaghs (Seán and Colm) are doing very well in the middle of the field, Stephen O'Neill at full forward is a very good target man. But again they could have a totally different team out at the weekend so you have to take every game on its merit and prepare for it.”
So too could Kildare, especially if manager Kieran McGeeney was to call on more of his under-21 players. But with their place booked in the All-Ireland semi-final against Galway on Saturday week, McGeeney will be keeping them fresh – although their absence, and perhaps distraction, is no excuse for Kildare’s heavy defeat last Sunday, when Down won 3-13 to 1-12 (but were still relegated).
“Maybe Down were that bit hungrier on the day, they were fighting for survival. We went up to win the game, but we’ll look at it, because if we don’t improve we’ll find ourselves on the wrong end of the result in the semi-final.
“But they (Kildare’s under-21s) are a very good outfit, are a very ambitious group of players. they are also very talented and are hungry to win and that’s what you want. They have had an impact on our team which is what the management have been looking for. It’s extremely good and they have an All-Ireland semi-final, that they are more than capable of winning.”
Kildare still appear capable of winning this league title, and could do with it – the only one of Sunday’s four semi-finalists never to win it. (Dublin last won in 1993, Mayo in 2001, and Tyrone in 2003.)
“Every competition you enter you want to win,” says Doyle, perfectly diplomatically. “But I don’t think our overall ambition was to win the league. It was to win our first match and we went from there and it took us to the league semi-final. We’ll learn from the matches we have lost and try and improve on that against Tyrone because if we don’t improve we’ll be on the wrong side of the result.
“At the start of the league, we took each game on its merit. We didn’t look past any other game and we’ll go into the semi-final against Tyrone and look to win that. We won’t be looking at any league final. If we come out of the right side of it then we’ll think about winning the final but there’s no point thinking about the final if you’re not in it. So it’s all guns blazing for the weekend.
“But it’s the number of games, the quality of the opposition you are playing, that’s been the difference for me. We’re happy to be playing in Division One and happy to be staying here for next year. Hopefully we can win our semi-final and that will put us in good stead for Offaly in the summer.”