Kieran McGeeney expecting a fierce reaction from Kildare supporters following record defeat against rampant Dublin
‘They are going to get torn apart over the next few days and so am I,’ says Kildare boss
A pensive Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney during the Leinster semi-final at Croke Park yesterday.
Kieran McGeeney came into the media room beneath the Hogan Stand to educate the great unwashed. Fifteen minutes later Jim Gavin and Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton arrived with a transparent desire of escaping this septic environment as quickly and cleanly as humanely possible.
In stark contrast, the Armagh man’s thoughts about his sixth Leinster campaign as Kildare manager falling asunder proved fascinating listening.
McGeeney told us about young players struggling on this vast prairie but worst of all how older heads handed a brilliant footballing side cheap possession, leading to Kildare’s heaviest defeat to Dublin since 1897.
“They know they let themselves down and are much better players than that. Four or five of our key players didn’t even turn up and were guilty of giving away four possessions leading to four scores.
“I think they know they need to be tough on themselves.
“Ultimately, like in all sports, it is about belief in yourself and how easily that can be shattered,” McGeeney added before going back to the place he knows best: how Armagh climbed from the bottom of the pile to become All-Ireland champions under his captaincy.
“Back in Armagh that’s what you were told – that you are never going to win – for f**king 10, 15 years. You just have to keep going. You have to keep working.
“Courage is a funny thing. It doesn’t exist unless there’s fear because if you are not afraid you don’t need courage. At this moment in time in Kildare there is a lot of angst and it is tough on them. You need courage to stand up and be counted.
“They are going to get torn apart over the next few days and so am I. That’s life. You just keep coming back.
“It will be the biggest job that I’ve had since I come here.”
In 1999 Armagh finally clawed their way out of Ulster. McGeeney is asked how that worm finally turned. The answer evokes an image of Francie Bellew horsing through some poor unfortunate.
“Contact has a big part to play in a contact sport. In my time playing the teams that were better at physical contact were always the teams that were going to win.
“A lot of people are saying the physical contact is making the good players go out of the game but good players always stand out on the big days whether it is the Peter Canavans or Steven McDonnells or Declan O’Sullivans. They can take that physicality.
“In my time in football your middle eight seemed to be the real footballers on the team. They are the ones that break it down. When Kerry were missing Tomás or Galvin or Darragh, they might have had the, I suppose, marquee players up front they still lost those big games without that driving force.
“That’s what we have to look at. The likes of Kildare getting those players.”
He tips his hat to Emmet Bolton but continues: “You look at Cork, Donegal, Tyrone to a point now at the minute, Dublin, Mayo. They are physically huge around the middle eight. Very, very strong and very mobile. That’s what you need.”