Kildare fit enough to stay the course but Dublin look to have all the angles covered
Teams have met twice this year and honours are even
Kildare selector Jason Ryan (left) with manager Kieran McGeeney. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.
The recent history of Dublin-Kildare championship fixtures gives a couple of vague encouragements to Kieran McGeeney’s team. They have competed hard on both occasions although outsiders and lost by a whisker each time.
Bearing that in mind it’s reasonable to suggest that one-point margins between teams can swing if they play often enough.
There are, however, qualifications. In both matches Dublin were playing a man short for at least half an hour, leaving Kildare with regrets that they hadn’t further exploited that advantage.
In relation to team selections there isn’t any real consistency with both sides about 50 per cent changed on their last meeting of two years ago.
Dublin are onto their third manager of the Kieran McGeeney era in Kildare, now in its sixth season, don’t represent a static challenge. If Kildare were due a break it might well have come last year had the teams met but instead they lost to Meath.
Already they have played twice this year and honours are even with Kildare edging the O’Byrne Cup final in extra-time with a more familiar line-up than Dublin’s and the Leinster champions blowing away their opponents in the league meeting in March.
That wasn’t a terribly reliable form guide either because Dublin’s utter wipe-out of centrefield on a re-start ratio of more than 3:1 isn’t likely be repeated. Similarly, the under-21s who have invigorated Kildare this year weren’t playing.
Maybe there was a deliberate refusal to show their hand and with McGeeney’s appointment of Jason Ryan as coach, it’s expected that there will be some tactical departures brought to bear tomorrow.
Kildare’s best chance of reversing the trend of these matches is to get their defensive game sorted out early because chasing big deficits against Dublin is a dispiriting task. As Westmeath found out in the quarter-final, it’s hard to get much traction out of a run of scores if you’re already eight-nil behind by around the end of the first quarter.
Dublin’s orthodoxy has been seen as something of a novelty act, nice to look at but in need of revision when the stakes gets higher but by its very nature it requires opponents to win the individual battles in terms of primary possession.
Pace and pressure is also relentless. Kildare will be physically fit enough to stay standing but the mental challenge of repelling attacks and turning over possession and using it constructively is also demanding.
Move the ball quickly
When Dublin attack on the wings through either Jack McCaffrey or James McCarthy, what do Kildare do? Their half forwards as announced aren’t particularly defensive but they will rely on their defence to break down the offensive and move the ball quickly into the more advanced positions they’re likely to occupy.
With Stephen Cluxton in goal and Rory O’Carroll at full back, Dublin are hard to break down with the sort of early ball Kildare might be planning for full forward Tomás O’Connor – or, apparently more likely Seán Hurley, who was pulled from the week’s junior provincial final and is believed to be the non-dummy selection.
Johnny Doyle is a constant threat from play, especially and ironically now that he’s not as mobile and prowls a more restricted beat closer to goal and Niall Kelly has looked a terrific talent in the half forwards. But is there enough variety in Kildare’s attack to exert any greater pressure than usual?
Dublin may be missing Alan Brogan but have added Ciarán Kilkenny and a rejuvenated Paddy Andrews to the attack. Bernard Brogan won’t be inconvenienced by Ollie Lyons who has marked him well in the past, particularly the O’Byrne Cup match, but who isn’t picked because of injury.
Dublin also have a great deal of experience on the bench, as well as some impact forwards – Dean Rock and Cormac Costello. All in all, the champions have too many bases covered.