Johnston affair not a distraction for Kildare - Doyle


Transfer saga not an issue for Lilywhites captain as they focus on the challenge represented by Cavan in Breffni Park. Gavin Cummiskey reports

THE SEÁNIE Johnston affair remains the story of this championship summer to date as Kildare travel up to Breffni Park in Cavan for round two of the qualifiers.

Johnston, ironically, is due to make his debut for the Lilywhites against his native county as Kieran McGeeney is tasked with steadying the ship after the Leinster championship defeat to Meath on July 1st

Kildare captain Johnny Doyle spoke to The Irish Times yesterday in his capacity as an ambassador for GAA sponsors eircom.

The 35-year-old veteran attacker, and sometimes midfielder, is adamant the rumpus over Johnston only becoming formally qualified for Kildare by playing a few seconds of club championship hurling for Coill Dubh was not related to the Meath defeat 24 hours later.

But the question needed asking. Could the fact that Johnston’s every move will be scrutinised on Sunday impact on Kildare’s preparation (it should be noted that Johnston is doubtful having sustained a shoulder injury in training last week)?

“No, not at all. Same as it wasn’t a distraction going into the Meath game. We have got to go out and prepare for a battle going into Breffni Park regardless of what’s going on in the background.”

Fine. So how come Kildare regressed against Meath? It could be a case of Meath simply growing sick of losing to their southern neighbours or were there some tactical flaws?

“A mixture of both, to be honest,” Doyle replied. “Obviously one thing you want to do is perform. We didn’t do that.

“Now, Meath deserve credit. They were set up well. They got the scores when they needed them, like the goal. We had a couple of chances that we couldn’t take. We were hugely disappointed with the performance.”

Kildare’s style under McGeeney has been fast-paced, with attacking raids that demand high fitness levels. Meath seemed to have them figured, though.

“We created lots of opportunities, just didn’t take them. You are not going to score from every attack but we missed scores you can’t afford to miss. Dress it up any way you want but that’s the reality.

“Meath versus Kildare matches in recent years, when it was in the melting pot, we went on and took the game. It was the opposite the last day.”

What challenge, realistically, do Cavan present to Kildare, we wondered. Again, Johnston could probably tell his new team-mates all they need to know about former comrades.

Cavan were six points shy of Donegal in Ulster – no shame in that result – before comfortably ending the attempted regeneration of Fermanagh by Peter Canavan last month.

A respectful Doyle doffs his cap, even if Kildare are 1 to 5 favourites.

“My experience of playing Cavan is you always knew you were in a tough encounter. We played them back in 2008 and needed a late goal to win by a point.”

It was a brilliant strike by James Kavanagh in the second minute of injury-time but the most interesting duel that day was between the counties’ respective sharp-shooters.

Doyle posted 0-8 to, eh, Seánie Johnston’s 0-6.

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