'Something that works one day, won't work the next'
POST-MATCH TALK:Sideline emotions on Croke Park summer days never fail to fascinate. Especially when bainisteoirs like Kieran McGeeney and the emancipated Séamus McEnaney are around.
We start with the Kildare manager from the famed Armagh class of 2002. McGeeney and Cork referee Michael Collins have history. Then again McGeeney and most referees have history.
Many will remember the 2005 Ulster final staged off the Jones’ Road when Collins dismissed Tyrone pair Peter Canavan and Stephen O’Neill along with Armagh’s Ciarán McKeever. Farcically, all three dismissals were rescinded on appeal.
Collins made some questionable decisions yesterday. He blew for half-time as Meath’s Cian Ward shot at the posts. He showed Kildare’s Daryl Flynn a second yellow card on 52 minutes for pulling on the ball as Meath’s brave young forward Damien Carroll dived in harm’s way.
What appeared to bring McGeeney to boiling point, however, was Collins signalling for a throw-up after Stephen Bray dropped the shoulder and ploughed through a Kildare player not even in possession. The subsequent breaking ball led directly to Peadar Byrne’s 60th-minute goal that put Meath three points clear.
“Listen fellas, me and referees go back a long way,” said McGeeney. “They make the decisions. They’ll always find a way of being right. It is what it is.”
The throw-up decision seemed strange? “There is a lot of strange decisions. I’ve made it quite clear; you can say it after you win a game because it is taken as something constructive, but when you lose it looks like crying.
“It is probably really up to yourselves to say things. I just have to take it on the chin and deal with it. You just have to pretend the decisions don’t have an impact on the game, even though they do.”
No crying then. McGeeney stated that Meath deserved their victory. “John Evans and Trevor Giles have come in there and brought a lot of width to their team. They are not as predictable as they once were. In terms of their size, there are a lot of younger players coming in there, there is a wee bit more bite in their game.”
Geezer smiled when asked to rationalise Kildare’s performance. Would it test his faith, we inquired. “I suppose that’s why we all love sport. None of us can write the definitive answer to what gives you success. You think you are doing the right thing. Something that works one day, it won’t work the next.
“In terms of rationalising it, you know, I do think it comes down to your particular mindset on the day. When you have to fight for something, when you are in a corner, you can give that wee bit more.
“The thing about top sportsmen is they always convince themselves they are in that corner. It doesn’t make any difference, we can look at Woods, Nadal, the greatest at what they do, but on any given day if you take your eye off the ball, or you feel that you don’t have to go at 100 percent, somebody is biting at you below to take over those few paces that you just took.”
To the Seánie Johnston affair. Despite playing a few seconds in the Kildare hurling club championship on Saturday to become eligible for intercounty football (if you don’t know the backstory, don’t ask), Johnston was not togged out yesterday but will be in a fortnight.
Did Saturday’s crazy scenes in Clane impact on preparations? “Sure none of us were there,” McGeeney countered. “I can’t help what the GAA do. They make decisions. If they want to elongate it, change the rules, decide to ask people for objections, all those things are out of my hands.”
So that’s the end of it?
“Ach, it won’t be. There are one or two out here who will just to keep things going. So you just have to let them at it. It’s a cheap way of publicity but sure what can you do?”
In contrast, Meath boss Banty McEnaney was beaming. “Kildare was never mentioned in the build up, I can tell ya.
“I’ve said this a thousand times and I’m saying it again: the only thing that matters to me is the four walls of the dressing room and the people inside those four walls of that dressing room. I’ve a great group of lads, fighting tooth and nail for each other.
“They know the way I operate, I operate with players on form. Doesn’t make any difference about birth certs or names.”