Colm Nally’s Kildare role takes him behind enemy lines

Former Louth goalkeeper is coaching the Kildare senior footballers this season

It has been a tricky week on the home front for Colm Nally – the former Louth goalkeeper who is currently trying to help Kildare save their season.

“My youngest boy, Joey, he’s a mad Louth supporter, he’ll have the headband on at the weekend,” smiles Nally, who is part of the Kildare management team this season.

Nally played for Louth, coached the county’s development squads and was involved in the management of Louth teams at minor, under-20 and senior levels.

Two of his sons, Ross and Daire, featured for the Louth seniors in recent years and if it wasn’t for injuries they could have been part of Ger Brennan’s squad preparing to face Kildare at Croke Park this Sunday.


“When I wasn’t involved with a county last year, I really enjoyed going to watch and support Louth, they’ve developed into a really fine team,” says Nally.

There isn’t much he doesn’t know about this group of Louth players, having coached some of them at underage level and come across others on the club scene in the county.

Indeed, Louth forward Ciarán Downey is a fellow Newtown Blues club man.

“I had Ciarán from when he was seven or eight, coached him all the way through and to see him now being one of the leaders on the Louth team is brilliant,” said Nally.

From 2002 to 2018 Nally was involved in some capacity with various Louth teams. He was part of the under-21 management when they contested the 2012 Leinster final and he also worked with Colin Kelly’s Louth seniors between 2015-17 when they gained successive league promotions, climbing from Division Four to Division Two.

“The reason I stepped back from Louth after that was because my kids were starting to get involved, at that stage they were playing on development squads, so I kind of stepped back a little to let them forge their own path.

“Plus, there’s that old saying that you are never a prophet in your own land and after a while people get fed up listening to your old jokes and things like that. So, if you have an interest in coaching and you want to move on, you have to go somewhere else.”

Nally was the coach of the Meath senior footballers during Andy McEntee’s reign, which ended in 2022, but when Glenn Ryan’s number popped up on his phone last year, the proposition of linking up with Kildare immediately appealed to him.

In 2000, Ryan had captained Kildare to a Leinster SFC quarter-final win over Louth at Croke Park – and Nally was the Louth goalkeeper that afternoon. He saved five penalties during the 2000 season, but in that provincial quarter-final, Padraig Gravin smacked a late spot-kick beyond Nally to see Kildare run out 1-12 to 0-12 winners.

John Doyle, Anthony Rainbow and Brian Lacey were on the Kildare team that day – and all three are current members of Ryan’s management team.

“It’s funny how your paths cross years later,” says Nally. “The Kildare lads have been excellent to work with, they’ve been very welcoming. The league was very disappointing for us in terms of results but I have to say the players never moaned or made excuses, they kept turning up and working hard. It was great to get the win over Wicklow last time out.”

Sunday’s semi-final is a pivotal match in Kildare’s season – lose and they will spend the summer in the Tailteann Cup, win and they will secure a spot in the All-Ireland series. But Nally says the Tailteann Cup has not been a topic of conversation in the Kildare dressingroom.

“It hasn’t been mentioned, we know everybody is aware of it, the players are aware of it, but there is enough pressure on them without adding to it.

If I wasn’t involved in Kildare I’d be up there supporting Louth, but you just have to park all of that this Sunday

“These lads want to play for Kildare, they want to get their performance right on Sunday, that is where our focus and attention has to be.”

Back at home though, Nally’s current deployment across enemy lines has made for interesting dinner-table conversations. Ross has spent the guts of the last two years recovering from a cruciate tear and last week managed to play his first full game in 23 months.

Daire scored a point for Louth when they claimed the 2022 Division Three National League title but is currently taking a break from intercounty football.

“Before I agreed to go in with Kildare, I knew Daire had kind of made his mind up that he wouldn’t be committing to Louth – that made the decision a lot easier for me because if he was playing with Louth I probably wouldn’t have gone,” says Nally.

The flow of inside knowledge is going both ways in this clash, as former Kildare player David Whyte is part of Ger Brennan’s Louth management. Though knowledge might not necessarily be power.

“Sometimes if you know too much about them it kind of scares you,” adds Nally. “Because you understand how talented they are and how difficult it will be to stop all these players, the likes of Sam Mulroy.

“Louth have scorers all over the pitch, there is no doubt they’re a really good team. If I wasn’t involved in Kildare I’d be up there supporting Louth, but you just have to park all of that this Sunday.”

As Kildare aim to keep their championship on the road.

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times