Feely looking forward to Kildare mixing it with the top teams
Midfielder believes Kildare have grown as a team in their last two games
Kevin Feely of Kildare in action against Fermanagh at Páirc Tailteann, Co Meath. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
A curious threat was issued by the Páirc Tailteann stadium announcer after the Round 4 qualifier games there last Saturday and Sunday had concluded.
Addressing the hoards of supporters gathered on the pitch, the announcer directed them to get off the field or the sprinklers would be turned on them.
By that stage the Monaghan players who had defeated Laois in Sunday’s game were already back in their dressing-room and showering. Manager Malachy O’Rourke explained that he didn’t fancy his jaded players standing in the heat signing autographs and posing for selfies with a huge Super 8s game just days away.
Yet the Kildare team, which Monaghan will face in that Super 8s opener at Croke Park, were harder to shift on Saturday evening. Having just navigated all four rounds of the qualifiers, completing their redemption after losing to Carlow in the Leinster championship, they wanted to take it all in.
Midfielder Kevin Feely was among those who mingled with supporters at the end of a surprisingly taxing week which followed the “Newbridge-or-nowhere” episode.
“The mood in the camp last week was ridiculously tense because of what was on the line,” said Feely. “After the elation of beating Mayo wore off, it was very much a case of, ‘Jeez, we’ve been in this position before’, where we’ve had a big win and the next week, or a couple of weeks later, we’ve let ourselves down completely.
“So last week there was a massive emphasis on trying to focus on the job in hand because last year we let ourselves down in that respect, having a good Leinster campaign and then in the Armagh game taking our eye off the ball. We probably got ahead of ourselves.
“For that reason I think last week we were very tense, very keen not to let the elation of the previous weekend go to our heads but at the same time bringing through that positivity that we had. It was a hard balance, but I think we learnt from last year in that respect, and we were able to focus completely on what we needed to, and thankfully it showed in our performance.”
‘Breathe out a little’
Feely ultimately felt relief after securing their place in the All-Ireland quarter-final group stage. “There’s definitely a sense of being able to breathe out a little,” he said.
Yet there is no time for reflection, with Sunday’s return to Croke Park in mind, following by a home game against Galway and then a glamorous trip to play Kerry.
Feely is looking on it as an opportunity to prove that Kildare really can mix it with the top teams after bombing out in this year’s Allianz league when they suffered relegation from Division 1.
“We’ll have it in the back of our minds as well that we’ve let ourselves down in a lot of those Division 1 games. Not all of them, but some of them we let ourselves down performance-wise. So we’ll have a massive point to prove going into every single game we play.”
It is an opportunity too to prove that Kildare really are going places with a talented team full of former professionals. Feely himself spent three years playing football in the UK, returning in 2015, while Paddy Brophy, Daniel Flynn and Paul Cribbin all had stints with Australian Rules clubs.
The stage appeared set for them after matching Dublin score for score in the last 50 minutes of last year’s Leinster final but they lost their subsequent qualifier to Armagh. And their next 10 competitive games too, bottoming out with May’s Leinster championship defeat to Carlow.
“That word ‘potential’ has been thrown around a lot with us,” said Feely. “A quote that one of our selectors, Padraig Brennan, said to us in the past is that potential is not playing very well a lot of the time. And that sums us up nicely.
“I think playing to our potential is when we make good decisions and manage the game well. I think physically and talent-wise there’s massive potential, but that only comes to fruition if you make good decisions and manage the game well.
“And I think in the last two games that’s where we’ve grown as a team, in that we’re not doing ridiculous things on the ball that we were maybe doing in the league, in terms of taking shots from outside the scoring zone or trying passes through the eye of a needle or taking the ball into contact in the centre of the pitch, which are all things that were letting us down in the league.
“They’re not completely eradicated because at the end of the Fermanagh game it wasn’t perfect, but we seemed to learn from that and our game has come on a lot.”
For the record, they never turned the sprinklers on in the end at Páirc Tailteann. Just as well given the water shortage.