Former Kildare selector Niall Carew recalls 2010 All-Ireland semi-final clash against Down

All-Ireland Round 2B qualifier: Kildare v Down

Waterford manager Niall Carew with Kieran McGeeney during his time as a selector with Kildare.

Waterford manager Niall Carew with Kieran McGeeney during his time as a selector with Kildare.

 

This weekend’s football qualifiers will see many eyes drawn to Omagh and the cross-county line contest between Tyrone and Armagh but Newry also stages an interesting Round 2B encounter between two counties whose meeting four years ago appeared to hold out great promise for their respective futures.

Down and Kildare met at the end of August 2010 in the second All-Ireland semi-final. At stake was a place in the final against Cork. Down won by two points and went close in the final but neither they nor Kildare were able to build on the achievement.

On Sunday each team will have changed about 50 per cent of their line-ups from four years ago.

Niall Carew, prior to the past two years in charge of Waterford’s footballers, was one of Kieran McGeeney’s selectors in his native Kildare and he still clearly remembers the day, which ended in frustration when the team’s second-half comeback ran out just two points short.

“The big thing for me was that there seemed to be a surreal atmosphere whether it was the colour or the unique pairing you could sense it, even on the sideline. There was something about that game, a fair bit of drama. We actually started well, which we hadn’t been doing in previous games and then Benny Coulter got the goal (a controversial score that appeared to have been a square ball).

“We came back and in the end hit the bar with Rob Kelly’s free kick coming back and rebounding off two or three lads but the ball wouldn’t go in to the net.

“One thing that sticks with me is my father - and maybe it’s because he passed away since - at the time said there was something really special about that game. He said he felt it - for whatever reason and I did too. I couldn’t see us being beaten.”

Both teams have failed to get back to an All-Ireland semi-final since. Carew believes that setbacks affect counties like his own and Down more deeply because the chances they get are limited.

“If you think about it, Kildare and Down or any of those teams really only get the one opportunity to win an All-Ireland – like Kildare in ’98 – and that’s why you see a big turnover in players. Down didn’t win it that year and obviously we couldn’t and when it never happened for the teams even though we were both quite near to it at the time, you feel the window of opportunity closing.

“When that happens it’s very hard to go back to the well and the final nail for us was the Donegal game a year later (losing in extra time to a spectacular point by Kevin Cassidy). When you don’t get the rub of the green and I felt we never got it - I wouldn’t think it was by design or anything - it’s very had to break through at All-Ireland level.

“Down didn’t either. Cork kicked frees that day from 50 or 60 yards that they may never get again and when you keep going back to the well it’s going to end up being dry.

“Part of luck is luck with injuries. If we had a fit Dermot Earley for the whole year - he got injured in the quarter-final - I think we mightn’t have been over-run in midfield for those crucial 25 minutes when Down dominated that middle sector. Losing a player of his calibre was a definite loss.”

Although he remains phlegmatic about the various trials and tribulations in Kildare’s run to the All-Ireland quarter-finals - and four years ago, beyond -in each of his years involved Carew rounds off with a brief recollection.

“I remember (the late) Ray O’Malley, who was a Mayo man but also the school principal (St Farnan’s, Prosperous) giving his speech to the graduation class. ‘There are two things that can destroy lives,’ he says. The first thing was drink and he gave a spiel about that. The second thing was referees.”

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