Kildare seize their chance after the slowest of starts against Longford

Cian O’Neill believes his side can beat the Dubs after second-half romp in Tullamore

Longford’s Colm P Smyth fails to stop Kildare’s David Slattery scoring a point during the Leinster SFC  quarter-final replay at  O’Connor Park in  Tullamore. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Longford’s Colm P Smyth fails to stop Kildare’s David Slattery scoring a point during the Leinster SFC quarter-final replay at O’Connor Park in Tullamore. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

Kildare 1-18 Longford 0-10 

Oh mercy. For a while here it felt like both teams were somehow spooked by the prize on offer, either unwilling or afraid to embrace the date with All-Ireland champions Dublin next Sunday. Even on the second time of asking.

It actually started out as if one team was trying to outdo the other in the art of losing. Missed points, missed frees, missed goal chances, turnovers, over-carrying, shots dropping short. Not enjoyable to watch.

Thankfully once Kildare went about trying to actually win the game the contest opened up into the generally predictable and one-sided. It was better than nothing. Manager Cian O’Neill instantly hailed it as Kildare’s best performance of the year so far, and then straight up predicted how they’ll fare against Dublin in Croke Park: “We’re going to win that match.”

In that case Kildare will want to start scoring before the 18th minute, and improve a strike rate that saw them miss five goal chances and hit 12 wides: they did display some potential bother for Dublin in the second half as the excellent Tommy Moolick and Ben McCormack pressed home their wind advantage, and Kildare finished with a decent spread of nine scorers, 0-5 from Neil Flynn.

Aside from the comedy of errors that was the opening quarter of an hour, Jimmy Hyland having no luck at all in front of goal, Kildare weren’t at all bothered by Longford – who came from seven points down in last Sunday’s eventual dead heat.

Consider some bare facts that entertained the crowd of 4,326: it took 17 minutes and 25 seconds for David McGivney to land the first score of the game, a free for Longford, only for that to be wiped out 30 seconds later when Fergal Conway broke straight through for a Kildare goal from the resulting kick-out.

Conditions were testing, the swirling wind certainly benefitting Longford in the first half, but they could still only manage four points by half time, 1-4 to 0-4, McGivney and Joseph Hagan to the fore. Kildare played all the football after that, and it took 69 minutes before Longford’s first forward managed a score: a free from captain Mickey Quinn.

Kildare’s Neil Flynn carries the ball under pressure from Longford’s Patrick Fox. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Kildare’s Neil Flynn carries the ball under pressure from Longford’s Patrick Fox. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

O’Neill can take some positives as they look to stall Dublin’s quest for a fifth successive All-Ireland, and ninth successive Leinster. Jim Gavin’s team beat Louth by 26 points in their quarter-final, including five goals.

“I’d say without question our best performance this year,” added O’Neill, “and obviously it’s a pity it took us six months to get to this point but the happiest part of it was we did our best to put a complete performance in when we had the ball and didn’t have the ball.

“And that ruthless streak is something that escaped us a bit this year and we definitely had it going through the qualifiers last year and obviously we did a lot of work on it during the week. As a management team we transferred a lot of responsibility to the players this week, and they responded brilliantly there were leaders all over the pitch there. Even when things went against us we didn’t drop our heads, we just reset and went at it again that’s growth and that’s learning.”

Asked about Kildare’s chances against Dublin, O’Neill didn’t flinch: “We’re going to win that match, we are going to perform. And I think if we didn’t perform today but won you’d be kind of saying ‘Jesus’ but I think when you do perform, everyone just grows another 20 per cent and I think that’s what you need to have going into play a team like Dublin. You need to have belief and confidence and that’s what we took from today, not just the win but that belief as well.

“You have to go into every match believing you can win. It doesn’t matter who it is. The nature of the game of football is that in any one day if you perform to your best you are in with a shot. There’ll be no fear there but there’ll be respect for the quality of team they are and how they have performed over the last number of years.   

For Longford, Carlow await them at Netwatch Dr Cullen Park next Sunday in the first round of the qualifiers, and manager Padraic Davis made no excuses for their performance here.

“In fairness to Kildare they coped with the second game better than we did,” he said, “and our guys seemed to be running on empty from very early, which is unfortunate for us, but Kildare certainly deserved their win. Sometimes a team just recovers more, but we also turned over a lot of ball, that’s disappointing, but Kildare were also quite relentless in the end.

“We only got out a single digit score by the end, and there can be no question the best team won here. Give Kildare credit, it was a much improved performance by them in the second half.”

Davis wasn’t quite as confident as O’Neill when sizing up Kildare’s chances against Dublin: “Certainly they’ll be hoping to put it up to Dublin for long periods, but obviously Dublin are a different machine, they’ll be hot favourites, but they’ll have to keep it tight at the back, as they did here today, and capitalise on more chances.

“But it’s a great position for them, we’d love to be going there next Sunday, but unfortunately it’s not us.”

Small mercies, perhaps.

KILDARE: M Donnellan; M Dempsey, D Hyland, M O’Grady; P Kelly, E Doyle (capt), K Cribbin (0-1); K Feely, F Conway (1-1); D Slattery (0-1), B McCormack (0-2), T Moolick (0-3); A Tyrrell (0-3, two frees), P Brophy (0-1), J Hyland. Subs: N Flynn (0-5, three frees) for Hyland (22 mins, injury), N Kelly (0-1) for Feely (56 mins), C McNally for McCormack (59 mins), E O’Flaherty for Brophy (62 mins), C Healy for Slattery (64 mins), K O’Callaghan for Tyrrell (66 mins).

Yellow cards: D Hyland (35+ mins), E Doyle (70 mins)

LONGFORD: P Collum; P Fox, D McElligot, B O’Farrell; C Smith, P McCormack, D Quinn (0-1); J Keegan, D McGivney (0-5, for frees); G Rogers, B McKeon, M Quinn (capt) (0-2, both frees); D Mimnagh, J McGivney, D Doherty. Subs: A O’Farrell (0-1) for McKeon (22 mins, inj), J Hagan (0-1) for 15 (30 mins), A McElligott for Rogers (50 mins), M Hughes for Keegan (57 mins).

Yellow cards: A Farrell (54 mins), C Smyth (58 mins), A McElligott (63 mins)

Referee: Sean Hurson (Tyrone)

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