Solid performance required from Kildare if Lilywhites are to grace Lenister final

With players like Derek Maguire and Shane Lennon opponents Louth capable of an upset

There will be no moment of silence but plenty of muted reflection by diehard Lilywhites descending on HQ tomorrow

. Johnny Doyle is no more, the greatest Kildare ball player in the modern era, perhaps ever and certainly the most unrewarded servant in the county's respectable football history.

Gone too is Seanie Johnston. The wonder is who can possibly fill the void left by Doyle (not Seanie).

Maybe Niall Kelly will grow into the vacant hero and leader roles, everything Doyle was for 15 seasons. It would Also be gratifying to see Tomás O'Connor throwing his weight about.

Jason Ryan cut a frustrated and understandably vocal figure from his pew in the Newbridge stand last summer as Tyrone came down and slit Kildare's throats. It was far too clean a sporting demise for the locals. The ineptitude of that first half, when the nine wides were overshadowed by an inability to enact a most basic skill, the hand pass, was only covered by Doyle's omnipresence.

Abundance of talent In a winter of farce Kieran McGeeney also departed, to Tipperary and Armagh, with Ryan assuming the bainisteoir gig

; as he did previously with Wexford.

At least talent is blooming, with Ryan granting Fergal Conway, Tommy Moolick and Cathal McNally championship debuts.

Job one will be to nullify the influence of Paddy Keenan, something Westmeath failed to achieve in their opening round defeat to Aidan O'Rourke's Louth. If Keenan is allowed saunter from centrefield and register another 0-3 then Ryan's Kildare could falter much like McGeeney's did to Wicklow in Croke Park in 2008.

Louth have players like Derek Maguire and Shane Lennon to ruin early summer for those with higher aspirations.

Louth were drained by a margin of seven points when the pair scuffled in last year’s qualifiers but are up and running while Kildare are coming off a second pre-season.

If they cannot warm to the occasion and embrace the width of this unique pitch then an upset is possible. The bookmakers have the handicap at four points. That’s an enticing evens bet. With the money going on Louth.

But Ryan and Kildare know a Leinster final is there if they dispatch Louth quickly.

It starts with the smothering of Keenan.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent