Jim Gavin does his best to talk up semi-final rivals Kildare

‘It’s going to be a big, big challenge for us’ says boss of overwhelming favourites Dublin

It’s more than safe to assume Dublin and Kildare will play out a non-contest in Croke Park on Sunday.

A bookmaker’s points spread has Dublin at minus 11 or 12/1 for a Kildare win. There is good reason too. Under Jason Ryan’s watch the Lilywhites have dropped from Division One of the National League to Division Three in just two campaigns.

They were removed from the 2014 Leinster championship by two Meath goals, recovered to squeeze past Clare before losing out after extra-time to Monaghan.

Hardly a disgraceful end but earlier this month Laois had them on the rack in Tullamore. They survived to force a replay. Then, without warning, they spread their wings, soaring past their neighbours to set up a repeat of the 2011 and 2013 provincial semi-finals. The former was a one-point defeat, the latter a ruthless 16-point destruction by the eventual All-Ireland champions.


"We haven't even referenced them," said Dublin manager Jim Gavin of these victories or any previous meetings with Kildare. "If you asked me the scores I genuinely wouldn't know. Those games are in the past for both teams.

A treat

“Kildare will have that momentum, they will feel they are in a very good position. I believe they got themselves set up at half-time in the second game to blitz Laois and it worked a treat for them. They put together some great passing moves, tagged on some great scores. They fully deserved the margin of their victory.”

The gloss is somewhat taken off that win by Laois limping out of the qualifiers at the hands of Antrim last weekend.

“Their second-half performance against Laois was very impressive,” Gavin reiterated. “I understand the work that goes into putting 3-18 up on the scoreboard – different scorers; corner backs, wing backs which shows their coach’s philosophy.

“When under pressure in both games they got a lot of bodies behind the ball and dug the result out. Particularly the first game. That shows a lot of character. They are a very fit, very conditioned team and it’s going to be a big, big challenge for us.

“The league didn’t go well for them but having seen some of those games they were unfortunate to get relegated,” Gavin added. “Deep in those games it just went away from them, so they were unfortunate. They had been in a commanding position. We know they have a lot of pedigree.

“There is a lot of strength in depth in that Kildare team despite the players who have gone overseas. They have a lot of experience and they showed it [against Laois] to hang in. That’s a skill in itself.”

A skill that will be required for long stages on Sunday.

Michael Darragh Macauley, who is expected to return to the Dublin midfield after injury, echoes his manager's view. He played Sigerson Cup alongside Peter Kelly, Paddy Brophy and Paul Cribbin while studying in Maynooth.

“Kildare have serious potential, I know that more than anyone,” said Macauley. “I was in college in Kildare last year and I would have known a good few of the lads so I have seen at first-hand how talented some of those players are. . . the potential of that Kildare team has is huge, I think they showed that in the second half against Laois. It’s obviously something we are going to have to be ready for, we can’t take anything for granted.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent