KILDARE'S status as undisputed qualifier kings is now the stuff of legend, bordering on cliche. Most of you have probably forgotten, however, where this reputation for 'back door' resilience came from, given the county's previous traumatic relationship with second championship chances.
It all started, four years ago, against Cavan. The visitors to St Conleth's Park that July night were two points ahead in the 72nd minute before James Kavanagh broke Breffni hearts with a match-winning goal.
Thus was born a run of spectacular success (of the trophy-less variety) that has seen Kildare win 11 and draw one qualifier match under the watch of Kieran McGeeney.
Guess who scored six points for Cavan in Newbridge that night? Guess who will make his senior championship debut for Kildare tomorrow afternoon?
We are surmising, of course, because Seánie Johnston has not been named in the Kildare team submitted for the match programme.
That hasn't stopped the speculation because McGeeney rarely -- bordering on never -- puts out the same 15 players who have been touted to start a championship match.
In the case of this weekend, perhaps you can understand the method behind this 'dummy team' madness but, by the same token, the debate was always going to be dominated by 'will he, won't he?' questions surrounding Kildare's imported Cavan marksman.
One Cavan man we spoke to yesterday was convinced Johnston will actually start. The feeling in Kildare wasn't so emphatic, although there is a belief out there that it would make far more sense to throw him in from the start, then let everyone get on with the business of playing a championship match, free of the circus that has built up around this interminable saga.
Of the alternative scenarios, it beggars belief that Kildare would go through all the rigmarole and negative PR of the past six months -- concluding in the farcical endgame of Johnston's 35-second club hurling cameo -- and then not play him at all.
Here's another scenario, unlikely and all at it would seem given the respective strengths of each county ... the game is on a knife-edge, Cavan are starting to believe they can buck their 6/1 odds, when Johnston is suddenly summoned from the bench.
Can you imagine the crowd reaction in such circumstances? Who would be inspired? After all, this same Cavan team looked set for yet another tame summer exit when trailing Fermanagh by six points, 50 minutes into their first round qualifier ... then the PA announcer at Brewster Park revealed that Kildare had been beaten by Meath, to a raucous Cavan cheer, while their players suddenly caught fire and scored 3-3 in the next 10 minutes.
Coincidence? Presumably so. But it's very conceivable that the sight of their former star forward entering the fray in a close contest could work more in favour of the home team.
Amid all the pre-match brouhaha -- including the obligatory shoulder injury scare and then an ill-advised kicking practice session by Johnston at his former Cavan Gaels club grounds this week -- you'd be forgiven for thinking that 30 (or 29) other players won't be engaging in a do-or-die championship match tomorrow.
For all the surprising poverty of their performance against Meath, especially during their usual second-half pomp, Kildare remain short-odds favourites for a variety of reasons.
They're heading for Division One next spring; Cavan were lucky to survive in Division Three.
Kildare are bigger, stronger, more athletic -- they are far more advanced in development than a young Cavan team seeking to build on their recent (admittedly eye-catching) U21 exploits.
There is another reason why the visitors should prevail with something to spare -- the pressing requirement for a 'backlash' performance in response to their rudderless exit from Leinster.
All of these are logical reasons why Kildare, with or without their ex-Breffni Blue, should be in the round three drum.
•ODDS: Cavan 6/1, Draw 9/1, Kildare 1/6
•CAVAN: To be announced.
•KILDARE: S Connolly; A Mac Lochlainn, M Foley, P Kelly; E Bolton, M O'Flaherty, H McGrillen; D Flynn, R Kelly; E O'Flaherty, M Conway, A Smith; J Doyle, T O'Connor, J Kavanagh.