Tuesday 19 September 2017

Lilies are fancied to bloom against the Faithful

YEAR five of the Geezer revolution and already there are signs that 2012 will be about tweaking, not tearing up the script, as Kildare seek to mark their massive improvements under Kieran McGeeney with some belated silverware.

Their season opened last Sunday with an emphatic 2-11 to 0-9 win over the DIT students, the goals coming from two familiar names, Pádraig O'Neill and the perennial survivor that is Ronan Sweeney.

In the days that followed came confirmation that McGeeney has stuck with Johnny Doyle as skipper (for a third year) and Eamonn Callaghan as vice-captain.

Selector Niall Carew described Doyle's reappointment as a "no-brainer", saluting the veteran's natural leadership and voracious appetite for hard work.

No arguments there.

The unanswered question, though, is whether Kildare can take the next step with a group that has consistently lit up the qualifiers and reached the business end of the championship, without ever making it to September or even conquering Leinster. Maybe it's simply a case of unearthing one or two more uncut diamonds, or seeing how talented teens like Fionn Dowling progress in year two, or hoping that Mikey Conway (with an injury-free run) can showcase the playmaking potential first revealed to a national audience in 2009.

Avoiding the cruciate curse would be a welcome change too: Peter Kelly, their 2010 All Star corner-back, made his inter-county comeback against DIT but we'll have to wait a fair while longer before seeing if Dermot Earley can restore his talismanic qualities to the Kildare engine-room.

More immediately, the Lilies are fancied to see off Offaly, even though the midlanders enjoyed a productive start to 2012, an early 2-2 blitz setting them up for a 3-6 to 0-7 victory over Westmeath.

New boss Gerry Cooney was on a pre-arranged trip to Namibia and so didn't get to see Ken Casey bag a brace of goals; Cooney will also miss tomorrow's trip to Newbridge, with selector James Stewart again deputising in his absence.

ODDS: Kildare 2/7, Draw 15/2, Offaly 10/3

VERDICT: Kildare

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