Tuesday 25 October 2016

Eoghan goal is to end medal famine

Lilies must lead the charge to stop talk of a one-horse race in Leinster - O'Flaherty

EOGHAN O'FLAHERTY doesn't try and sugarcoat the truth about Leinster football. Nor does he gloss over Kildare's recent failure to make the province's flagship championship anything more than a one-horse race, led from pillar to post by a rival thoroughbred in sky blue silks.

"I don't think it is insulting - results don't lie," the Kildare centre-forward concedes.

"In the last couple of years we've had some bad beatings by Dublin. Meath have given them a couple of tests; we gave them one or two, four or five years ago maybe. But since then it has been all about Dublin.


"But we wouldn't be training if we don't feel we could challenge them. We've a good group of players here; a lot of young, athletic, mobile players that we think should be able to match them. Be able to put it up to them. So we'll see if we can in two weeks."

All will be revealed on June 28, when Kildare travel into Dublin's Croke Park den craving an ambush to electrify the most predictable of all provinces.

The Dubs have lost just once in Leinster over the past decade. They haven't lost to Kildare in SFC combat since the 2000 Leinster final replay.

That was the day Dublin saw a commanding six-point lead wiped out by two goals within 90 surreal seconds of the restart. On Saturday night in Tullamore, we saw the nearest thing to a Lilywhite carbon copy: Jason Ryan's men trailed by a point on the resumption and led by an astonishing eight, just three minutes and 15 seconds later.

The ensuing 13-point win has restored hope after the "disheartening" drop to Division Three. "After the league we had, confidence was that bit lower - there's no point denying it," O'Flaherty admits.

"We thought we were playing well coming into the first Laois game, in challenge games and that. But I suppose you're always unsure - championship football is different. So to get two games now, I don't think we could have asked for better preparation going into Dublin."

As O'Flaherty sees it, Dublin's recent vice-grip on Leinster is partly a reflection of incremental improvements in the capital ... but there's just as much onus on Kildare to raise their standards too, having shipped double-digit defeats to their rivals in the 2013 league and championship, plus last year's league.

"Dublin have slightly progressed every year, they've always got one or two new players into the team, and their style of football has developed as well," he says.

"I would have thought that Donegal caught them on the hop last year. Probably I wouldn't see that happening again if they faced them.


"All the teams are training hard to try and win Leinster. Talk of doing away with the provincial championships … I'd do anything to win a Leinster medal."

This consistently prolific point-taker had to wait until Saturday - in his eighth season as a Kildare senior - to score his first championship goal. But it was the collective second-half effort against Laois that most pleased him.

"We moved the ball a lot quicker, we transferred it, we didn't take the ball into contact. In the first half we were a bit sluggish, a bit laborious on the ball; but we really moved it quick, avoided contact, had runners off the shoulder," the Carbury man enthuses.

"To have any hope against Dublin, you're going to have to play that game ... and you have to get a body or two back and be clinical going forward. We were certainly that in the second half," he adds, while admitting: "If we kick 16 wides against Dublin, you can be pretty sure we probably won't win the game - but that's something to work on."

He then signs off in defiant fashion: "We'll have to improve again for two weeks' time, and hopefully we'll give it a good rattle and there's no reason why we can't go and beat them."


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