Feely shines on Lily debut
O'Neill chuffed as ex-Charlton man's dominates in midfield
There was one name warming the frozen cockles of Kildare supporters leaving St Conleth's Park yesterday: Kevin Feely.
Kildare beat Offaly, 1-12 to 1-8 - no shock there.
Nor, to be slightly unkind, was anyone gobsmacked that they contrived to make a game of it from a near unassailable position, conceding a glut of 1-3 in a wholly unnecessary period of meekness towards the end of an untidy game.
But Feely, the former Charlton Athletic player who opted out of the final year of a professional contract with League 2 side, Newport County last year, was the day's little surprise.
"I think today was evidence that Kevin will be hugely important player for Kildare this year and going forward," argued Cian O'Neill afterwards.
Tipped for great things in the Kildare jersey before leaving for Chartlon in 2012, the Athy player, looked like a man who had patrolled inter-county midfields, rather than the lower rungs of the English pro game, for the past three years.
Alongside the ever-enthusiastic Daniel Flynn, the pair obliterated Offaly's midfield for the first 20 minutes yesterday, a double act that - along with the glitzy finishing of Niall Kelly - that put Kildare 0-5 to no score up early on.
"I think the most important thing is that they can both play, they are 'ballers," O'Neill enthused.
"They can play football because you do have a lot of athletes out there at the moment who get by on their athleticism rather than their football.
"But I think the lads have that first and foremost and all the athletic talent too."
Kelly failed to add to his four points after half-time and while Flynn's play was more polished, Feely was the most influential player in the result for his sheer ability to catch and ball and deliver it accurately.
He got a first half point too for a Kildare team who - like those before them - look good when they're let at it but a little too shaky when it's put up to them.
They also kicked 16 wides yesterday and really, made life far too difficult for themselves against an Offaly team who almost had to be encouraged into making their late and ultimately vain comeback.
"To be honest, Kildare were the better team for long parts of the game today," admitted Offaly's manager, Pat Flanagan.
"We were a bit concerned that they would hit us hard at the start of the game and that's what they did."
Offaly's goal - a penalty from Peter Cunningham - left them within swinging difference having been nine points down with just 20 minutes to play.
"You have to be happy with the players," O'Neill added. "They're resilient because they were put under pressure by Offaly who got a lot of momentum after the penalty."