'I said to ref that I'd appreciate a letter of apology': Mac
THE one that got away.Many Kildare people still look mournfully back to the 2011 Leinster SFC semi-final, their zenith under Kieran McGeeney when it came to the annual task of playing and trying to beat Dublin.
None more so, for fairly obvious reasons, than Aindriú MacLochlainn.
"That's the thing," he told the Herald ahead of the upcmong meeting of the counties, albeit one in which Kildare hope has long since diminished from peak levels in 2011 to a sort of Lilywhite gloom now.
"I know that I did nothing wrong. So it's frustration and disappointment rather than having any regrets. You can't regret something that you didn't do."
To recap, after years of making hard inches on Dublin's perennial put down of Kildare, it looked as though McGeeney and his team had cracked it.
Or at least, very nearly.
Late on, with the teams level and MacLochlainn racing towards a ball with Bernard Brogan that quite possibly would have ran out of play anyway, Cormac Reilly blew his whistle
"Ah, I remember it so clearly.
"The ball came up and it was going over the sideline. I had a man coming back. There was no danger at all.
"I just clipped my own heels. I didn't touch Bernard at all. But he gave the free."
Brogan, not inclined to stare too long into the cavity of his gift horse, tapped over the winner.
"I actually walked off the pitch with him at the end and I said to (Reilly), 'when you look at that tonight and you see that you made a mistake, I'd appreciate a letter of apology'.
"I told I him I had family there ...it wasn't so much disappointed for me, but the sacrifices and things you put your family through and then for it to be taken away from you.
"I told him I'd like a letter of apology and it probably made it worse. He didn't really say anything to me."
To fuel his ire, the very next day, refereees' assessor Mick Curley publically backed Reilly's decision.
"They show the grainiest footage ever of the incident from about 80 yards away and he says 'see, there's contact there'," MacLochlainn recalls.
"There was none. I clipped my own ankle."
Far from being perturbed, the team that McGeeney built were energised by the prospect of playing Dublin and they made it their mission to do so again that same year.
"The main thing there was, we wanted to play Dublin again. We would have played them in the morning. That was the thing that we had. We couldn't wait to play Dublin again.
"And we got the chance in the All-Ireland (Series). Had we beaten Donegal, we would have got them again in the semi-final."
It wasn't to be.
And though they didn't know it then, that was as close as Kildare and McGeeney would get to landing the big fish.
Did it become an obsession?
"I wouldn't have said it was an unhealthy obsession," MacLochlainn insists.
"I think it was just a natural thing. Dublin were the Leinster champions.
"They're our neighbours. So they were the natural team to focus on and the natural team to be preparing for.
"I think some of that is a media thing," he reckons.
"Like, when we played Dublin, it was ridiculous. It was like playing in an All-Ireland final. The level of attention from the media was huge.
"I remember Kieran McGeeney organising a press conference because there were so many people wanting to talk to us.
"We played in the All-Ireland semi-final the year before and there wasn't as many."
Though McGeeney's final year was notably less distinguished - replete with 16-point trimming by Dublin in the Leinster semi-final - it's hard not to surmise that the Kildare senior team have suffered decay after his exit at the end of 2013.
"I think a lot of people under-appreciated what Kieran did there," MacLochlainn notes.
"Whatever about whether he should have stayed or go, the manner of it was wrong. He deserved better treatment than that."
"Jason Ryan was the natural successor because he was part of Kieran's management team but you would have hoped the transition would be a bit smoother than it has been."
No hope of a shock, then?
"The relegation, the defections from the panel ... all of that ... like, there's definitely not the optimism that there was in 2010 or 2011," he admits.
"But it's football. Anything can happen."