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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Jason Ryan relief as Lilies dig deep

Kildare boss takes 'huge positives' from Laois stalemate

Tommy Moolick, Kildare, celebrates after scoring his side's equalising point late in the game. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Kildare v Laois. O'Connor Park, Tullamore,
Tommy Moolick, Kildare, celebrates after scoring his side's equalising point late in the game. Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final, Kildare v Laois. O'Connor Park, Tullamore,

GLASS half empty or tankard half full? With championship stalemates it can be impossible to know ... but Jason Ryan had no doubts on Saturday night.

After a harrowing spring which included all kinds of trauma - physical and psychological - the Kildare manager was delighted to witness hints that the tide may have turned.

When your team has just been relegated to Division Three, and you've overseen something more resembling a casualty ward than a dressing-room, any kind of positives are to be embraced.

So when Kildare pinned back local rivals Laois with the last three points in O'Connor Park, not alone did they earn a replay back in Tullamore next Saturday evening (7.0), they also stemmed the bleeding.

"We take huge positives from this. We won't be going away with negatives at all," Ryan declared after seeing substitute Tommy Moolick land a priceless injury-time equaliser and then Laois sub Paul Kingston fluff an even later chance to break Lilywhite hearts all over again.

"Laois had an extra championship game under their belts, Laois stayed in Division Two, they're a really settled team. Like, everybody could pick that Laois team," he maintained ... whereas journalists might only guess "six of seven fellas who are going to start" for Kildare.

TRANSITION

Ryan echoed a familiar "team in transition" theme but he can see light at the end of a dark injury tunnel - starting with Moolick, who kicked two points in a lively half-hour cameo while also threatening a goal.

"That was the first day Tommy Moolick has really played a competitive game in full fitness since January, and for Kildare it's the first time he's played a game since we played Monaghan last year really," his manager explained.

Niall Kelly also came off the bench for his first outing since being hamstrung in the Leinster U21 final, two months ago, and was joined in the fourth quarter fray by Eoin Doyle.

"It's terrific just to get more games into their legs," said Ryan, clarifying that Peter Kelly was ruled out by illness (not another injury setback) and should be back pressing for his place next weekend.

It was difficult to dispute Ryan's assertion that Kildare "didn't deserve to lose anyway" given their gutsy late fightback against the wind and some of the chances that got away.

They engineered the three most obvious sniffs on goal but had to settle for 0-3 instead.

Alan Smith pointed via the crossbar, the energetic Paul Cribbin scored in the follow-up to Graham Brody's point-blank denial of Moolick, then Eamonn Callaghan, scenting a 66th minute equalising goal, pulled his ground shot agonisingly wide ... cue an Eoghan O'Flaherty consolation tap-over when play was called back for an earlier foul.

Laois may harbour more mixed feelin gs about a sequel. They looked poised when only trailing 0-9 to 0-8 at the break but, with the wind, they seemed to lack ambition to go for the jugular.

Kildare had no one to quite match the influence of midfield powerhouse John O'Loughlin or roving full-forward Donie Kingston - but more Laois colleagues need to step it up if they're to seal a daunting date with the Dubs.

"We made mistakes in all areas - finishing, passing and tackling - but they're all small things we hope to change," suggested Colm Begley. "I'm sure Kildare will be the same."

That's the beauty of replays.

leinster sfc: laois 0-16 kildare 0-16

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