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Monday 25 September 2017

Kildare shy on the belief to beat Dublin in Croker

Kildare's inside forward line have major firepower but ultimately Gavin's men will find way to victory

Brian Fenton of Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Brian Fenton of Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile

Sunday probably comes a year too soon for a Kildare victory. They've closed the gap substantially between Dublin and the next best team in the province - a title they now hold without question.

And against Meath, we saw them display a lot of the necessary qualities that any team is going to have to possess if they're going to win a Leinster title.

They were well-coached, fit, mobile.

They used the ball intelligently, they retained possession when needed and they struck the balance between the two exceptionally well.

They broke forward with purpose and vitally, have an inside line that can forage and finish.

Dublin goalkeeper Evan Comerford saves a goal attempt from Kildare’s Daniel Flynn during their Bord na Mona O’Byrne Cup semi-final clash at St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge last January. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin goalkeeper Evan Comerford saves a goal attempt from Kildare’s Daniel Flynn during their Bord na Mona O’Byrne Cup semi-final clash at St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge last January. Photo: Sportsfile

Paddy Brophy, Cathal McNally and Daniel Flynn scored 2-9 between them against Meath and throw on top of that Kevin Feely, the most prolific midfielder in the country, and you see how Kildare are coming to Croke Park fully armed with enough scoring power to make it an uncomfortable Sunday afternoon for Dublin.

So they tick a lot of the boxes in regards to Sunday but I still think they're a couple of components shy just now of being the full team.

Most important of all, they're not going to have the same confidence or self-belief as Dublin.

Fearful

No matter what Cian O'Neill is telling them in training this week or in the dressing-room before the match, there will be an element of doubt in the back of their mind that they're not good enough to beat Dublin just yet.

They'll be naturally fearful that what happened against Westmeath might happen to them on Sunday.

That's human nature and it's unavoidable. We saw it last week in the hurling.

I watched the Waterford versus Kilkenny match with a few friends and I assured them that if there were four or five points in it in the last five minutes of the game, you'll see an air of nervousness come into every Waterford player.

They'll see the end line. They'll see glory. They'll see victory. But they'll also see Kilkenny coming at them and they'll just lose their focus on the game fractionally.

And if Kildare found themselves in the same position next Sunday, something similar is bound to happen to them.

You can't sense inner doubt until it manifests itself and I think therein lies the greatest detriment to Kildare's chances of success on Sunday.

Now, that's only a temporary affliction. They won't beat Dublin but I think they'll give them a better game than anyone in the province for a couple of years.

And if they keep their eye on the ball next year, they'll get another crack and be all the better for the experience.

They've been promoted to Division 1 so by definition, they'll have a much more robust spring campaign, figuring out their flaws and talents against the best teams in the country next spring.

One of the tactical problems they face is what to do with Brian Fenton.

A Fenton versus Kevin Feely midfield battle would be a classic but it would also take away from Feely's natural game.

And Fenton has too much mobility for Tommy Moolick for O'Neill to give his other midfielder that particular detail.

But they'll learn a huge amount from Sunday.

Football isn't like a switch you can flick on and everything is right.

You build and you gather and you snowball into a good team and Sunday will be an important part of Kildare's development.

This year, they don't have enough of the qualities to stay with Dublin for a full 70-plus minutes but that's the case for the majority of teams in the country just now and it's vital that whatever happens on Sunday, Kildare retain and accelerate their momentum.

They will trouble Dublin, though, particularly if Flynn, McNally, Brophy and Niall Kelly fire together and cause early trouble for a defence still not settled in its constitution.

But ultimately, I expect a Dublin win by more than seven points.

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