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Monday 5 December 2016

Lilies must learn lessons from Dubs rout: O'Neill

Padraig O'Neill
Padraig O'Neill

THE understandable reaction of most Kildare folk, in the immediate wake of last Saturday's redemptive victory over Offaly, was: "Let's park the Dublin debacle and move on."

Pádraig O'Neill doesn't quite agree. The St Laurence's clubman reckons Kildare still need to absorb the lessons of that 19-point defeat if they are to sustain another lengthy qualifier run all the way back to Croke Park.

Kildare survived their opening 'back door' engagement with a mere two points to spare. "We just dogged it out," according to O'Neill ... now they face another Saturday in the midlands, against Longford in Mullingar.

Asked if it was now a case of only looking forward, he replied: "A little bit, but then you have to learn from what you did that week (against Dublin) too. There were situations that happened in that game we don't want to happen again, so you have to still learn from that."

Their latest Sky Blue lesson was compounded by the defection of two panellists, David Hyland and Darroch Mulhall, to the United States.

"A tough week in one way," O'Neill admitted. "Croke Park can be a lonely place when things don't go your way. The other side of it, though, it's nice to get back on the pitch so quickly to rectify those things that went wrong. Six days wasn't ideal but you're better off getting it out of the system and going again.

"We were back in the pool Monday and then on the pitch Tuesday and Thursday - probably more to get the heads right than anything else."

The workaholic half-forward now hopes that the qualifier experience of Kildare's older core (himself included, having played through all those Kieran McGeeney campaigns) will stand them in good stead.

"We have been here before. It's not the place we want to be, but we have to regroup and we knew, if we got a win (over Offaly), hopefully that would build momentum and give the younger lads confidence to push on. Because there is a good set of players there," he stressed. "Even against Dublin, things didn't go our way but you learn an awful lot from it ... you're marking top-quality players."

O'Neill believes Dublin have stepped up again from the team that crushed Kildare en route to the 2013 All-Ireland.

"Usually most teams have one or two top-class forwards where Dublin have six, seven, maybe eight," he explained.

"They have a great array of talent. But I'm sure someone will get the chance to beat them this year; whether they take it or not is a different story ... no one said they'd be beaten last year and they were, so you never know what can happen."

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