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Wednesday 23 August 2017

O'Neill faces "tough" job to lift Lilies after giving their best

Anthony Nolan shows Kevin Feely a black card
Anthony Nolan shows Kevin Feely a black card

After a season of notable progression, the omens aren't great just now for Kildare.

For the last seven years running, the beaten Leinster finalists have lost their next matches in the qualifiers.

Unless they successfully appeal one of the three black cards he was issued this year, Kildare will play theirs without Kevin Feely, easily their best player in defeat in Croke Park yesterday.

Their captain, Eoin Doyle, had surgery on a broken thumb yesterday morning.

Yet the way Cian O'Neill saw it, Kildare could hold their heads up high leaving Dublin yesterday.

They came and were true to themselves and their style, even if he openly admitted "Dublin were far superior to us today".

"It will be tough," he explained. "We didn't come here to play a defensive game and give it a go.

"And we were very certain of that once we won the semi-final. We all agreed, players, management and back-room alike that we were really going to go after this.

"So we invested a lot of time, effort and sacrifice into it. So there will be a lot of hurt in the dressing room for sure.

Mighty

"But you know they they need some time, some space they need to let off some steam because God they deserve it and they have earned it.

"We will get back to work this week and really give it a good go. So it will be a mighty test.

"Somebody said to me that the last seven Leinster losers have gone out in the next round and sometimes that's just tough after a defeat but sometimes it can be the scar of a horrific defeat by Dublin.

"I don't think we'll have that scar today but we certainly have the scar of disappointment and we'll see how we can build ourselves up again."

O'Neill was adamant that he would employ the same methods if Kildare were by some sadistic twist of fate, paired with Dublin again.

He noted that their inability to hold possession in contact and the passing up of an excellent goal chance in either half had been Kildare's biggest crimes but insisted that their intentions had been correct.

"We really felt that we could win that match," he stressed. "And I mean that, we felt we could win if we played the best football we'd ever played and really put them on the back foot.

"To do that, is there such thing as a perfect performance? I don't know.

"But what we did know is that anything less than that wouldn't have been good enough.

Excellence

"We certainly didn't come up to say 'well, let's keep it to single digit scores' and I don't think that was reflected in our play," added the Lilywhites manager.

It was also reflected in the fact that Dublin scored 2-23, partly through Kildare's tack of mostly going man-for-man and partly attributable to Dublin's excellence in front of goal.

On a day they kicked just one wide in the second half, O'Neill could only pay tribute to their potency and consistency.

"They're phenomenal, they really are," the Kildare boss outlined.

"Listen, they've a great manager. The way he conducts his business.

"Obviously a team that keeps on coming back year after year, that's down to the quality of players they have.

"But it's also down to the quality of their management team and their backroom team.

"When you see teams that have had that success and still have the hunger to come back year after year, it is quite phenomenal."

"Today they were down a few and they still ruthlessly disposed with us at times and exposed us at times," he added.

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