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Tuesday 25 July 2017

O'Neill needs to nuture bloom of Lilies

Paddy Brophy is just one of Kildare’s dangerous full-forward line. Sportsfile
Paddy Brophy is just one of Kildare’s dangerous full-forward line. Sportsfile

Dublin have owned the Leinster championship for well over a decade now but there was a time in the past when the competition was a hard one to win.

I remember going to the likes of Wexford Park and Tullamore and coming away with narrow victories against teams like Wexford, Offaly, Louth and Westmeath.

Games of that nature on tight grounds with close to full attendances were difficult to win and the GAA should look at recreating those type of games on a more regular basis in the Leinster championship.

On Saturday, the atmosphere in Tullamore was a throwback to the old days and it was a very enjoyable occasion, despite the one-sided look on the scoreboard at the final whistle.

It was a disappointing performance from Meath and it is a result that may well knock them back on their heels.

It will be a huge job trying to pick them up in time for what will likely be a tough qualifier. They are in an extremely tough side of the qualifying draw so the pressure on them is huge and an early championship exit would not have been part of the plan a few weeks ago.

Now, it is a real possibility, so we will see what they are made of in the coming weeks.

I think they need to look at the way they play the game and maybe change tactics if they are to have any chance against a decent team.

On Saturday, they kicked the ball a lot in the opening half when playing against a strong breeze but Kildare had their defence set up with a sweeper in place and that tactic really back-fired for the Royals.

In the second period, Meath ran the ball more, despite playing with the elements, and again that tactic played right into the hands of a Kildare defence, which was superb throughout.

The Kildare midfield and forwards also had a very good day and it's clear that this Kildare team know exactly what they are supposed to be doing in terms of their game plan.

Cian O'Neill has a very good team under his control and the good news for him and all Kildare supporters is that there are plenty of quality forwards in the squad, who seem to have been coached to be patient in front of goal and work the scoring opportunity as opposed to shooting on sight, as happened with previous Kildare teams.

Cathal McNally, Daniel Flynn and Paddy Brophy make up a very dangerous full-forward line, capable of winning ball out in front of the players marking them and all three look like they know where the posts are. In Brophy's case, the clash on Saturday will have brought him on a lot as he has only recently returned from Australia. The Kildare half-forward line also looks strong and very mobile. The wide open spaces of Croke Park will suit this Kildare team, the way they play the game.

Confidence will be high going into the provincial decider but Kildare teams in the past have arrived at headquarters with plenty of hope and come away with nothing to show for it.

Tasted

It is now nearly two decades since they tasted a final victory at this level so I'm sure Cian O'Neill will keep all Lilywhite feet firmly on the ground. It will be a great occasion and a great opportunity for them to bridge that long gap.

For Meath, all is not lost but they will probably need a kind draw in order for them to get the bandwagon back on track.

The management team have put in a huge amount of work this season and the players are extremely fit. At times on Saturday they played some very good football but in the end they were beaten fairly by a better team.

Andy McEntee will know the importance of getting something out of this season. It is absolutely crucial that they win their next game.

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