Ryan sees positives in defeat
Kildare boss wants reaction to Meath defeat in Newry
IF they gave out All-Irelands for optimism, Jason Ryan would've nipped this five-in-a-row curse in the bud ages ago.
"It's mad," he enthuses of the retrospective examination of Kildare's Leinster semi-final loss to Meath, a bad, bad day for he and his team, yet one about which he is still visibly animated and cerebrally engaged.
"A lot of the time after a game when you feel really disappointed you look back and you realise, 'that was a positive' and 'that was a positive'...but those things didn't really work'.
"The big thing is that after 35 minutes we were two points down, we didn't really play particularly well in the first half, didn't put enough pressure on the opposition.
"And then certainly the eight to 10 minutes at the start of the second half just cost us. They were really problematic."
For problematic, read disastrous, Irretrievable, hara-kiri.
"The other big plus for us (sense a theme here?) is that it was a Kildare team that didn't give up at any stage. So coming into the final whistle they were still trying, trying, trying..."
Again, you'd imagine that to be a base level requirement but maybe a team at such a delicate stage of their development as Kildare are now require all the positive vibes they can possibly get.
"It didn't go according to plan but again we'll learn from it, we'll learn from a number of our younger players dealing with the physicality and confrontation," he said.
Now we're getting somewhere.
Afterwards, in the GAA Museum auditorium that serves as a press conference venue for teams housed on the Cusack Stand side of Croke Park on double-header days, Ryan absorbed, analysed and regaled as much of the afternoon as the 20 minutes between the full-time whistle and the post match media address allowed.
He suggested, more than once, that some of his players were "shocked," by the levels of physicality they had encountered and endured.
Quite possibly, this is the first time that had happened since Seán Boylan was manager and some of Meath's defenders took their man marking brief in a literal sense.
"We'll just have to get on with it. It's part and parcel of championship football," he said.
So why the surprise when Meath dished it up? Enough of his players have played enough Championship football to know how it gets kinda heated on those sort of days?
"The previous day it was so easy," Ryan points of their quarter-final, when Louth mounted almost no resistance, either by football or force.
"Some of our guys have actually gone away and said to themselves, 'well look, if you are involved in that again, what will be different?'. "It's something you have to learn."
Not that we should expect any '99 call' a la the 1974 British and Irish Lions in South Africa, the one-in/all-in, collective attack/fiasco approach, if and when things get techy in Newry on Sunday when Kildare bid to salvage their season against Down.
Surely, someone like, say, Tomás O'Connor will deal with physical confrontation slightly differently than someone of a lesser stature like Niall Kelly.
"Championship football is bizarre, you could play a team from Division 1 of the league and the game is played at a certain level of intensity," Ryan outlines. But as soon as championship comes in it's a slightly different take to it. How and why, who knows, but it's championship," Ryan said.
"Just there's more at stake, it's more of a big deal, people put their bodies even more on the line. That's it and it's just a different type of intensity, the game is a little bit faster.
"You go from the Division 1 or Division 2 final to the first rounds of the championship a few weeks later, it's different, regardless of what the Division 1.
"There's just that extra little bit of speed which leads to an extra bit of physical contact and intimidation on and off the ball. But it's all part of the game, it's nothing outside of the rules or anything like that."
Worse to have lost and - in your own eyes at least - bullied, than just to have lost?
"When you lose a game, there's going to be a kick-back, there's going be some bit of a reply so you've got to hope that all falls into place," he said.
"We know the hurt, we know that we've trained well up to this weekend and you just hope that...but you know going into the Meath game we were really happy with our training and our preparation, but it just didn't show."
Ryan himself stood in the dock afterwards accused of tactical passivity at a time when Stephen Bray, in particular but not exclusively, found space and possession on tap.
"We'd be very much of the belief that in Division 1 and Division 2 football, if you bring back an extra defender the team will just carry the ball," he points out.
"So what are you gonna do? Are you going to bring back an extra defender or defenders and allow a team to just run at you?"
Fair enough. But mistakes were made? "I'd say in every game we make mistakes," Ryan accepts. "It's something that we as a management team are looking to change and hope we can do better.
"Yeah, we're addressing it. The buck stops with the coaches and your management team.
"You know, I think the vibe is good, the boys are working hard, they're very hungry.
"But we have take a huge amount of the blame, regardless of how players...if a player's attitude on the pitch isn't good enoug h, why isn't it good enough? Management have to take the blame."
One thing is certain though: it's not for a lack of positivity.