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Saturday 10 December 2016

Time at least is on side of li lies

Leinster SFC: Kildare 0-9 Wexford 0-8

Adrian Flynn of Wexford in action against Eoin Doyle of Kildare during the Leinster SFC quarter-final at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile
Adrian Flynn of Wexford in action against Eoin Doyle of Kildare during the Leinster SFC quarter-final at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile

It didn't feel like a win.

Cian O'Neill said as much, though he hadn't any available options.

"That was not how we envisaged winning the match," he admitted from the relative warmth of the media room in Croke Park and the salvation of a Leinster semi-final after Kildare, in his first Championship match as manager of his native county, flirted promiscuously with losing to Wexford.

Perhaps unfairly, such is the ailing nature of the Leinster SFC right now, every match tends to be viewed through the context of Dublin's pre-eminence.

Kildare's performance on Saturday neither compared favourably or boded well

Asked to squeeze the good out of a night that threatened to turn utterly sour, O'Neill went back to basics.

Soggy

"We're in a Leinster semi-final. And we have five weeks to work on an awful lot of things."

Time, judging by Saturday night's performance, is Kildare's friend just now.

Though they controlled the first half and worked up a decent lead in the soggy circumstances, that composure left them without leave at the start of a second half in which Kildare failed to score for the opening 20 minutes.

"Your initial reaction is: hugely disappointed with the second-half performance because we were relatively happy at half-time," O'Neill ventured.

"But no, the second half was hugely disappointing because we just seemed like we went into ourselves.

"And we stopped doing the things that were working for us in the first half and were working quite effectively.

"And when Wexford got a run on us in the second-half, as all good teams do, we just went into ourselves even more.

"Our turnover rate, our fouls conceded stats were way up in the second half, which is a sure sign that you're not performing at your best."

Too many Kildare players were anonymous, though Ollie Lyons led from defence and Neil Flynn impressed early on in what was an encouraging and highly-anticipated senior Championship debut.

Still, it was put to O'Neill that his team played with at least eight backs throughout against a team who finished third in Division 4 of this year's League, not exactly the methods of a team particularly sure about itself.

"We conceded three points in the first 35 minutes, which was very pleasing," he said, though O'Neill stopped shy of conceding his team's populated defence had taken from their fertility in attack.

"I don't think it was our defensive set-up that let us down," he went on.

"And I said it before in the League, there are those who don't look at the process, they look at the product.

"We did set up defensively. It's something we've been working on.

"Is it effective? I don't think you lose too many games conceding eight points.

"So if you want to look at it pragmatically…when we had the ball is when we let ourselves down most."

For Wexford, the loss will sting given their comeback and Ciarán Lyng's late missed free, which might have forced extra-time.

However, it was a little sign of life from a county who haven't really registered of late.

"A lot of people have been doubting Wexford football," reflected David Power.

"When I got the job, Wexford was on a downward curve but I think we've shown it there tonight that we're getting it back up, maybe not where it was yet but we're getting there."

For Kildare, comfort in the form of the win; the knowledge that they have the likes of Niall Kelly and Daniel Flynn to come back and the fact that it is Offaly or Westmeath, rather than Dublin, who await them in the semi-final - and five weeks to iron out the kinks

"Would we have learned anything if we had won today by 20 points? Probably not," mused O'Neill.

"But we didn't expect the below par performance that we gave."

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