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Saturday 3 December 2016

Time for some Lilywhite fight, not flight

THAT familiar sensation for Lilywhite footballers and fans alike: a staple diet of Saturday football in July, trying to rise - Phoenix-like - from the ashes of another crash-and-burn quest for Leinster glory.

Kieran McGeeney's Kildare invariably mastered this high-wire act, surviving the odd 'back door' scrape to make it into August.

Last year, with a change of manager, they came within a whisker of beating Monaghan to reach another quarter-final. But now, 11 months on, Jason Ryan finds himself under a lot more pressure by dint of relegation to Division Three and then last Sunday's meek - that's putting it mildly - 19-point defeat to Dublin.

In truth, even at maximum tilt, Kildare wouldn't have lived with this latest Sky Blue incarnation. They're stuck in transition, struggling to adjust in the absence of myriad retirements and defections - including this week's double-whammy exit of David Hyland and Darroch Mulhall.

But fans still expected more last weekend. They craved a more discernible defensive shape to try and counter Dublin's multi-pronged assaults. They wanted more aggression in the tackle, rather than a handful of flashpoints when the game was long lost.

Six-day turnarounds are never easy but the one consolation is that while Kildare and Offaly will share a Division Three base next spring, the latter are coming from Division Four while their talisman, Niall McNamee, is not listed to start as he battles to recover from a broken hand.

ODDS: Offaly 11/5 Draw 8/1 Kildare 1/2

VERDICT: Kildare

SFC QUALIFIER: Offaly v KILDARE, TULLAMORE, TODAY 2.0

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