Ryan defends Lilies' tactics
Kildare make late comeback to see off Clare
Kildare manager Jason Ryan was quick to dismiss criticism of his tactics after his team scraped to a 0-13 to 0-12 win over Clare in the All-Ireland SFC Round 3B qualifer in Ennis.
With the Lilies full-forward line operating extremely deep, particularly early on, it appeared to be backfiring badly as the home team moved into a 0-12 to 0-6 lead with 25 minutes left on the clock.
Kildare rallied however, and with Alan Smith and substitute Eoghan O'Flaherty in particularly hot scoring form, they managed to see off their dogged opponents who began the season in Division 4 of the National Football League.
"A number of years ago someone would have said to me about tactics and fitness and the comment they made was no matter what you do, if everyone believes in what you do you've a high chance of something working for you," Ryan said.
"So, no matter what the tactics are, once you retain possession, get the tackles in and reduce what the opposition do, you won't be too far way from a victory and you will certainly be competitive."
Despite his defence of the team's approach however, Ryan did admit that Kildare failed in one of the more basic requirements he lays out.
"We gave away too much ball to be honest," he continued. "It's as simple as that. If you give away the amount of ball we did, no matter who you play, you're going to be in serious bother.
"Clare are very well organised, very fit and have some really good players. You could see they are a team who are very settled so they are very comfortable with each other so they made it hard for us.
"In addition to them making it hard for us, we didn't make good enough use of the ball."
No matter, the fact remains that Kildare came withing minutes of being dumped out of the Championship by one of the game's perceived minnows. Regardless of Clare's progress, it would have represented a massive shock.
However, they must be praised for the manner in which they turned things around, kicking seven points without reply over the closing stages. Ryan was on hand to acknowledge that very point.
"The players were far more effective with the ball in the second half and that's the key thing as far as we're concerned," he said. "The big positive was we won. We were losing by three and suddenly it was six but the players stuck at it and they deserve massive credit.
"The players who came in will get credit but the guys on the field all the way through from start to finish, they effected the game to turn it around."
Clare will rue the missed opportunity though. Despite securing promotion from Divison 4 and a strong performance against Kerry in the Munster Championship semi-final, victory here would have been huge.
Gary Brennan and David Tubridy in particular were outstanding and it was their points which helped them into that aforementioned six point advantage after the resart.
Brennan, though, may regret taking a point when a goal looked on as he opted to fist over the bar from close range.
To be fair however, in Smith, Kildare had the game's marquee performer as he finished with 0-6, five of which came from play. Credit too must go to the captain Eamonn Callaghan who kicked two massive scores.
But the real difference was the power of the Kildare bench. O'Flaherty, who was replaced in the starting team by Smith, made a massive impact helping himself to three points after his introduction.
Paddy Brophy also played a major part, adding pace to the full-forward line and scoring a fined point in a welcome return from injury.
Kildare are now in the final round of the qualifiers for the sixth time in seven years. Ryan wants to focus on the good points of the summer so far, but what he will no doubt truly crave is a consistent 70 minutes from his charges next time around.
"We just have to look at the performance in the second half, the performance against Louth and the last 25 minutes of the Meath game," he mused. "We'll be competitive and we're delighted to be still here and still in the competition."
Indeed, the former Wexford boss oozed positivity. "The players said they'd win at all costs and they certainly did that. I'm really proud of them. The Kildare public should be proud of the heart, desire, never say die attitude of the 21 guys that played," he said.
"They were six points down, 10 minutes into the second half away from home in a real challenging game. We'll be highlighting the positives and I think this will help us greatly."