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Saturday 16 December 2017

McGeeney: It's brawl in past

Boss expects passion but no repeat of Portlaoise melee as rivals meet

THE last time these Leinster rivals collided -- quite literally -- the referee felt compelled to brandish seven red cards. So it goes without saying that when Laois and Kildare rekindle their 'relationship' under the O'Moore Park lights this Saturday night, there will be a certain edge in the air.

That's all it will be, predicts Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney, who doesn't expect a repeat of that crazy O'Byrne Cup brawl, and certainly doesn't want another slugfest either.

"I suppose those things stay in everybody's heads. I would hope that's going to have no bearing on the game," said McGeeney, ahead of Saturday's NFL Division Two clash between these best of enemies, back at the same Portlaoise venue (7.30).

"There will be a bit of an edge to it," he added, "but you would have that in every Armagh-Tyrone game or every Meath-Dublin game because it exists between neighbouring counties.

"But hopefully we won't have the same mistakes that were made the last time that led to it."



UGLY

McGeeney didn't expand on that latter point, but it's a clear reference to the ugly melee that erupted after around 30 minutes of the O'Byrne Cup showdown last January.

More to the point, it seems like a veiled reference to the original flashpoint, that happened just seconds beforehand, where a Kildare man ended up on the deck behind the referee's back, just as Wexford whistler Syl Doyle was about to throw in a ball.

No action was taken, and McGeeney suggested in his post-match comments that if this prior incident had been "taken care of, it would have been all wiped out".

Instead, the fuse had been lit and anarchy erupted when the ball was then thrown in. Doyle sent off five players following that initial ruckus -- three from Laois, two from Kildare. Another player from either side followed in the last quarter, and it all ended with Kildare's 12 men overcoming the Laois 11 by 0-11 to 0-8.

Maybe part of the bad blood sprung from the previous June, when Laois suffered a humiliating 15-point collapse to Kildare at the Leinster semi-final stage. Whatever about laying down a marker last January, Laois need a positive result this weekend to ease their relegation fears.

They currently lie sixth in the Division Two table with four points, one ahead of Tipperary who are in the drop zone. Kildare have six points and desperately need another brace to maintain their promotion push, but they could also do with an improved performance because their form has oscillated wildly this spring.

McGeeney accepts they have struggled for consistency but outlined a few mitigating factors when speaking at yesterday's Croke Park launch of the 2010 Vhi GAA Cúl Camps.

"We haven't been playing with a full deck at all," the Cúl Camp ambassador explained. "Last year I was playing with a full deck from the start of the year through the whole year. At one stage this year I had 15 of my panel injured. Even last Sunday we were missing three from the previous Sunday through injuries. Plus, we have taken a different attitude to training. It mightn't pay off this year and it may do so, but these are all factors.

"We are only one point off where we were this time last year so there hasn't been a big difference," he argued. "You hope that we would be able to get some sort of consistency, but it is very difficult throughout the league. Most teams have been up and down, maybe with the exception of Cork."

Promotion would be "nice" but it's not the be all and end all. "At this stage, when you are in March, you are starting to look towards the championship," McGeeney adds. "It will be a tough game against Laois, who have improved in the last few weeks.

"They had a tough game against Meath (last Saturday) when they scored 1-9, but they scored 24 points before that against Westmeath. They are starting to play and get a bit of pattern in their play," he concluded by way of warning.

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