| 1.7°C Dublin

Battling display will lift the blues

GAMES between Dublin and Kildare over the last 10 years or so have been very close and exciting affairs so it was no surprise that we got another cracker yesterday. Both sets of players deserve huge credit for the way they went about their business.

In sweltering heat the work rate was phenomenal and constant right up to the last minute and it was one of those games where a draw would have been a fair result. Referee Cormac Reilly ensured that Kildare would not get a second bite at the cherry and some of his decisions during the game were terrible. The game has changed a lot over the years and the “hatchet man” has thankfully disappeared altogether.

But the current crop of intercounty referees are far too fussy at times and if this trend continues body contact will be outlawed. Having said that I don’t think Reilly’s performance was the reason why Dublin ultimately won the game. For me they showed more in attack and also looked very comfortable at the back. Paul Conlon was terrific in his first start in the full back line as was Rory O’Carroll at the edge of the square.

Up front, Alan Brogan was back to his best with a huge day’s work all over the pitch. He showed real leadership yesterday and there were at least three different Kildare players that tried but failed to curb his influence on the game. SKINNED Dublin controlled the early exchanges and it was well flagged before the game that Kildare would need to stop Dublin scoring a goal if they were to win this game. Connolly came close in the sixth minute having skinned Michael Foley but his shot flew wide.

The goal did come eventually and it was the manner in which Kildare conceded it that will disappoint Kieran McGeeney. With just a single point between the teams, Gary White was dispossessed brilliantly by Paul Flynn and the Fingallians man went on to finish to the net. That goal put some real daylight between the sides and Dublin kicked on with another three points before the break. I thought that Kildare looked disjointed in the opening half and it might have been something to do with the changes that were made before throw-in.

Looking back at yesterday’s game one wonders if McGeeney and his management put too much emphasis on stopping Dublin as opposed to playing their own game. I couldn’t understand why Eammon Callaghan started at wing-back with Gary White in the centre. Morgan O’Flaherty, too, spent most of the game in defence despite being named at wing-forward. When Callaghan was moved further up the field in the second half he looked threatening and finished with a goal and two points.

Why move a guy who scored four great points from play in the last round to the backline? Aindriú Mac Lochlainn was named in the starting 15 but didn’t start the game. He did come on and didn’t look to be carrying an injury. There was a strong rumour before the game that John Doyle would not start but was this more fun and games being played by Kildare. In the end it took the sending off of Eoghan O’Gara five minutes after the break to give Kildare a way back and, in fairness to them, they upped the ante for the remaining 30 minutes. Kildare kicked a couple of great scores to close the gap but the Dublin players didn’t buckle and in fact played some great running football when down a man. Alan Brogan in particular looked menacing whenever he got on the ball.

The Dublin players would have been very aware that Kildare finish games strongly but yesterday they showed remarkable composure and that win more than any other will certainly stand to them going forward. AWARDED Stephen Cluxton was excellent yet again in goal and it was his quick thinking after Kildare scored the equaliser with time running out that got the play back up the other end. The Kildare supporters must have thought they were going to win it but the referee awarded a free that Bernard Brogan doesn’t miss and that was that.

The win will give the team a huge shot of confidence but they must remember that there were no medals or trophies handed out yesterday and they will meet a team in the Leinster final that gave them plenty of trouble in last year’s opening round of the championship. It was good to see Eamon Fennell, Ross McConnell and Barry Cahill getting some game time yesterday and all three will be pushing hard for a starting place the next day. Pat Gilroy will be very pleased that he has players coming back from injury although he did lose Michael Darragh Macauley to a broken finger just before the half-time interval. Kildare must plough again through the qualifiers but they need to beat Laois to get the run under way. That, of course, won’t be easy but if they can regroup quickly and get over the next game they can still have a huge say.