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Monday 11 December 2017

Conway making centre-back role his own

Kildare's Fergal Conway. Picture: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE
Kildare's Fergal Conway. Picture: Paul Mohan/SPORTSFILE

IT'S difficult to imagine Jason Ryan in any mood other than the chipper one he naturally exudes.

To see him in the stand - where he routinely watches Kildare's matches now - is to view a man fuelled by a hyperactive urge to almost physically control those players at whom his manic vocal encouragement is directed.

But even in defeat, he has an inherent ability - and a totally genuine one - to accentuate whatever tiny, minuscule and even theoretical positives may be wrung from a defeat.

"I suppose you probably get that vibe off him, which he is, but if you are doing things wrong he's not going to be positive about that," says Fergal Conway, arguably Kildare's 'find' of the season.

"Of course he's positive about things. But he'll tell you what you're doing right and what you're doing wrong as well."

Treasure

When we say 'find,' it's worth noting that Conway wasn't exactly the Lilywhite version of buried treasure.

He had knee surgery intended to remove cartilage after the county's Under-21 interest ended, a routine job which turned out to have longer-term repercussions than he had initially hoped.

"It was a great experience to even just be in with Kildare and around the place, just to see lads.

"Obviously, it's unfortunate that we lost to Tyrone. I was still on the panel, just doing the rehab."

Centre-back hasn't always been the easiest position to fill for Kildare.

Initially, it was thought that Gary White was Glenn Ryan's heir apparent, particularly in light of his mature captaincy spell during the 2008 U21s' run to an All-Ireland final.

But he has spent time away with the Defence Forces and more recently, in midfield.

Kieran McGeeney tried a few different options at six.

Notably, a 'playmaking' centre-back in Mikey Conway, a role Mickey Harte has implemented with both Peter Harte and Matty Donnelly and Cork have attempted with Paddy Kelly.

But Fergal Conway now appears to tick all the boxes.

A solid-looking 6'1, he has matured and grown with the responsibility that has been piled on him.

In Down, he was arguably Kildare's best player.

Certainly, those au fait with his complete works were confident that his performance represented the best of a short but promising inter-county career.

"I suppose after we lost to Meath, expectation went down," he notes.

Hype

"But we kind of just kept the heads down and working away and I wouldn't personally know much about it (hype about Saturday).

"There could be big hype. I wouldn't even know.

"We have to worry about ourselves and this game on Saturday."

A win against Monaghan would put them back to where Kildare managed to get in four of the six seasons of Kieran McGeeney's progressive reign, an All-Ireland quarter-final.

"Donegal set up very defensively and Monaghan found it very hard to break down," Conway says of their opponent's defeat in the Ulster final.

"I'm sure Monaghan will want to get back and prove a point to their own supporters and themselves and get back to winning ways."

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