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Monday 18 December 2017

Curve Ball: Demoted by Laois - a Lily vision of hell

Niall Donoher, Laois, in action against Sean Denvir and Finian Hanley, Galway. Allianz Football League Division 2, round 3, Galway v Laois, Tuam Stadium, Tuam, Co. Galway. Picture credit: Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE
Niall Donoher, Laois, in action against Sean Denvir and Finian Hanley, Galway. Allianz Football League Division 2, round 3, Galway v Laois, Tuam Stadium, Tuam, Co. Galway. Picture credit: Ray Ryan / SPORTSFILE

KILDARE/LAOIS isn't the most storied rivalry in Leinster football, nor the one most dripping in bitterness ... but then, it all depends on where you're perched on the county border fence.

They say all politics is local but the same applies to the intensity of inter-county GAA relationships. If you're from Naas or Newbridge, you don't spend every waking moment praying for the destruction of Laois football - far better were it to happen Dublin, Meath or (now here's a perfect storm) both!

But if you hail from Athy or its environs, chances are that the O'Mooremen are Enemy No 1. And that's why you'll be viewing tomorrow night's visit to Portlaoise with a tingling anticipation mixed with pure, unadulterated dread.

How can you venture next nor near Laois for the next decade, knowing the dreaded foe inflicted the fatal blow that sent you scurrying into the dark recesses of Division Three?

Now, hop in the car, drive a few miles and ask some of the locals from Courtwood (who just so happen to wear all white) or Barrowhouse if they feel any way sympathetic towards the unfortunate plight of their Lilywhite neighbours ...

Sorry, I couldn't hear for all the guffawing.

A cursory glance at the Division Two table crystallises Kildare's fall from grace this spring. Rock bottom with two points, two adrift of Galway and Westmeath ... and with two away games to come, first up Laois followed by Galway on Easter Sunday.

That looks an unlikely resurrection day given the downward spiral that has seen Kildare nosedive from a promising O'Byrne Cup final - pushing Dublin to extra-time - to lose four out of five league outings.

If other results all go their way, they could lose to Laois and somehow avoid relegation - but surely they shouldn't be relying on mathematical Houdini Acts?

Why are the pre-season promotion favourites now peering over a cliff? The reasons are many, no doubt, but one long-time Lilywhite observer sums it up as a "lack of confidence".

"Heads drop very quickly when the pressure comes on," he explains. Obviously linked to this is a deficit of leadership - no huge surprise in the context of the overhaul that has occurred since even before Kieran McGeeney was ousted in a county board vote, to be replaced by Jason Ryan, himself under mounting pressure.

Look at all the stellar servants, recently departed: Dermot Earley, Johnny Doyle, Ronan Sweeney, Mick Foley, to name just four. Aussie Rules has snared a couple of the most promising next generation. Injuries haven't helped - but then, that goes with the terrain of inter-county management.

The best young forward in the county is, by common consent, Niall Kelly but it remains to be seen how big a role he plays tomorrow, given his involvement in a Leinster U21 final against Dublin next Thursday.

Kelly is from Athy - one presumes the prospect of being relegated by Laois would leave a sour taste. But then, which is more important to Kildare: winning a Leinster U21 title or avoiding the grim spectre of Division Three?

 

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