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Wednesday 18 July 2018

Energy reserves required now for Kildare to thrive

IMPRESSIVE: Kildare goalkeeper Mark Donnellan under pressure from Fermanagh’s Tom Clarke during last weekend’s All-Ireland Round 4 qualifier
IMPRESSIVE: Kildare goalkeeper Mark Donnellan under pressure from Fermanagh’s Tom Clarke during last weekend’s All-Ireland Round 4 qualifier

CIAN O'Neill thought long and hard when asked after his team's win in Fermanagh whether Kildare had a greater chance now in these 'Super 8' games than they would had they qualified through a more conventional route.

"I definitely think we're a more mature team because of it," he suggested.

"We've learned lessons in those matches that we wouldn't have learned...well who knows?

"I don't think we would have learned the lessons we endured following Tullamore that day.

"And I think we'll be the better for it. Does that convert into performances in the Super 8s?"

Therein lies the mystery.

Momentum

If momentum actually exists in sport, Kildare have lots of it now.

They played with a level of certainty and confidence against Fermanagh, the sort that only comes after a season-turning result, the sort they engineered against Mayo.

Now, as they play their fourth and fifth matches in consecutive weeks, their bench will come into play.

Chris Healy and David Slattery have both added energy from reserve in the final two weeks, while Niall Kelly has changed the point of attack upon his introduction.

It's essential that they - and others - continued that level of productivity late on in matches for Kildare to be competitive in this brand new frontier.

Mark Donnellan's kick-outs last week were a revelation while Fergal Conway and Eoin Doyle have become every bit as important to Kildare's well-being now as Kevin Feely and Daniel Flynn.

For all that, they conceded 0-18 to a Fermanagh team that hasn't exactly shot the lights out this year and Monaghan have a much greater range of attack options.

They can reflect positively on their unexpected qualifier experience but also their luck therein.

Other than checking them off in their list of places to see in Ireland, the Monaghan players and Malachy O'Rourke won't have learned much in either Carrick-On-Shannon or Aughrim and but for the amazing exhibition of close-range shot-stopping, would have put Laois away by a much more handsome margin last Saturday.

This, however, is the stage on which they have ritually underperformed.

They have lost their last four All-Ireland quarter-finals (to Dublin in 2014 and '17 and Tyrone in '13 and '15), all of which were played in Croke Park and twice as Ulster champions.

They did, however, beat Dublin in Croke Park back in March (2-12 to 0-17), albeit at a point in the competition when Jim Gavin's team had already qualified for the final.

ODDS: Kildare 11/8, Draw 8/1, Monaghan 4/5

VERDICT: Kildare.

  • SFC Q-FINAL GROUP 1: KILDARE v MONAGHAN (Croke Pk, Tomorrow, 2.0, Sky Sports)

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