herald

Monday 21 January 2019

Lilies can keep looking up by ditching Derry

KILDARE v DERRY

Newbridge, Tomorrow 2.45

IT could be argued on top of a decent body of evidence that these two are the most in-form teams in their respective provinces just now.

Kildare won an O'Byrne Cup full of ambitious and talent-laden college teams and convincingly put Antrim away in Casement Park in round one of the league with a performance that nonetheless had Kieran McGeeney looking for more from his players.

Derry, meanwhile, have a 5-0 win/loss ratio since John Brennan took over, meet Tyrone in next week's McKenna Cup final and edged a one-point victory over the Red Hands in Celtic Park in their own first Division 2 match.

The dogs in the streets of Newbridge can recognise the rising standards in Kildare's fortunes in each of McGeeney's three years at the helm this far and if that trend continues this year, they are unquestionably genuine All-Ireland contenders.

What bodes well for the Lilywhites just now is how well all their stars of 2010 are playing at such an early part of the season. John Doyle displayed all the skills which lit up last year for him in Casement Park while Eamonn Callaghan kicked four points from play in the sort of performance we have now come to expect.

Defensively, Kildare seem solid too, conceding just three points from play, and given the whistle-happy nature of Martin Higgins' refereeing that day, they can feel aggrieved to have coughed up so many scoreable frees.

Gary White has now returned to the squad -- a massive fillip given his undoubted potential -- while Rob Kelly comes into the team at full-forward and looks another player whose development has accelerated over the past couple of years.

For Derry, the news that Joe Diver will miss the rest of their League campaign comes as a serious knock to their promotion hopes, particularly as both Fergal Doherty and Patsy Bradley remain stricken. However, James Conway and PJ McCloskey have been forging a pretty productive partnership between them this past month.

Without doubt, this match has promotion consequences and confidence should be high in both teams but at home, Kildare can take the points.

ODDS: Kildare 4/6, Draw 13/2, Derry 8/5

VERDICT: Kildare

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