herald

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Lilies on red alert

O'Neill's men must find best form soon

Paddy Brophy of Kildare in action against Shane Mooney of Wicklow
Paddy Brophy of Kildare in action against Shane Mooney of Wicklow

It tends not to be straightforward with Kildare these days - and so it was in their first match of this Leinster Championship in Dr Cullen Park two Saturdays back.

Coasting at 0-13 to 0-6, Cian O'Neill's team had an disproportionately adverse reaction to Darren Hayden's goal for Wicklow.

They stumbled and stuttered and seemed taken aback that a match they had seemingly won needed to be won all over again.

They also kicked some poor wides in the last, frantic passage before Neil Flynn sealed a two-point win when better calibration in their shooting would have avoided such drama.

Speaking to the The Herald the week before the game, Wicklow manager John Evans reckoned: "We know that on their day, Kildare are one of the best teams out there.

"But," he added not-so-cryptically, "when things go against them, they can also be as vulnerable as any other team."

The implication being that Kildare aren't the sort of side able to calmly absorb a shock and reset a calm course towards victory.

There have been good days and there have been bad days in Kildare's recent history but there have scarcely been any boring days. And the early indications for summer 2019 are that the trend looks like to continue.

Long before they staggered past Wicklow, people had been touting this game as the 'not-quite-so-shocking-shock' of the Leinster SFC.

In this, Longford have form. And so, too, do Kildare.

Since the turn of the decade, Longford have mounted the scalps of Mayo, Monaghan, Meath, Derry and Down on their wall after Championship upsets.

Kildare's most recent Leinster SFC loss came against Carlow last year.

If we haven't sold this to you yet as a potential upset, one of us clearly is trying hard enough.

Failure

After 'Newbridge or Nowhere' last year and their Super 8s appearances, the scope for Kildare to kick on was obvious.

But the loss of Daniel Flynn, the failure to achieve Division 2 promotion, the injury to Eoin Doyle (since recovered) and the uncertainty of the Wicklow performance have cast unavoidable doubt over that.

Longford have their own issues though.

Beating Meath last summer and Mullinalaghta's subsequent Leinster club win set optimism levels to new and giddy highs.

Darren Gallagher, Conor Berry, Robbie Smyth, Dessie Reynolds and Rian Brady - who all started against Meath in Pearse Park 12 months ago - are all missing for a variety of reasons.

Captain Donal McEilligott is suspended having failed in his bid to have a one-match ban lifted after a straight red card in Longford's final League Division 3 match against Westmeath in March.

Diarmuid Masterson, Sean McCormack, Barry Gilleran and Peter Foy - all of whom contributed to be victory over Meath last year - have since retired.

In short, while Longford may have a rich recent history of turning this sort of upsets into reality, they are without some of their most proven recent giant-killers.

Kildare have had enough warnings not to sleepwalk into this one.

ODDS: Longford 10/3, Draw 9/1, Kildare 2/7

VERDICT: Kildare

LEINSTER SFC

LONGFORD v KILDARE

Tullamore (Tomorrow, 4.0)

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