Moran wary of Lilies
Ex-Dubs star expects huge test from McGeeney’s men
IN the pantheon of classic modern Leinster finals, the 2009 installment stands squarely amongst the best.
It was the day Kildare announced themselves on the national stage, producing a performance which elevated their standing in the great footballing scheme of things.
It was also the occasion of Dublin's last piece of silverware – their fifth Leinster title on the trot, although subsequent events involving Kerry meant the season finished on the most bitter and twisted of notes.
Collie Moran, then a selector with Pat Gilroy, remembers being awestruck at the second-quarter fightback from the Lilywhites, a purple patch which followed Ger Brennan's dismissal for a straight red card and took all the good out of Dublin's two first-half goals.
“They were running right through us,” he recalls now.
“You could see at that stage that they were a team that were stronger and physically fitter than what we had faced in the past.
“They carried the ball very well and dominated a long period of the game around the middle third.
“It was the first time we had really seen some of the Kildare forwards as a genuine threat and as top-class score-takers. Before that, Kildare had been labelled an efficient, workmanlike team. That day, they kicked scores from all over the pitch. “We obviously knew about John Doyle and Dermot Earley,” Moran adds.
“But that was the first time up close and personal we would have seen Kavanagh and Donnelly and Smith and these guys.” From there, Kildare have matured and developed but still, no silverware.
On Sunday, they produced a performance above and beyond what followed from Dublin in beating Laois, but their extra effort was out of necessity. As Moran puts it: “Dublin were coasting and it was a case of ‘job done'.
But there wasn't as much pace or intensity about their game as you would expect. There will be a lot more pace the next day.”
So the general consensus is that their first reaquaintence since that day in just under three weeks’ time is going to be a cracker.
“One team will go on to a Leinster final and the other will start a long route through the back door,” Moran notes.
“But regardless of the result, both will have strong ambitions of being there at the end of August.
“Both teams will find out a lot about themselves and where they're at with their games.” Kildare, it seems, are much more comfortable in their own skin this season.
They move the ball with impressive swiftness, relying on the fine athleticism of their players to break quickly and create chances. Their problem on Sunday, though, was that – in the early exchanges, at least – the wrong player wound up on the end of their move and chance after chance went abegging.
“The danger for Dublin,” Moran stresses, “would be that Kildare have created a huge amount of scoring chances in the last two games and if they bring their shooting boots, Dublin could have a very difficult afternoon.
“They have been awesome in terms of possession and physicality around the middle third of the pitch. Against Meath and Wicklow, they suffocated both teams in the second half.”
Causes for blue optimism are growing too. In particular, the belated realisation of the potential of Diarmuid Connolly adds another weapon of mass destruction to the Dublin inside forward line.
Moran played alongside and then subsequently coached the precocious St Vincent's man in the early throes of his inter-county career and has noted significant changes.
“Diarmuid has been probably one of the biggest positives to come out of the legaue campaign. His form has been consistently good, which in previous seasons, it was one game up and one game down.
“He has brought in a level of consistency that has been a big plus for Dublin so far. It means that if Bernard does have a quiet day, Alan and Diarmuid could do the scoring and vice-versa. But looking at Meath, they have a lot of quality finishers.
Most of their forwards, if you put the ball in their hands, they know where the posts are.
“The problem for them was they just couldn't get the ball in their hands in the second half. Dublin have been chopping and changing with their midfield. “We don't know yet how much Ross McConnell or Eamonn Fennell might feature,” adds Moran.
“The big question will be: can Dublin get enough quality ball into their inside line on the day?” Three weeks of waiting and wondering to figure all that out.