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Saturday 19 October 2019

O'Neill: 'It'd be less ideal to be out of the Leinster championship'

Kildare manager Cian O’Neill
Kildare manager Cian O’Neill

So much for the best-laid plans of mice and men who manage. In an ideal world, from a position where they were seven up and in apparent control, Kildare would have finished off Longford in normal-time on Sunday.

That would have given Cian O'Neill a fortnight to get Lilywhite bodies in pristine condition, their tactics spot-on and their minds to believe - against all the available evidence - that Dublin are actually beatable in their own provincial fiefdom.

Instead, Kildare will have a week to get right for the Dubs ...

Or - the grim alternative - just seven or possibly six days to get their heads around Carlow.

Sunday's extra-time deadlock with Longford was uproariously entertaining while simultaneously alarming if you're a Kildare diehard craving signs of revival after a deflating Allianz League campaign.

O'Neill's frustration at his side's failure to seal the deal was palpable. And yet so too was his relief that James McGivney's putative winner for Longford had rebounded off the upright in the dying seconds of normal time.

Defeat to another midland minnow, coming 12 months after losing to Carlow at the same venue, would have placed the Kildare boss in a near-impossible position with the county's impatient fan base.

On that basis, he will accept the 'punishment' that whoever wins this Sunday's Tullamore replay (3.0) will only have a week go get ready for Dublin.

Positive

"It's not ideal," he conceded, "but what would be less ideal is being out of the Leinster championship - and that's what you need to use as a positive going into next week.

"I don't think either team would even consider thinking about the next weekend. We just have to get our act together and get through next week and see where that takes us."

But if McGivney had scored?

"It would have been very unfortunate for us because I think we dominated large portions of the match," O'Neill argued.

"But we got what we deserved because we didn't take advanatge of it. You can't afford to do that in championship.

"You saw that [on Saturday] night - Mayo had far more chances and didn't execute tham and got caught in a very tight game again.

"Something like that could have happened to us. But we finished very strong and we were unlucky not to get out of it with a sneaky win."

Leaving aside his various long-term injuries, O'Neill is hopeful that Sunday's 90-plus energy-sapping minutes won't curtail his options even further.

"A couple of lads came off with knocks and bangs; Adam (Tyrrell) came off with an injury at the end, everyone else was just fatigue," he outlined.

Meanwhile, Padraic Davis believes that Sunday's heroics might banish some of the recurring debate about all the players Longford are missing - including high-scoring midfielder Darren Gallagher.

Gallagher is heading to the United States to play football this summer and, as a consequence, was precluded under GAA rules from playing against Kildare. In a curious twist, he was on Garda duty outside the venue on Sunday.

Creeping

"It's going on since October really," said Davis, reflecting on the talk of Longford's missing men. "We were decimated with injury early on; we have the American thing creeping in; and then the extraordinary success story of Mullinalaghta on top of all that.

"So at some stage we have to stop, stop, stop! It's about what we do have. And I think [Sunday] went a long way to doing that."

Whoever loses will have a quick qualifier turnaround before facing a similarly deflated Carlow, who must plan without Seán Murphy after his red card for striking during Saturday's 15-point loss to Meath. The most enticing first round qualifier will see Monaghan, All-Ireland semi-finalists last year, host Ulster rivals Fermanagh.

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