herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Geezer can finally grab Kildare a trophy with Wee scalp

HERE'S one for Geezer's Believe It Or Not. During his three-and-a-bit years at the coalface of Kildare football, Kieran McGeeney (pictured right) has yet to bring silverware back to his adopted county.

That statistic flies in the face of the various rollercoaster odysseys undertaken by the Lilywhites since the Armagh legend came on board.

They've reached one All-Ireland semi-final, two quarter-finals, and one Leinster final; they've played their part in a host of frenetic, thrill-a-minute contests ... and still they've no trophy to show for all their efforts.

Not even an O'Byrne Cup.

That could all change in Newbridge tomorrow afternoon, when Kildare tackle Louth in an intriguing repeat of last June's Leinster quarter-final scorefest.

And yet, as selector Niall Carew openly admitted, they would swop the O'Byrne Cup for victory over Antrim in their opening National League Division Two outing the following Sunday.

It's all about the pecking order, you see: championship is undisputed king, the league is next, whereas the O'Byrne Cup is all about shaking off the cobwebs and unearthing a few wannabes with real potential.

That helps to explain why Kildare are still keeping their All Star talisman, Johnny Doyle, under wraps.

The veteran forward was set to face Monaghan in a challenge match today; he may or may not come off the bench tomorrow, although Emmet Bolton does make a starting return at wing-back.

"We know what Johnny can do for us," explains Carew. "It's a big game against Antrim the following week, so we have our eye on that as well as trying to win this game (against Louth). The O'Byrne Cup has thrown up new faces for us, which is good ... that is what the O'Byrne Cup is built for."

Carew accepted that events in Navan last June -- when Kildare's rearguard was ripped to shreds by a rampant Louth -- will add some spice to proceedings.

The defence was successfully remodelled in the wake of that shock defeat, but they have recently lost All Star corner-back Peter Kelly, the latest Kildare victim of the cruciate curse.

Several other high-profile names have been out of commission, but Kildare's form and fitness have still caught the eye during their victories over Longford, DCU and Westmeath.

They have juggled resources again tomorrow, with recalls for Bolton, Hugh Lynch, Eoghan O'Flaherty and Karl Ennis, while Mick Foley relocates to full-back and Eamonn Callaghan to centre- forward.

Louth manager Peter Fitzpatrick (pictured right) has been in the news for a different reason this week, following his selection as a Fine Gael General Election candidate to contest the Louth constituency.

Winning here won't do his electoral chances any harm, and Louth fans will be encouraged to see that their team has moved on from the Leinster final and 'Sluddengate', recording three wins on the bounce.

Still, the odds and the formguide point towards a belated first trophy of the Geezer era.

ODDS: Kildare 1/ 2, Draw 15/2, Louth 2/1

VERDICT: Kildare

KILDARE: S Connolly; H McGrillen, M Foley, C Fitzpatrick; E Bolton, M Scanlon, D Whyte; P O'Neill, H Lynch; E O'Flaherty, E Callaghan, T Moolick; A Smith, W Heffernan, K Ennis.

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