Inconsistency has long been 'a killer' for Kildare - O'Neill
If Cian O'Neill could solve the riddle of Kildare football's rampant inconsistency, he'd be one giant leap closer to winning silverware.
It has been "a killer", he admits.
Fifty weeks after the Lilies wilted to Carlow, they open another Leinster SFC campaign against another rank outsider, Wicklow, in Cullen Park tomorrow (7pm).
It also happens to be 45 weeks since they sent Mayo from Newbridge to nowhere. Consistency or lack of - the age-old conundrum.
"I think the biggest blight on Kildare over the last, I suppose you could go back 19 years to 2000 really, has been the inconsistency of performances," says O'Neill.
"In the late noughties, when there were serial quarter-final appearances, there were defeats to Wicklow and Louth in the first round of Leinster - and they bounce back and have great 'back door' series. Under Jason Ryan's time they beat Cork in Thurles but the next week they are beaten by seven goals by Kerry.
"In my own time, we put in a decent performance against Dublin (the 2017 Leinster final) and two weeks later underperform in a last-12 match. It's that inconsistency that has been a killer.
"And last year was probably the best example - to lose the way we did early on and then bounce back.
"Is it psychological?" he wonders aloud. "There's obviously a part of that, no question. Is there a belief issue? That's something we are constantly trying to work on.
"Belief, in its most pure form, can only really be developed by consistent success and performance - and if that isn't there, then that has an impact on belief. I never think it's just one thing, it's a combination of things."
Given the memory of Carlow, O'Neill is loath to answer if Kildare need to get back to the Super 8s. "I'm not avoiding the question but, after the start to our championship last year, we really can't have any aspirations without getting past game one," he cautions.
"Of course when you are in the Super 8s the year before, you would see that as the standard you want to set the next year - otherwise you have regressed, I think that's a fair assumption.
"But if you start looking that far forward, you can lose sight of the step in front of you. I can tell you we definitely didn't look too far last year; if was one of those things that happened, we got caught on the day for a variety of reasons.
"So we are not going to let the same thing happen us this year in terms of perform on the day."
On the team news front, O'Neill has mixed news regarding Kevin Flynn and Paul Cribbin (both definitely out) and skipper Eoin Doyle (hopefully available).
"Kevin unfortunately fractured his foot in a club championship game. It's an awful shame because he's come back from injury," the Kildare boss explained.
"Eoin picked up a hamstring injury, but he should be fine.
"Cathal McNally is back from a long-term injury, he ruptured his achilles in the club championship last year so it's great to have him back and to have Niall Kelly back in there (from travelling).
"We've a couple of long-term injuries - Paul Cribbin had surgery (two weeks ago) on his groin."