herald

Monday 11 December 2017

ryan's Lilies to stay in bloom

ALL-ireland sfc round 3b

CLARE v KILDARE, 
(Cusack Park, Tonight 7.0)

REDEMPTION can be a fleeting concept for Kildare. Jason Ryan's men redeemed themselves of a bad, relegation-infected spring with a victory over Louth, the scale of which either few saw coming or those that did just didn't want to be in Croke Park to see it.

And then the Meath defeat happened and Kildare drew a prickly away tie in Newry in the qualifiers, and all seemed chaotic and bleak with the world again.

One ten-point victory later, and it's tempting to say Kildare have restitution.

Certainly, they are one win away from being able to claim 2014 as a progressive season when examined back-to-back with 2013.

And if they bottle the Down performance and (to be fair) the best bits of their Meath showing, Kildare won't have much to fear in Ennis this evening.

Was there an element of Down playing into their hands? Maybe. And Kildare got any luck that was going last Saturday in Páirc Esler.

Yet you couldn't but admire how they left Down for dead in that late scoring streak.

For a start, they got men back more effectively and tackled better. They forced more turnovers and won more breaking ball.

Control

In Fergal Conway, they a centre-back utterly in control of his environs while Ciarán Fitzpatrick couldn't but have enjoyed his Championship debut.

If there was a warning sign, in came in the limping gait of Benny Coulter who, almost on his own, brought Down back into it.

Against Meath, they were killed by the speed and directness of the Royals' ball movement. And when Down went early to Coulter at full-forward, Kildare again looked bedazzled.

Indeed Jason Ryan got a little stick for failing to make a change against Meath and you could argue that Mick Foley's substitution for Mick O'Grady came two Coulter points too late.

All of which is to nitpick but that's just what Ryan himself will have done this week.

His team are too inexperienced, as yet too raw, to be taking for granted last Sunday's performance as a sure sign that their real form has been located permanently for however long their summer lasts.

Effective

Encouragingly, his midfield of Tommy Moolick and Gary White were effective in the modern sense.

Yes, Dan Gordon cleaned them both out in the air but then, Dan Gordon tends to do that.

However, before his second-half black card, White was the most influential midfielder on show in terms of his ball use and speed to the breaks, while Moolick's stunning late goal was merely the grace note on a fine showing.

KIldare's half-forward line was the one to shine brightest though.

Niall Kelly is all kinds of class. 
But Pádraig scored three points and kept Kevin McKiernan quiet while Cathal McNally's pace always makes him a threat, even if his composure isn't at the same level yet.

For what it's worth, Clare blitzed Carlow last time out and after their Munster semi-final showing against Kerry, will have full confidence they can turn Kildare over here.

Undoubtedly, having Podge and Seán Collins around for training this week should help.

They have pace. And they have scoring forwards. So they're to be taken hugely seriously.

And if Collins or David Tubridy are given the sort of room Coulter or Stephen Bray before him were granted, Kildare could make this difficult for themselves.

If they can find the magic element that carries the strength of one performance into another, they should be fine.

It's a big if. But you just sense that Down win, and its scale, had curing qualities.

ODDS: Clare 16/5, Draw 10/1, Kildare 1/3

VERDICT: Kildare

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