There was no hiding the disappointment in Cian O’Neill’s voice on Wednesday night after Kildare slipped to a comprehensive eight-point defeat at home to Louth in the opening game of the O’Byrne Cup.
While results at this stage of the year don’t tend to matter very much, performances and encouraging signs are searched for as the Kildare management look to build a panel to compete in Division 1. Against a Louth side that were operating in Division 3 last year, the Lilywhites looked heavy-legged, undercooked and short of ideas, and with just over three weeks to go until a meeting with All-Ireland champions Dublin in Croke Park in the first round of the league, that’s hardly ideal.
Asked if there were any positives to take from the game, O’Neill responded;
“Very few; a couple of individual patches of performances – especially from the newer lads coming in. Overall it was as poor as a performance as I’ve seen coming into my third year.”
A number of players made their first competitive performances for Kildare on Wednesday night, and it was actually the likes of Aaron O’Neill, Mikey Kelly and Kevin Flynn who provided some positive moments on the night, but it was hardly a debut they’ll remember with much fondness. The more established players were the ones that O’Neill felt somewhat let down by however.
“No it didn’t, and not just for guys coming into the squad,” responded the manager when asked if it went well for the new players.
“You have to look at that there were a lot of poor performances for guys that have been in this squad for as long as I’ve been here and some of them for several years before I came. I definitely don’t think it’s a fact of looking at who we gave chances to tonight and could they step up. I think it was a complete systems failure across the pitch, but particularly from midfield up to be perfectly honest.
“The stats will tell you that we actually had more attacks than them, believe it or not. We had one more shot on target than them. Overall our shooting was 38 per cent second half, first half was 20 per cent. This is a team that is trying to compete in Division 1 and we’re hitting 38 and 20 per cent respectively. That was really what was most disappointing to us. Credit to Louth. They were well drilled and they’ve been training for four or five weeks longer than us obviously, from when they went out in the championship.”
“To be honest, it doesn’t matter what Kildare panel or team that went out there tonight, it was just a poor performance across the pitch.”
O’Neill did allude to the fact that Kildare recently had an extremely gruelling training session that may have taken a lot out of them. The preparations for Division 1 football are intense, and the fact that Louth had already played a game this year meant that they were probably a bit sharper in the tight exchanges.
“That’s a huge contributory factor in terms of what we’re trying to do to get ready for January 27,” remarked O’Neill on the training load at the moment.
“The players commented after Saturday’s session that it’s the toughest session that any of them has ever done. I don’t want that to be seen as an excuse because it was still 15 Kildare men against 15 Louth men tonight and we got outplayed, we got outfought and in some places outsmarted.
“This was just poor and certainly not good enough for the standards we set ourselves and certainly for Division 1.”
Kildare will play Longford on Sunday afternoon now, and with their points difference at -8, only an 11-point win over the Midlanders would see them through to the O’Byrne Cup semi-finals.
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