16 May 2022

Kildare's Leinster Championship preview: Looking ahead to the weekend's opener against Louth

Kildare Leinster Championship preview: Looking ahead to the weekend's opener against Louth

Kildare manager Glenn Ryan with Daniel Flynn before the Allianz Football League Division 1 match between Armagh and Kildare at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

So finally we know Kildare's opponents in the quarter-final of the Leinster Senior Football Championship on Sunday, May 1.
Louth. And Mickey Harte.

The Wee County did a bit of a demolition job on the Niall Carew managed Carlow last weekend and now face up to The Lilies on Sunday.

And while Louth and Kildare have some 'previous' in fairness that is some time ago now.

The boys in red defeated Kildare in Newbridge back in 1995, the first live televised game on RTÉ apart from provincial and All-Ireland finals, while that infamous day in Drogheda will live long in the memories of all those of that vintage back in 1991 and Mick O'Dwyer's first game in the Leinster Championship with The Lilies.

Supporters, no doubt, will be recalling those games leading up to Sunday but the Kildare players will not as they concentrate on the job in hand rather than going back two decades, and more, to previous meetings.

Louth though, it should be remembered, have made it back-to-back promotions since Mickey Harte took charge. Then in the depths of the basement of Division 4, the former highly successful Tyrone manager has steered them initially to Division 3 and then, only a few short weeks ago made the jump to Division 2 where they will join Kildare, come 2023.

And while Kildare did suffer relegation back to Division 2 this year, there are still many positives that can be taken from the season since Glenn Ryan and his star-studded management team took charge.

As selector Anthony Rainbow says elsewhere in this preview, “there have been lots of positives; many learning curves for both management and players” and how right he is.

Home form has been impressive, away form has been disappointing and now it is to Tullamore, a venue that Kildare players should be well accustomed to at various levels.

So as Glenn and his squad sit down this week to select their team what can we expect? Lots of things still up in the air, no doubt beginning with the No. 1 short.

It has been the policy of the management to rotate their goalkeepers, the more experienced Mark Donnellan and the flamboyant Aaron O'Neill.

Fans are very much divided on who should get the nod, having said that most would not have favoured the policy that ensued throughout the League.

The back three, assuming everyone is fit, looks fairly predictable with captain Mick O'Grady, Shea Ryan and Ryan Houlihan, who has been one of the stars of the league this year. It is the middle eight where the big decisions will have to be made.
Half-back line, without ever setting the world alight has been steady if not always spectacular.

Midfield has been very much in and out with the general consensus being that Kevin Feely and Kevin Flynn will be named to start again.

The debate over the Celbridge man's best position is raging on with most suggesting when deployed at wing back can see him bring a lot extra to the team; he has pace, an excellent carrier of the ball but it could indeed be a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, we will just have to wait and see.

Ben McCormack will start at no. 11, Paul Cribbin at no. 10 but the no. 12 shirt has not really been nailed down. Various players have lined out during and indeed since the league ended.

Challenge games against Galway, Wexford, Cavan and most recently against Limerick, along with some in-house games, has seen numerous combinations tried.

The full forward line is another that will take some selecting. Jimmy Hyland, Darragh Kirwan and Paddy Woodgate were the early front runners. Brian McLoughlin has been strutting his stuff impressively in recent games while the best place to start Daniel Flynn remains a real talking point.

So really a lot of thinking, a lot of discussions and a fair few tough calls will have to made for Sunday still.
Despite the progress Louth have undoubtedly made in the last two years, it is still too early to say exactly how far they have come.

Sunday will be their first real test for both Mickey Harte and his players. In Sam Mulroy they have a very talented player — the leading scorer in all divisions of the Allianz League who scored 2-5 against Carlow — and it will be very interesting to see how he fares this weekend.

Louth did suffer a blow when Ciaran Byrne was forced off injured in the second half against Carlow and it will be a case of Louth keeping their fingers crossed that he is fit and ready for battle come Sunday.

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