It is Davy Burke’s first year as an intercounty manager, so to have a provincial title at U20 level under his belt already is a massive boost to his own credentials and a huge source of pride for the Confey man.
There is a sizable backroom team involved with the Kildare U20s, but Burke’s fingerprints are quite obvious in each game as the Lilywhites carry a hard physical element and tackle like their lives depend on it. They came through a shaky enough opening quarter to eventually ease to a convincing win over Dublin on Friday evening in Tullamore, and it didn’t surprise their manager one bit.
“They’re a phenomenal bunch of lads,” Burke said afterwards.
“I’m delighted with the performance because I thought we were dominant from start to finish.”
The turning point came in the 26th minute when Aaron O’Neill’s fine stop on a Tom Keane shot led to a patch where Kildare scored six points in a row before the break to take control of the game.
“Aaron made a great save there, and you see some of our defensive efforts from Mark Barrett, Mark Dempsey, DJ [Earley] and co was excellent as well,” Burke said.
“The honesty in this group since I came in has been phenomenal and we’re just trying to put a system in place around it, but the lads are naturally very good workers and hard workers so you’re halfway there.”
The most eye-catching aspect of this Kildare team is their almost ravenous attitude towards tackling as they shut down players all over the field with huge intensity. Whether it is Mark Dempsey in corner-back or Paddy Woodgate at the top of the attack, men in white jerseys are not allowing the opposition easy options when they have the ball.
“If anyone knows me, I like tackling and we do a lot of tackling,” smiled Burke.
“There is a lot of shouting that goes on Tuesday and Thursday in Hawkfield. We do a lot of tackling, day in, day out. I think if you win the tackle count you’re going to win the game because you try to kill teams on turnovers and that’s what we done today.”
Kildare can now look ahead to an All-Ireland semi-final, and considering the improvements that have been seen in recent weeks in this team, they ought to be going in with plenty of confidence.
“I wouldn’t say everything went right; Dublin for the first 10 or 11 minutes were on top of us, but I see this in training time and time again and last weekend was an eye-opener for me – I thought we were improving. Every game I could see us improving and every session I could see them improving and it came to fruition today, so happy days,” concluded a delighted Burke.
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