'We didn’t fight to the very end and that’s the disappointing thing'- O'Neill frustrated over lack of battle

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'We didn’t fight to the very end and that’s the disappointing thing'- O'Neill frustrated over lack of battle
21:03 Sunday 11th of March 2018

The fear was that Mayo would really turn it on when they had to on Sunday. The Connacht outfit, who lost last year’s All-Ireland final to Dublin, are in relegation trouble of their own and needed a win badly when they pitched up to St Conleth’s Park on Sunday. They have made a habit of digging themselves a hole in the early rounds of the league in recent years, but they’ve become adept at furrowing a way out by any means.

On Sunday they were brilliant, producing an exciting brand of football that left Kildare with little chance, thus emphasising the gap between the teams. Kildare manager Cian O’Neill acknowledged the gulf in class, but also bemoaned the lack of fight his players displayed and the decision making on show.

“I thought we handled the first quarter quite well after a sloppy start – we had a couple of chances early on that we didn’t take, but we started to get into our own rhythm for the first 15 or 20 minutes,” began O’Neill.

“Once we scored that goal they changed their setup, cut off the spaces and got 13 men inside. We struggled with that, which is disappointing because we played against teams in the last few matches that had 13 or 14 men behind the ball, and then they counter-attacked at speed with very good efficiency and ruthlessness. That second quarter and that last five minutes [before half-time] that really caught us and we couldn’t get a handle on the game again.”

One of the disappointing aspects of Kildare’s performance was the decision making and the shot selection, which severely hampered their cause in the first half when they were in the game. The Lilywhites hit seven wides in that period, missed a goal chance and also ballooned a couple of shots high and short.

“Were very composed and went 1-4 to 0-5 up because it was an open game and it really suited us, but once they changed mid-game we didn’t adapt and weren’t as agile as they were,” remarked O’Neill.

“They’ve been playing that way for quite some time, and they have an excellent team with excellent players.

“I think you’ll find with a lot of the kicks they weren’t under huge pressure. In some cases it might have been selection – like that last chance from the terrace sideline, that’s never on. There was a couple of those that we shouldn’t have tried, but there were a lot of them that were very kickable. It was execution; we cut it along the ground or dropped it into the keeper’s hands. The lads don’t need me to say it; they’ll be disappointed with that themselves. But it was a core factor in the ascent and then trying to stay in touch with them, it cost us.”

While O’Neill is disappointed with the result, condemning Kildare to the second tier unless something remarkable happens, he was most dissatisfied with the performance. In other games Kildare have remained competitive until the end, but on Sunday the game looked over within a few minutes of the start of the second half, and the Lilywhites never looked likely to come back.

“It’s not about the table for us, especially at this stage, it’s all about the performances,” he continued.

“Probably the most disappointing thing about today is that in the four matches to date, with the exception of a 15-minute systems failure against Dublin, we were competitive, we were fighting for every ball. I’d say for myself, and I speak on behalf of the players, we gave up the battle halfway through the second half. It looked that way anyways. We didn’t fight to the very end, and we still had chances to tack over a few scores and that’s the disappointing thing. We have to look at this from a performance perspective with the championship only around the corner, and we’ll just continue looking at it one match at a time.”

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