While the football season feels like it has only recently finished, the intercounty year for team like Kildare feels like it concluded an age ago. The curtain coming down on the Lilywhites’ year on May 6 is just one of the many plights of an intercounty hurler playing with a county in the second tier, but that is a matter for another day and attention now turns to the 2018 season, which will be well underway before 2017 ends.
Joe Quaid’s revamped side are out for their opening game of the Walsh Cup on December 30 when they take on Laois, and there is a different look about this year’s panel thus far.
The Limerick native has named a provisional panel of 40 players which he will cut down around December 13, and there will be no outside players involved if he can help it. Last year the Reidy brothers – David and Michael – from Limerick, Tipperary’s Dinny Stapleton and Padraic Crone and Kilkenny’s John Mulhall were all involved as Quaid struggled to put together a strong enough panel to compete, but he doesn’t intend to be on the phone asking players from other counties to get involved this year.
“It’s something we haven’t even looked at yet in relation to outside players,” he told KildareNow.
“We want to see what’s coming in from within in Kildare and the standard that’s there. If lads are up to the standard then we’ll be sticking with homegrown players.
“If you wanted to play for Kildare over the last two years and you were willing to commit you were on the panel; it has gone to the stage now where the interest is so good that we’ll have to pick a panel.”
As for the players that are involved, there are some big names returning to the panel such as Coill Dubh pair Mark Grace and Eanna O’Neill, along with Martin Fitzgerald who helped to engineer Ardclough’s unforgettable county championship triumph this year. ‘Murt’ is the only Ardclough player involved, with their club captain, Paudie Ryan, indicating that he’ll be going travelling next year.
“There was a few of them that we rang, and just commitment wise they couldn’t,” explained Quaid.
“But we have a couple in; Murt is back, which is a big plus for us. Paudie Ryan it seems is going travelling, but we haven’t ruled him out yet.
“We have a huge amount of youngsters coming in now this year and the enthusiasm they’ve brought so far… we held one on one meetings with everyone on the panel and we’re after finishing the last few now.
“It’s brilliant to be making phone calls this year as opposed to the last few years that when you’re ringing people and they’re committing straight off without having to think about it or anything. And they’re delighted, you can hear that in their voices.”
The most striking aspect of the panel that has been named is the large cohort of young players that are involved this year, many of whom are from Naas. 13 players from the 2017 beaten county finalists are in the panel, with a good chunk of them having played minor in the last couple of years.
“We’ve good lads like James Burke in there, and young [James] Dolan, Simon Lacey, Richie Hogan… There is a good cohort of that minor team that is just coming of age and we want to bring them in and blood them into the system to try and ensure that Kildare hurling is strong even when we leave,” said Quaid.
They will meet as a panel for the first time this Monday night, and Quaid, who is now entering his third year in charge of the county team, will be focusing on getting players out on the pitch as often as possible in the coming weeks.
A tough Walsh Cup schedule awaits as the Lilywhites come up again Kilkenny after their opening fixture against Laois, and Quaid is delighted for different reasons to have drawn against those teams.
“We’re in the gym Monday night and we’ll be out on the field every Wednesday and Friday. That’s the way we operate. At the end of the day it’s hurling we’re playing so we need to be hurling,” he said.
“It’s great to get Laois as well. Laois are a team that we kind of aspire to get up to their level and we need to get up to their level for the team to grow, but I suppose getting Kilkenny… it’s not every day a hurler from Kildare will get to line out against Kilkenny, so it’s a huge opportunity. At the end of the day the Walsh Cup is still only a pre season tournament that we’ll be using in preparation for our first league match against Meath on the 28th.”
2018 Kildare Senior Hurling panel
Richie Hogan, Eoin O’Hehir, Sean Gainey, Simon Lacey, Richie Ryan, Jack Sheridan, Shane Walsh, Kevin Whelan, Cathal Dowling, Shane Ryan, Paul Sullivan, Brian Byrne, James Burke (all Naas), Conor Gordon, Mark Delaney, Dylan Brereton, Diarmuid Cahill, Eanna O’Neill, Mark Grace (all Coill Dubh), Mark Moloney, Sean Lawlor, Niall O’Muineachain, Francis O’Reilly (all Celbridge), Paul Divilly, Pauric Keegan, Frank Bass, Aidan Ryan, Sean Leamy (all Confey), Paddy McKenna, Mark Doyle, Cathal Egan, Chris Bonus (all Clane), Aaron Deegan, Barry Cormack, James Dolan (all Éire Óg/Corrachoill), Cian Forde and Tadgh Forde (both Maynooth), John Doran(Leixlip), Martin Fitzgerald(Ardclough), Mick Crowley(St Laurence’s)
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