Cian O’Neill and his management team are preparing to trim the Kildare senior football panel ahead of the National League Division 1 campaign that begins on Saturday week. Kildare begin with a visit to Croke Park to face All-Ireland champions Dublin in round one on January 27, before they host Monaghan the following week in Newbridge.
The Kildare manager will not be cutting too many from the squad that competed in the O’Byrne Cup and trained together for entire winter, though there will be at least a couple of players released back to their clubs.
The added complication of Moorefield’s involvement in the All-Ireland Senior Club Championship means that O’Neill is unable to call any players from the Newbridge side into the panel, while Rory Feely, who had trained with the Lilywhites, is continuing his professional soccer career with Waterford United instead of playing GAA this year.
O’Neill has ran the rule over a clutch of new players throughout the winter, with no less than 10 making their first appearances under the manager in the challenge games against Westmeath and Cavan and the O’Byrne Cup losses to Louth and Longford. He suggested that performances in those games will not be the sole factor when it comes to making a decision on his panel. There are currently 36 players involved, and the manager plans on carrying 34 or 35 players into the 2018 campaign.
“We’ve played four matches now and lads have played at least two full matches and come on in others, so it’s difficult but they’ve been training since November,” said O’Neill.
“In terms of their strength and conditioning they’ve had a lot of training sessions – we play football in every single session and really, at this level, it’s all about getting an opportunity. If you’re lucky enough to get an opportunity and then taking it. Nothing is ever based on just a couple of matches here and there.
“As I said, we had two good competitive matches over Christmas; we’ve had multiple training sessions, multiple training matches internally. Everyone has got a fair shot, it’s just the nature of the beast. You need to keep looking at players; you need to keep the panel fresh and you need to keep the pressure on the guys that are in there so they don’t get complacent.”
O’Neill also issued a fitness update on Ben McCormack who is recovering from a broken thumb. The Sarsfields star is not far away from returning to action, but it is unlikely that he will play in the early rounds of the league.
“Ben has got the wiring out of his thumb and his hand, so he’s back doing a bit of conditioning work and hopefully in the next two weeks we’ll see the ball reintroduced for him,” said O’Neill following the loss to Longford on Sunday.
Jimmy Hyland will almost certainly miss a number of weeks of action after tearing his hamstring, while Cathal McNally, Fergal Conway and Eoin Doyle are all carrying niggling injuries.
“Jimmy tore his hamstring today – we’ll have to assess that,” continued O’Neill.
“It’s really unfortunate because it’s great to see the young lads coming on and making a difference. Eoin Doyle came off with a twinge in his groin.”
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