The Kildare team that faces IT Carlow in the second round of the O'Byrne Cup tonight is unlikely to be too dissimilar to the one that began the game against Longford on Saturday afternoon as Cian O'Neill confirmed that he is working with a trimmed down squad during the early stages of his second year in charge. The loss of various players to their colleges for the O'Byrne Cup has also tied O'Neill's hands as to the number of players he can pick, so the team could have a settled look to it over the first few games of the year.
There were just 21 players togged out for the Lilywhites as they battled to a six-point win over Longford last Saturday, and the majority of those players will be involved once again tonight when they host IT Carlow at 7.30pm in Hawkfield.
Last year O'Neill made 14 changes between the game against DIT on Sunday and the clash with Louth on Wednesday, but a lack of numbers means such upheaval is unlikely this time around.
"This is the difference between this year and last year. Last year we had a huge panel because we wanted to give everyone an opportunity, so it was very easy to pick almost two totally different teams between the Sunday match against DIT and the Wednesday night match against Louth," O'Neill told KildareNow.
The likes of David Slattery, Pascal Connell, Eddie Heavy, Liam Healy, Ollie Lyons and Sean Hurley are all likely to start against the students tonight after coming off the bench four days ago, while O'Neill is also sweating on the fitness of some other players.
"We had 20 healthy today," he said following the win over Longford.
"Hopefully Eamonn[Callaghan] will come through, Cathal McNally had a little niggle; he'll hopefully be ready, that's 22. Liam Healy is just back from a broken hand, 23, so you'd like to think that we'll have 25 or 26. So to answer your question if the experimental side of things will be drastic, it can't be. We just don't have the personnel. Anyone who didn't start today will be getting a start on Wednesday."
Thomas O'Connell(Rathangan), Chris Healy(Two Mile House), Declan Campbell(Raheens), Danny O'Sullivan(Maynooth), Shane Maughan(Ellistown) and Ray Cahill(Sarsfields) are all on the provisional squad list for IT Carlow ahead of tonight's game, and O'Neill will be keeping a particular eye on Healy after handing the former U21 star his championship debut for the senior side last year.
KildareNow will be reporting live from Hawkfield tonight and will bring you half-time and full-time updates from the game.
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