Pivotal day in O'Neill's tenure as Kildare drink in the last chance saloon with Derry

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Pivotal day in O'Neill's tenure as Kildare drink in the last chance saloon with Derry
By Patrick Ward 10:40 Saturday 9th of June 2018

It's do or die for Kildare in Derry this afternoon as they enter last chance saloon in the All-Ireland Football Championship.

There has been a general air of despondency in the aftermath of the defeat to Carlow a little under two weeks ago, with Cian O'Neill's men going under by seven points to a side that was more structurally organised, disciplined and accurate in every facet of their game.

Since that day there is a slight feeling of indifference in Kildare. Despite the return to Division 1 this year, Lilywhite fans are not as enamoured with going to games as they once were - at least that's how it seems. Even when Kildare made it to the Leinster final for the first time in eight years last year, there was very little made about it outside of some bunting in Newbridge. Perhaps it was due to the inevitable loss to Dublin that was coming down the line, but there was at least a sense that Kildare were clamouring for a seat at the top table.

They've fallen off their stool since then however, and 12 defeats in a row since that Leisnter final outcome leaves plenty of question marks hanging over the panel. Will this be Cian O'Neill's last year if Kildare bow out meekly in the qualifiers? That seems to be the most pertinent question right now. There has been no shortage of pundits lining up kicks at the manager in light of the most recent defeat, but it is worth remembering that this is a manager who has brought the Lilywhites to two promotions in the league and a Leinster final in his three years at the helm.

Derry may have been relegated to Division 4 of the league this year following a horrendous spring, but they are certainly a side that can raise their performance in championship fare. The venue of Owenbeg will be thought of as a fortress for the Oak Leafers, while the addition of their Slaughtneil contingent after the league has given them a boost.

Kildare are slight favourites in the bookies' eyes at 4/5, but this game looks likely to go right down to the wire.

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