It was a win that was as badly needed as it was overdue, and Kildare manager Cian O’Neill said afterwards that it didn’t matter what way it came about. It was hugely positive however as 12 different players hit the target for the Lilywhites, with the only line of the field not contributing to the final tally being the full-back line. There was also some great leadership shown throughout from the likes of Fergal Conway, Tommy Moolick and Keith Cribbin, who all stepped up when Paddy Brophy was ruled out just before throw-in with a nasty finger injury and captain Eoin Doyle was lost to a black card midway through the first half.
Speaking after the game, O’Neill said it was vital that Kildare restored some price and showed what they were capable of following the miserable defeat to Carlow 13 days previous.
“It hurt us badly, and in all of that I’m not sure if Carlow got the congratulations they deserved for that performance,” he said.
“We still had to come back and look at ourselves as a manager and a management team. We didn’t come here today for a polished performance, and I’m sure Damien’s men didn’t either. We just needed a win, let’s be brutally honest about it.
“We had the added challenge of the roadtrip, which I actually think suited us. It gave us a chance to bond yesterday on the way up and at the hotel last night. We knew this was our season in a nutshell and you talk about seasons and you talk about your own future then as players and as management, so we needed it badly. We’re delighted.”
So is this the start of a brilliant journey that might lead the Lilywhites to the promised land that is the ‘Super Eights’, or is it merely just a matter of beating an admittedly poor Derry side who began the game without their two best players, Chrissy McKaigue and Brendan Rogers.
It was certainly nice to be watching on as a Kildare team played with so much confidence and skill going forward, even if they did look suspect at the back on occasion.
“That wasn’t a defeat out of the blue – we came off seven defeats in the league, whether we had close matches or not, that was where your league was at,” said O’Neill of ending the run of defeats.
“Then you lose your first round in Leinster, some people bring last year into it then. You can’t argue with that – we just needed a massive win to get us back on track, and it’s some way there anyway.”
“I thought the players were absolutely top class today. The lads came out of the blocks to be fair to them; they were measured, they were calculated. We scored 1-12 in the first half and we actually missed 1-9 or 1-10 the last day. We conceded two very sloppy goals that we wouldn’t be happy with – you saw that yourselves – so we have something to work on. But the lads fought back every time we conceded a goal and we’re happy with that.”
The Kildare manager said that Saturday’s win was about much more than football. It was about putting pride back in the Kildare jersey and reassuring the faithful that this team are much better than what they have shown over the last 12 months.
“It’s the first step, if there wasn’t a win today there would be no step,” remarked O’Neill.
“It’s definitely a starting point for the players to come here and it was a challenge in itself being so far away from home. There was a lot of positivity to take from the match today and it’s great to have two weeks to actually start working on things that can take us hopefully to the next step. It was about more than football – it was about pride, it was about integrity, it was about pride in Kildare football.
“Not just for the lads in the pitch; we let the county… I let the county down as manager of this team. That loss the last day when so much was expected of us, and that’s not where I or the players wanted to leave it this year. So the lads took that there today with a brilliant leadership based performance, and I stress leadership because we’ve been accused of not having that in the past and it was great to see.”
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