Kildare manager Joe Quaid won two All-Stars while minding the nets for Limerick over the years, so he is best placed to sum up the superb performance that Kildare goalkeeper Paddy McKenna turned in on Sunday afternoon.
The Clane man pulled off six brilliant saves that were a mixture of brave blocks, diving efforts and close range parries as Kildare saw off the challenge of Derry in the Christy Ring Cup semi-final. The fact that Derry managed to get two past him was no blotch on his worksheet as there was nothing he could do about either of those efforts.
Speaking after the game, Quaid gave the utmost praise to his high performing custodian.
“If that was done in Thurles, Páirc Úi Chaoimh or the Gaelic Grounds today they’d be raving about it,” he said.
“That was superb by him. OK, the second half there were a lot of hurley saves as I call them, but in the first half he put his body on the line two or three times when you’re not expected to save them.
“He has been superb in the championship.”
The Clane man was clearly delighted at full-time, and when asked whether or not it was the best performance he can ever remember putting in in a Kildare jersey, he told KildareNow; “Any day you go out you’re just hoping that a few hit off you and you get a few hurls to them, but any day you put on the jersey for your club or your county you step up a bit.”
“You take what you’re given. The boys have bailed me out on plenty of occasions in games where I’ve let balls in over my head and through my legs, so it’s just great to be able to repay them that way.”
McKenna has been in fine form throughout this Christy Ring Cup campaign, so much so that when a shot goes in on the Kildare goal it is more surprising when it finds the net rather than bouncing of the former DIT student or his hurl. McKenna was keen to pay tribute to his goalkeeping coach, and to Paul Dermody and Mark Doyle, who are now the back up goalkeepers.
“Huge credit has to go to Willie Banks, our goalkeeping coach. He has myself, Dermo [Paul Dermody] and Mark Doyle in great shape and any one of us could step in and be able to perform.”
McKenna spent a few years behind Dermody in the pecking order for Kildare, but he has now firmly implanted himself as the county’s number one. He admits it was frustrating at times waiting for a chance to show his credentials, but the relationship with his former teacher always remained very good.
“He taught me in secondary school so I’ve known him since I was about 13 or 14,” he said of Dermody.
“It’s just great to be able to learn from him. Having hurled with Kilkenny he has that experience, so it’s great.
“Often times I’d go home frustrated, but in fairness to my family they said ‘look, your time will come, just be patient’. In goalkeeping you only have on position to fight for, out the field it’s a bit different because if you’re a back you can play a number of positions. Joe [Quaid] always said to me ‘patience’, and that’s what happens.”
McKenna will get to line out in Croke Park on June 23 for the Christy Ring Cup final, which is something he will be hugely looking forward to.
“I was around in 2014 when we beat Kerry and I’ve played a couple of other games there, but it’s great to get back and there will be huge excitement around the place. Hopefully we’ll be able to repay everyone who comes and supports us.”
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