heading to Pairc Tailteann on Saturday evening and passing by that well known Shaws of Summerhill watering hole, a favourite haunt in days gone by, we spotted a familiar figure taking a stroll (wellie boots and all), writes Tommy Callaghan.
Looking as lean and mean today as he was when gracing the Croke Parks of his day, it was none other than Davy Dalton.
A 1997 All Star, along with Niall Buckley and Glenn Ryan, Davy was one hell of a defender, a full back in the ‘old’ mould who possessed a great pair of hands, a great reader of the game and a man who knew how to protect both his goalkeeper and his ‘square’.
“We could probably do with Davy today,” was a view expressed from the back of the gluastain (thought I’d throw in the odd cúpla focal to give Bernard Dunne a bit of a dig out!).
There was unanimous agreement on that one (that’s on Davy not the cúpla focal) something that is rather unusual with these particular clients who usually argue with their finger nails never mind anything to do with football and particularly Kildare football.
Then again in this case it was not rocket science, Davy wore the white (no green in his day) with distinction for many a year, as did his late dad, Davy Snr who captained Kildare to Leinster success in ’56.
Arriving in Pairc Tailteann the talk was about the team, or to be more precise the lack of information on the line out. Good God even Billy Dunne had not heard of the starting XV and if Billy didn’t hear then no one did.
But word soon filtered through.
Firstly, forget about the programme we were told. There are two changes in personnel and something like eight positional changes from the printed E3 ‘information pack’.
You’d wonder though why that has to be the way? What is the thinking behind such misinformation I wonder to myself. It’s hardly going to be the difference between winning and losing a game in this day and age.
God be with the times when you bought a programme and rarely, if ever, would there be a change and if there was it was purely to do with a late injury. But modern trends seem to be to give the opposition (and the supporters) the old mushroom treatment, keep them in the dark and keep shovelling (you know the rest).
Anyway at seven bells we were up and running, Setanta TV having given the go head to throw in the ball in and get proceedings under way.
Was McGeeney and his boys under pressure prior to throw-in?
Two games, two defeats and for a team that had only one priority before the start of the league, they were without doubt feeling the pressure.
Although as a good friend of mine used to say many years ago when we played snooker in the Moat Club in Naas, real pressure is when you’re playing a frame for half a crown and you only had two bob in your pocket!
Whether the management were under pressure or not the boys in white (thankfully) did not show it on the field of play as they began in a blaze with an urgency that had been missing in the Monaghan game in particular.
The pace right from the start was breath-taking (from both sides) as Kildare settled into their usual game of hand-passing to get them out of trouble and set up scoring opportunities.
The Royals were first on the board but the Lilies soon hit the front with some great play. Big Tomás was threatening from the outset (having stepped into the middle for the throw-in he soon reverted to the edge of the square) where he gave Kevin Reilly a bellyful of it from start to finish.
An early goal opportunity (which should have filled the sack) was fired over as Kildare totally dominated the opening period.
Midway through and with no let up McGeeney’s boys were three up but were soon brought back to earth as Meath levelled up at six apiece.
Kildare were looking somewhat vulnerable at the back and Meath were exploiting it big time.
A look at the bench but no sign of any remedial work being undertaken but the ‘wise men’ on the line were in ‘huddle mode.’
Kildare upped their game and went two clear with Leper (banana bread doing its job?) and captain Johnny leading the charge.
The inevitable change came at the back with one All Star being replaced by another All Star (Kelly for Foley) which is not a bad option.
Just prior to that change a text appeared on the mobile.
“We could do with Davy!”
The break arrived and the Lilies were two clear. An opportunity for both sides to get their breath in what had been an absorbing 37 or 38 minutes of football.
The home boys began brightly on the resumption, drew level after two minutes.
Eoghan O’Flaherty failed to find the posts from a free but within a minute found the range with his right boot (emphasising if it was needed that robbing Peter to pay Paul as what happened in Kildare’s two previous outings in his case simply makes no sense).
‘Flats’ extends the lead to three before Meath hit the onion sack.
Banty dancing on the sideline.
The Geezer throws him a stare.
The fat is in the fire.
Meath take the lead, Lilies level it up, Meath hit another before the ‘Flying Lyons’ levels up and Flats restores the advantage to the Shortgrass boys.
Royals square it before Paudie has the white flags fluttering again.
The other Carbury man (Morgan) leaves two in it.
Disaster on the way.
Meath find the net again, coming through the middle with consummate ease, as Banty returns to Strictly Come Dancing mode.
Geezer doesn’t look impressed with either Banty’s antics or his side conceding another goal.
Lilies hold their head, their shape and their nerve.
Smithy, not long on, moves from right to left and manages to squeeze a high one between the sticks.
Time ticking away.
The Royals miss a chance, finding the upright, back come Kildare and lo and behold if its not the ‘Flying Lyons’ who cuts through the Royals’ lines and punches one between the white posts.
Banty’s not dancing any more!
The Geezer looks on.
The final whistle sounds.
Banty is stuck to the ‘dance floor.’
The Geezer continues to stare ahead.
No eye balling this time.
No belly tickling on this occasion.
Is that a tiny hint of a smile I detect on the McGeeney feasóg?
Hard to see in the evening light, but we’ll give the Geezer the benefit of the doubt and say, no, it wasn’t.
Don’t want to be ruining the man’s reputation now would we?
One almighty game of football.
If there’s a better offering in 2012 I hope I’m at it.
Off the mark at last but still in the basement area of the table.
So let’s keep it all in perspective.
A game borrowed from the summer pops up in early March.
An evening to remember.
Or as Bernard Dunne might say ... tráthnóna chun cuimhne air!
Two players were drafted into the senior panel last week and trained for the first time with the squad. Seamus Hanafin (Ballyteague) who made the 26 man panel for Saturday’s game and Kevin Murnaghan (Moorefield) who would you believe broke his wrist during his very first training spin with the ‘big boys.’ Talk about being unfortunate, out for six weeks or so. But have no doubt he will back.
We wish him, and any of the other lads currently carrying knocks, a speedy recovery.