Kieran McGeeney cut a reasonably satisfied figure after he emerged from his television duties to meet with the written press, before going on to join the Kfm crew up in the press box.
He wasn’t jumping up and down or anything – it’s going to take championship silverware to produce such an animatedly happy reaction, and might even need the ultimate success one suspects – but he was pleased.
“It was more workmanlike than anything else” said the Kildare manager.
“Tom (Coffey) has done a great job (with Offaly). The difference in workrate in the team over the last couple of months has gone through the roof. There’s a solid structure there to play with, (to) try to play on the counter. He’s had only eight weeks to put it together.
“We knew they’d come at us very hard at the start and probably get the lion’s share of the calls when that was happening. We worked on that, settled down and got into the game. We’ve a lot of areas to work on but to score 19 points, create a lot of goal chances – we didn’t take them – but definitely it was a decent day out.
“The referees have changed with Pat McEnaney coming in (as referees’ boss). They’re not as picky as before so there’s a lot more being let go. There was a lot going there today at different stages. It’s changing and adapting to the style of referees. The rules stay the same but I think it’s a better way to play football.
“We did well. 19 scores, eight different scorers from play. We can be happy with it but (there’s) loads of room for improvement.”
Nervousness clearly played a big part in a very tepid start to the game, as Offaly got off to a quick start, while Kildare shot poorly at the other end. It was tentative and McGeeney admitted to being apprehensive himself having had to wait so long to get their championship campaign under way.
“You feel anxious at the start of it yourself. We decided this year not to play challenge games. We played a lot of in-house games instead and we were probably a wee bit rusty going out there at the start.
“I know Tom would have been trying to put a structure in place; he probably played eight or nine games in the last three or four weeks. They put up a lot of good scores, he chose his games well to get confidence in the team and they played as such at the start.
“Thankfully the fellas settled down and were able to man-mark and get into the game better.
“I didn’t think we were pacey today at all. They gave us space to run into but we were a little bit lethargic in how we approached the attack and suffered for it. We moved the ball a bit quicker in the second half but it’s the way the game is played now.
“Teams are giving you space to attack into to try and crowd you out around the 50 and then they break at pace. It’s learning to try and adapt to that.
“I thought we did okay but I wouldn’t be writing home about it. I definitely wouldn’t be telling everybody about Sam Maguire. It’s amazing, we go from not natural footballers to potential Sam Maguire winners. We’re probably somewhere in the middle but we have to work on it.”
Eoin Doyle did well on his championship debut, getting his hands on a world of ball and laying it off simply. League final hero Pádraig Fogarty was only the second forward sub introduced, but Alan Smith, who came on before him distributed well. They both scored. Dermot Earley came on for Johnny Doyle and it was a toss-up who got the biggest cheer. Daryl Flynn and Tommy O’Neill also saw action. Plenty of others didn’t. This is a serious panel now.
“Strength in depth is only there when you win. I thought Alan Smith came on and did very well. He used the ball intelligently. Eoin Doyle had a great game for us too, he put in a great, workmanlike effort for us in the first 40 minutes which we knew we were going to need. You’d Podge (Fogarty).
“There’s a lot of players on the bench like Flano (Brian Flanagan), Ronan Sweeney and Chalky (Gary White) looking to push on which you need but you can only play 15 at a time. Push on now for the next two weeks.”
Seanie Johnston will add to that strength when he finally becomes available.
–Daragh Ó Conchúir