Promotion achieved ... now title can be the icing on the cake

IT began in Croke Park. And it will end in Croke Park. The opening game was against Tyrone. And the final game will be against Tyrone, writes Tommy Callaghan.

IT began in Croke Park. And it will end in Croke Park. The opening game was against Tyrone. And the final game will be against Tyrone, writes Tommy Callaghan.

And in between?

The Red Hand boys went through the league with a one hundred per cent record.

The Lilies stuttered and stumbled in the opening rounds before gradually growing stronger, growing in confidence, shaking off their goal shyness and scoring a total of 9 goals and 105 points.

That works out at an average of just under nineteen points per game.

Impressive?

Without a doubt.

And it also averages out at one point per game more than Tyrone.

On the other side Kildare have conceded a total of 115 points (9 goals 88 points) but Tyrone , and this is the big one, have conceded a mere 69 points and in that figure is just one goal, that in their final game against Monaghan.

So while the final table shows Kildare with a plus of 17 (+17) Tyrone have a plus total of 56 points (+56).

That, if one is to go on the form of the league, leaves The Lilies with one hell of a deficit to make up.

But of course if GAA games, or in fact any games, were decided on statistics then there would often be very little point in turning up at all.

While Tyrone have without question been the form team of this campaign, it has to be said that Kildare have shown steady improvement and if they can cut down on silly mistakes, can cut down even more so on con-ceding goals then anything is possible.

Of course with the no. 1 objective of promotion secured (at least it is no. 1 objective now that it is has been achieved but I have my doubts if it was always top of the this season’s agenda) it is fair to ask the question, just how much does this final mean to Kieran McGeeney and Kildare?

Remember that once the middle of next week is reached, all thoughts on the National League will be gone out the window until the start of the 2013 campaign.

All focus, following Sunday, will be firmly on the Leinster Championship and that opening clash with Offaly, now fixed for Sunday 17 June, which is a fair bit away at this junction.

Now that is not for a minute to suggest that Kildare (or Tyrone) will not be trying their utmost to finish off the league on a successful footing.

But in the overall scheme of things, having secured promotion, the title itself would be the icing on the cake despite the bigger picture, at this stage, being the championship.

In one aspect it all adds to the intrigue of Sunday’s final.

To win would be a real fill up but to lose (narrowly) is hardly going to be a major set back, keeping the bigger picture in mind.

But having said that from Kildare’s perspective, defeating a side of the stature of Tyrone would have to be beneficial. Kildare have not beaten too many of the big guns over recent years, despite making huge progress.

They have done extremely well, reaching All Ireland quarter and semi finals but have not taken out, as we reminded one and all earlier in the season, sides of the calibre of Dublin, Kerry, Cork, Galway, Tyrone and the like.

So a win on Sunday would certainly be a bit of a shot in the arm; a bit of a boost.

But Tyrone will be difficult and while they did get the better of us in that opening game in Croke Park by 2-11 to 0-12, an injury to Ciaran Fitzpatrick, at a crucial time, certainly had a major impact on the result.

There is also absolutely no doubt that Kildare have shown tremendous improvement, particularly in the scoring side of their game but more will be required, not only to take out Tyrone but to progress during the summer months.

At times the Kildare defence does look somewhat suspect. They have conceded nine goals and as we saw against Galway lost their way when it seemed that they were well in control.

Could that be a lack of concentration?

Or a (silly) belief that the job in hand was already done long before the final whistle?

Midfield, at time has been a worry. Kildare can look in control but then go AWOL which must also be a conern.

One of the real positives of Kildare over the past few months, however, is their ability to dig deep, especially when all may not be looking well.

Kieran McGeeney’s philosophy that the number on a player’s back is totally irrelevant to the job he performs has certainly been true. Defenders such as Ollie Lyons, Emmet Bolton, Hugh McGrillen and Mick Foley have all found the time to get forward and keep the scoreboard busy.

However, it has to be pointed out that one of the reasons Galway got back into such a commanding position a few weeks ago was the inability of the half forward line in particular to track back, allowing Galway to do to Kildare what in fact Kildare had done to Galway in the opening half.

Kildare in control and going forward look capable of matching it with the rest of them. However when they are on the back foot the story can and has changed dramatically.

Hopefully Sunday will see The Lilies go at Tyrone for the 70 plus minutes but at the end of the day while a win would certainly be the icing on the cake, a reversal would not take the ‘cake’ away.

That has already been achieved with promotion to the top division come 2013.