THE barren spell has finally ended. Something of significance has been achieved. A definite marker has been put down.
Yes, of course, it may not have been the All Ireland title; may not have been a provincial title, may not even have been the top division of the Allianz Football League but leaving all that aside this can be a highly significant achievement and one that hopefully is only the beginning.
This campaign began in Croke Park.
It ended in Croke Park.
It started against Tyrone.
And it ended against Tyrone.
Two defeats followed by four wins, a draw, culminating in victory over one of the top and fancied sides now moves Kildare up another rung.
Needles to say there are still a few rungs to travel before the peak is reached but if Sunday is anything to go on we can look ahead with confidence, look ahead with a genuine belief and a genuine expectation that we are on the right road and that all the work that has been put in by everyone involved with this team will (hopefully) reap the rewards.
It was a game that may not have pleased the purists (who ever they are) but it was fascinating to watch how these teams went about their business.
Defending in numbers.
Attacking in numbers.
Kildare showed patience in their build up; showed determination in their defence; showed a work ethic not even Tyrone could match and most importantly of all, showed a belief in their play, a belief that can often be the difference between winning and simply coming close.
Of course the Kildare detractors, and there are many out there, will now point to the fact that Tyrone are not the force they once were.
But these are the same folk who up to last Sunday were pointing out that Tyrone are once again a force to be reckoned with.
These are the same folk who prefer to concentrate on Kildare’s off-the-field activities rather than give them the credit that they deserve, not just for defeating Tyrone but for their general progression since the arrival of Kieran McGeeney.
Over the past number of years the Lilies, under McGeeney, have showed tremendous resolve in their endeavours but now they can lose the tag of the ‘nearly’ team; can lose the tag they have not beaten any of the ‘top’ teams and can lose the tag of failing to ‘kill’ off a team when the opportunity presents itself.
On Sunday on as cold a day as I can ever recall at headquarters, Kildare did to Tyrone what Tyrone and Mickey Harte have been doing to teams for years, grinding them down, running them into the ground before killing them off late in the game.
It was a very impressive Kildare display from each and every one of the players no doubt the ‘kick and hope’ brigade will be sharpening their pencils in the coming weeks as they lament the way the modern day game is played.
But on Sunday Kildare got their tactics spot on; got their game plan spot on and in the end got the result they thoroughly deserved.
McGeeney and his back room team must be complemented on the way they went about their business.
And while that included curtailing the natural instincts of the likes of Emmet Bolton and Hugh McGrillen and to a lesser extent Ollie Lyons, getting forward due to man marking duties, it allowed Eamonn Callaghan to slip in and take up such duties, something he did superbly.
Goalkeeper Shane Connolly commanded his area with a confidence that can only spread to the players fronting him and a major improvement in his kick-outs was as welcome as it was needed.
There were many contenders for the man of the match award and while a case can definitely be made that this was a real ‘team’ performance nevertheless there were a few major contenders for the man of the match.
Connolly falls into that category, as does McGrillen and Bolton, Callaghan, Conway and Tomas O’Connor and what can you say about young Podge Fogarty.
Such composure and confidence.
Mikey Conway deserves special mention. After all he has been through and to come up with a display like that must be very satisfying on a personal level.
His ability to kick pass is an absolute joy to watch and a vital link in the Kildare armoury.
And what can one say of Tomas O’Connor?
The big Clane man is growing in confidence and he certainly gave his markers much to ponder on Sunday.
As for team captain, Johnny Doyle, this was a great day. Walking up the steps to collect the cup is something no one deserves more.
His work rate is unbelievable and his engine knows no bounds. That converted sideline from under the Cusack was sublime but it was the Allenwood man’s overall contribution that really caught the eye. Yes, like others, passes went astray but taking the conditions into consideration, it was very understandable on the day.
Hopefully this will not be Johnny’s only time to walk the famous steps of Croker.
As stated, this was a real team display, a real team performance with everyone putting their shoulder to the wheel but for me there was one player who I can’t remember making a mistake of any description.
That man is Peter Kelly.
And let’s not forget his circumstances.
Did not start a Leinster Champion-ship game in 2010 before making his mark in the qualifiers culminating in winning an All Star.
Then picking up the dreaded cruciate ligament injury that saw him miss out practically all of 2011 only to re-emerge this season and to then play a game like he did on Sunday leans me to give him my man of the match award.
Yes, the future is looking bright.
There are players making progress on the fringes that will ensure there can be no slacking.
McGeeney and his selectors Niall Carew and John Rafferty, should also be congratulated. Their contribution, and their influence, has been immense, as has been all the back room team who all have a role to play and do so superbly.
Overall a great day for Kildare.
But as Kieran McGeeney would say himself, there are bigger fish to fry that the Allianz FL Division 2 title.
Players must remain focused.
No one can take the foot off the pedal.
And most importantly no one from a player, behind the scenes person or supporter, should look beyond Offaly in Portlaoise on June 17.
The Faithful boys might be going through a bad patch at present but come that Sunday in June their bad days will go out the window and nothing better than the sight of a white jersey to rouse them up.
So thread carefully.
Don’t let anyone lose the run of themselves.
And who knows where the journey of 2012 will take us.
Congrats to one and all.
- Tommy Callaghan