You can put what ever kind of a gloss you want on Sunday’s game in Croke Park but when all is said and done; when the disappointment has eased somewhat; when one sits back and looks at the game Kildare can have no excuses good, bad or indifferent.
They were simply beaten by a team so much better that it is bordering on the scary.
Are Dublin as good as this?
I would suggest possibly yes they are.
Are Kildare as poor as they played on Sunday?
I would suggest absolutely not.
In fact I would go as far as to say that Kildare are still one of the better teams in this division but are still a long, long way behind the likes of Dublin.
And that is not to say that Kildare don’t have problems, of course they have, and many of the problems are not new, far from it but unless or until they can be rectified (and there are no easy solutions) The Liliies will continue to struggle against the genuine contenders for major honours.
Dublin have the physique; the talent; the pace; the wherewithall and, probably most importantly of the lot, the numbers that Kildare, and probably few if any, other counties in the entire country have at the minute.
Having said that, on a day that could possibly go down as the coldest most of us have ever experienced in headquarters, Kildare went out with an extremely defensive set up; practically inviting Dublin to come at them and then hoping to break at pace and catch them on the counter attack.
It didn’t work.
And while they led at one stage in the opening half by two points, they were simply steam rolled by the Dublin half back line and out played in the middle of the park for most of the game but particularly for some twenty minutes or so in the second half when some of the Kildare boys playing in a forward position were in danger of suffering from hypothermia.
Deciding to leave both Niall Kelly and Daniel Flynn (and Paddy Brophy) on the bench was a big call but one, in fairness, that was understandable.
These lads have played an abundance of games between 3rd level, U21 and senior over the past number of weeks and remember this is their first season at this level of football, so while it was disappointing that they did not start, there is no doubt that Kieran McGeeney and his management team were probably looking at the bigger picture.
On the positive side it was very encouraging to see the likes of Hugh Lynch and Eamonn Callaghan finally get some game time while Daryl Flynn played a full second half on Saturday for his club in the semi final of the Aldridge Cup.
On the minus side one has to be concerned with the centre of the defence and with the midfield area in particular.
In the opening half alone on Sunday last Dublin won so much possession from Kildare kick outs it was bordering on the unreal.
The options for keeper Shane Connolly to go short, were however, very limited as the Dublin forwards pushed right up, thus cutting out the short ball option while at the other end Kildare allowed Dublin to gain possession from kick-outs, practically inviting them to come at then hoping to smother them in their third of the field.
Despite some very spirited performances in the first half, particularly from the likes of Ollie Lyons, Peter Kelly, Emmet Bolton and Eoin Doyle, while Mick Foley worked tremendously hard (out of position), Kildare simply did not score enough in that opening period when playing with the biting cold breeze in their favour and while there is no doubt that that breeze picked up on the resumption, nevertheless the Dublin defence is a strong unit with players such as Rory O’Carroll at full back; Johnny Cooper at corner back; Cian O’Sullivan at no. 6 and the flying wing back Jack McCaffrey all looking like exceptional players; full of pace; full of inventiveness with an awareness way above some of their experience.
Have no doubt this Dublin team is going to take some beating, not alone in the league but come championship time they are going to take some stopping in the All Ireland series.
Their midfield is very strong while up front players of the calibre of Brogan, Flynn, Kilkenny, Connoly and Andrews would get on most county XVs.
One, of course, must not forget that this is Kildare’s first season up in Division 1 for four years and initially were one of the firm favourites to make a quick return to Division 2.
But Sunday’s game was a real reality check. There are folks out there who were beginning to lose the run of themselves; beginning to look way beyond the opening few games, good and all as those results were, in this league.
This result and (more importantly) the display will bring a bit of realism back to the fans.
This will bring some folk quickly back to planet earth.
The big question now is how will The Lilies react to this mauling?
And every bit as important, how will the team management react to this severe set-back.
Next Saturday is another mighty test, away to All Ireland beaten finalists Mayo in Castlebar, and while the boys from the West have not been setting the place alight to date they have in Barry Moran and Aidan O’Shea two of the top midfielders in the entire country.
It will be a very interesting week in Hawkfield and with the U21s due to take on Laois in the their semi final four days after the Mayo clash there will be some big calls once again on Kieran McGeeney and his selectors come Saturday evening.
Talking of the U21s and after one win over a Meath side, good and all as it was, but it was against a side who were never really fancied to do much in this year’s championship, Kildare have now been made favourites for provincial and, if you don’t mind, the All Ireland.
There are fans out there now talking of provincial honours (and more), after one game.
We are some county for losing the run of ourselves.
Will we ever learn?
Time to get a grip.
Reality dawned on Sunday in Croker.
Let’s hope we can learn from it and kick on from here.
Kildare are a better side than they showed on Sunday but the reality is that Dublin are simply in a different league.