WILLIE Sunderland was a relieved man when the full-time whistle sounded in Arklow last Saturday, with the Kildare manager admitting that he feared that his charges were going to miss out on a place in the Christy Ring Cup semi-finals after Wicklow had reeled in nine point deficit to restore parity two minutes from time.
“It seemed to take the umpire an age to bend and pick up the flag (following Keegan’s last ditch winner) and I was thrilled when he did,” explained Sunderland.
“We were lucky then in the end because Wicklow had a good scoring chance and they fluffed their lines.
“I’m thrilled for the boys. They were gutted after last week (loss to Meath) and we had a good talk and a good chat and I think we improved on a lot of the things that we had been doing in the last couple of matches and I think that stood to us.
“Apart from maybe the first ten minutes today, I think we did look the better team and it would have been a travesty to lose it. Thankfully we are now where we wanted to be all the time. An All-Ireland semi-final, what more could we want?”
Sunderland, who expects to have to plan for the Kerry game without the injured Richie Hoban (hamstring) but will have Paul Divilly available following suspension, heaped praise on his players.
“In fairness to the boys they did stand up. Tony Murphy came out to the wing, caught a few balls, got bottled up a few times but we were still winning ball. Mick (Purcell) scored a brilliant point then and it made a huge difference.
“The work-rate and togetherness we had today; we played far better hurling this week and we opened it up a bit more . Look, it it’s just another step and we have a bigger one to take next week but I’m happy with it.”
This weekend’s game will be Kildare’s fourth in as many weeks although Sunderland isn’t overly concerned.
“Sometimes when you’re on a run, getting to an All-Ireland semi-final is a good run in itself, but you can go with that and there is a momentum with that. I’ve seen it in the past, you think some teams are getting tired but going on sheer adrenaline alone and the fact that they are in an All-Ireland semi-final should stand to them.”