Train as you want to play. Play as you want to be remembered

SUNDAY May 18, 2008.

SUNDAY May 18, 2008.

Leinster Senior Football Championship.

First Round.

Croke Park.

Lilies take on the Garden.

Foregone conclusion.

We thought.

Wicklow fail to read the script.

Disaster.

McGeeney shell shocked.

Players in near disbelief.

Supporters stunned into silence.

Micko and McGeeney may not have a lot in common but this is one stat they would rather not share.

A first round defeat for each in their championship debut when in charge of the Shortgrass boys.

Yet on that Sunday afternoon back in ‘08 when the Kildare boss and the media pack came face to face one could not but be impressed with the Geezer, his attitude and his belief.

Amazingly frank.

Amazingly honest.

Amazingly positive.

It’s something that sticks in the back of the mind.

When questioned by the hack pack McGeeney was taking only the positives (?) as he looked forward to the qualifiers with a belief that seemed somewhat surreal, and an outlook and determination that was hard to fathom at the time.

He quickly called a players’ meeting.

It had an open agenda.

Team.

Tactics.

Preparation,

Decisions.

Performance.

You name it, it was covered.

Four months down the road and Kildare were in the All Ireland quarter final.

Cork were the opponents.

The result was a three point defeat for Kildare.

Disappointing.

But McGeeney had put down a marker.

In his first season with the Lilies he had tasted bitter defeat.

But he learned from it.

Didn’t allow the setback to sidetrack him.

Five years down the line McGeeney is still in situ.

There have been many more disappointments since.

But there have been lots of highs.

Yes, Kildare are still awaiting Leinster success.

But McGeeney has led his side to three All Ireland quarter finals and a semi final.

In terms of silverware it has been a barren spell.

In terms of progress, much has been achieved.

But as the man would be very quick to point out, it’s all about silverware.

Kildare may now be regarded as one of the top half dozen teams in the country by many of the pundits.

Kildare may be regarded as one of the top half dozen teams in the country by many of the layers.

But the pundits and/or the layers don’t win games.

But they can have an input into losing them.

False expectations.

False dawns.

False sense of security.

Until silverware arrives these so called beliefs are merely perceptions. Opinions.

Over the last few seasons the Lilies have not got the rub of the green.

Yes, of course, you can point to this decision and to that decision.

Yes you can point to plain bad luck.

Yes you can point to some woeful refereeing decisions.

But so can most teams from time to time.

It is all (unfortunately) part and parcel of the game.

Kildare are roaring hot favourites to get the better of Offaly but that can, and will, suit Offaly.

Physically Kildare look right.

Mentally they should be properly tuned in.

But Offaly have nothing to lose.

No one expects them to win.

The Allianz National League has been nothing but an absolute disaster for them.

They have struggled throughout.

They have lost a manager.

They have lost Division 3 status.

But all that can and will be put aside.

If the sight of a white shirt doesn’t stir the Offaly mindset then they are truly doomed.

Stitched into each ball net at Kildare’s training centre in Hawkfield are two banners.

The message emblazed on them in big bold letters is simple and to the point.

“Train as you want to play.

Play as you want to be remembered.”

At the minute Kildare are training as they want to play.

The time to play as they want to be remembered is about to begin.

Sunday.

Portlaoise.

Four bells.

Be there!