SEVEN points was the difference in the end but for a long time Kildare looked to be in real trouble. Manager Kieran McGeeney points more to the efficiencies of Limerick than the failings of his own team and the Armagh man was spot on.
The Shannonsiders had their homework done and made life extremely difficult for the Lilies. In the end Kildare’s superior fitness showed and a gallant Limerick simply faded.
“It was a good game of football. Limerick won’t get the credit they deserve. They done it to Cork, they done it to Longford last week and they did it to us today. They play a lot of men behind the ball and they are good at it. They break quick and keep the scores nice and low and it keeps them in the game. I thought they played very well today,” said McGeeney at full time.
He added: “I thought we were a wee bit flat in the first half but they picked it up but it was still hard to get the scores. In fairness to our boys they showed great character.”
Indeed Kildare were forced to dig deep and a stoppage time point from Emmet Bolton sent the game to extra time. Thereafter the Lilies steam rolled past their Munster opponents.
“That’s why we train hard and credit has to go to Julie (Davis) for that sort of stuff because we are in good shape. I think it was a great game for us. Mentally it helps going on. It’s great to win those types of games. Sligo, by all accounts, should have beaten Mayo and we know we are up against it again,” added the boss.
Indeed serious improvement is needed for next weekend. It looked like Kildare were going to make their exit and Limerick would advance to face Sligo. When Kildare found themselves 0-11 to 0-8 in arrears it looked like their exit was imminent but McGeeney had belief in his team.
“It’s hard to say whether you worry or not. You believe in them. You’re hoping that they’ll come back and they’ve done it before. Eoin Doyle had a great game for us, Mikey Conway really stepped it up in the second half and Johnny Doyle, after the first twenty minutes where nothing would go right for him, really stepped up to the plate. Mick Foley was fantastic in midfield and that’s what you’re looking for. Smithy (Alan Smith) and Tom (O’Connor) didn’t get what they’d normally but when Podge (Fogarty) and Seanie (Johnston) came on they did well. Jimmers (Kavanagh) also came in to the game more and that’s what you’re looking for. That’s why these players put in the hard hours,” remarked the Armagh man.
As extra time beckoned the Kildare team and their manager gathered in a huddle. United. They had twenty minutes to keep their dream alive.
“They knew they put in the work but we were just trying to get them to believe in themselves and give them a focus on where to put that work. There’s really no magic solution in there (in the huddle), it’s up to them once they cross the white line and in fairness they showed the character to do that.
For Limerick another season comes to a conclusion. They have it their all. Such a game can only be a benefit to Kildare going forward. A facile victory would have thought them very little.
“I thought we were very dominant for the second half. We missed a lot of shots, they forced us out and I thought we were a wee bit silly in our play in the first half in terms of not running the ball and giving the support. We tried to address that and we did.
“Limerick have quality players that you have to watch for. Collin, Ian Ryan inside, O’Connor as well was very tricky, Stephen Kelly and Lucey are strong. You wonder why they are sitting in Division 4 when they can play football of that calibre. No matter what anybody says when you play football like that it’s not by accident. They work hard, they hit hard and they are good on the ball,” admitted the manager.
Thankfully, from a Kildare perspective, not good enough. This weekend Kieran McGeeney will look to keep his 100 per cent qualifier record intact. A place in the quarter final is at stake.