A 13 point defeat. Exit from the All Ireland championship. No real shame at being beaten by the Munster champions but the margin was a surprise. Kildare weren’t at the races. They were taught a lesson by the Rebels. The search for glory continues. The door is closed for yet another year.
It’s a door that Kieran McGeeney’s team have been knocking on for the last five years. They haven’t been allowed enter but they have been close. In the previous three quarter finals and indeed the semi final against Down in 2010 Kildare were oh so close. Not this time though.
“In most cases we should have won those games but today we were beaten by a stronger team,” admitted McGeeney afterwards.
“We forced our way back in the first half but missed a few crucial scores too. We paid dearly for it, there were some very bad mistakes in defence. In the second half we started very well but couldn’t get the ball over the bar. Cork just went up, put two or three on and next thing it’s a six or seven point game. Then it was just one way traffic. It’s tough but you have to give credit to Cork, they’re strong in every section of the pitch. They punish you for every weakness,” added the Kildare boss.
Two first half goals for Cork had Kildare on the ropes after 19 minutes but the Rebels then decided to disappear for a bit. Kildare got it back to within three before the interval but it was a break that came at the very wrong time for McGeeney’s men.
“Yeah it did but we started well in the second-half, we were pushing on and fought very well for the ball. Smithy and Daryl missed chances at very important times, especially against a team like Cork. Then when a game gets to six points you’re going to have to stretch yourself at the back, you’re going to have to over commit. That’s what happened. If there’s any team that can exploit a counter attack with the speed and strength they have in the middle eight it’s Cork. You have to hand it to them, as I said, in the past we’d always felt that you were probably even or better than the teams (that beat you) but today Cork were stronger all over the pitch, the better team won,” admitted the Armagh man.
“Cork are a big powerful unit, they’re full of confidence, have three League titles, Munster titles and All-Irelands under their belts. They’re going to punish you. They have great people on the counter, great pace, great strength in the middle and we struggled in the middle which is a section we’ve rarely struggled in. We just didn’t seem to have the energy to compete there today,” he added.
McGeeney has put in five years of hard work, as have his players. Their commitment is astounding and they were left devastated on Sunday evening. He admits that consoling them is a difficult task.
“You just say that you’re proud of them. It’s very hard to explain to anyone that hasn’t done it, to keep coming back and knocking on that door. That’s what happens in a lot of counties, a lot of players give it five or six years and then they quit. They find it hard to come back. You very rarely get to that point (of success), I suppose we would know more in Armagh about that than most, seven or eight of us kept knocking at the door. It took us ten years. You thought you’d made the breakthrough when the likes of Stevie and that came through on the team, next thing it didn’t and the next thing fellas are touching their 30s.
“I feel the Kildare boys have that type of unit but then you have to keep pushing. There’s young fellas coming through, the likes of Fionn, Podge, Tommy Moolick, young Kelly is there and four or five from the minor squad this year that are real quality. They’re just going to have to keep pushing. It’s not easy and if it was they’d all be doing it. What is it, three or four teams that have won the All-Ireland in the last 25 years? It’s the top of the top in this modern era that have given it their all, small things make the difference. Today we were just beaten by a better team,” said the manager.
Kildare will indeed have to push harder if success is to come. Will McGeeney be there to push them in 2013? He has just completed year two of a second three year term but he admits that it’s now up to the players to decide if they want him to remain.
“It depends on the players. That’s what it always comes back to, the players themselves. I couldn’t be any prouder of them, today just didn’t happen for them. Whether I can take anymore is more or less up to them. The only way to find out if they are good enough if for me to stay on and push them or get rid of me and get somebody else in,” he remarked.
Does he believe he can get any more from this team?
“I suppose, again, that comes down to them. I’m fairly competitive by nature. You have to be fairly thick skinned in this job, you’re called everything from whingers to big heads and ego stuff but we’re all in it for the one thing, we all love the GAA and to get in and compete. Unfortunately that’s the way sport goes, we play it, we love it, there’s a passion there that keeps driving us back to it. It’s definitely not the claps on the back that we come back for. They are a good bunch of lads, real, real dedicated, you couldn’t fault any of them. You feel for them, you feel it deep down, it’s gonna hurt and it’s gonna hurt worse tomorrow,” insisted McGeeney.
The former All Ireland winning captain strives for success. Only the best will do. Kildare are off that pace at present. Dedication, heart, commitment, and hunger aren’t missing but for McGeeney and his team it’s not the taking part that matters.
“We all like to talk about participation but lets be honest that’s not what it’s about. That’s great for kids and that’s the way it should be but when you get to this level it’s about winning. You’re playing against quality teams at this level and it’s silly when people talk about us not beating the top teams. Of course we haven’t beaten them because if we did we’d have an All Ireland. That’s the reality of it. These are top teams and they have had the edge on us. Today is tougher because we were beaten by a stronger and better team,” he explained.
It is as simple as that. Cork were stronger and better.
The wait continues!