THE table toppers come to Newbridge this Sunday for round four of the Allianz National Football League Division 2. It’s a local derby too. Former team mates, now managers, pit their wits against each other.
Kildare need the points more than their O’Moore County neighbours do, who thus far have a 100 per cent record in this competition after wins over Meath, Antrim and Derry. Justin McNulty’s side are in pole position. They are the team to beat according to Kildare boss Kieran McGeeney and on Sunday that’s just what he’ll try to do.
The last day out Laois did what Kildare couldn’t the previous week. They beat Derry, made, of course, all the more impressive because they beat them in their own back yard and by a whooping 14 point margin. The same day as Kildare and Donegal were serving up dire football in Letterkenny.
McNulty’s side paved the way to victory with a masterful display in the middle of the park. Timahoe man Padraig Clancy put in a sterling performance and after 20 minutes of play Derry folded and Laois ran riot.
In attack the Leinster side were almost unstoppable particularly after the dismissal of Derry wing forward Declan Mullan.
McNulty’s side held on for a second round win over Antrim in O’Moore Park previous to that. The home side were reduced to 14 men in the second half when Brendan Quigley was given his marching orders.
Antrim were in control during the second period but were guilty of some very poor shooting and Laois put in a storming display during the final ten minutes to record the 1-12 to 0-10 win.
Kildare go in to this encounter on the back of two very disappointing performances against Derry and Donegal respectively. A late Mick Foley goal rescued a point for the Lilies in Letterkenny. A vital point it was too and it at least gives McGeeney’s side a small glimmer of hope in terms of promotion.
Things will have to seriously improve, however, if Kildare are to get anything out of Sunday’s encounter in St Conleth’s Park. In Derry Kildare were devoid of any forward bite. They were afraid to shoot and as a consequence ran themselves in to trouble and possession was over turned.
Against Derry the Lilies began well but folded in the second period, so thus far their only victory has come against Antrim in Casement Park on opening day.
Injuries have hampered Kildare progress and missing the likes of Morgan O’Flaherty, Dermot Earley, Peter Kelly, Ciaran Fitzpatrick and the suspended Daryl Flynn, who is available this week, certainly hasn’t helped.
There are very few of McGeeney’s players performing well at present. Celbridge’s Hugh McGrillen and Fionn Dowling are the only ones that springs to mind. Alan Smith has been out of sorts lately, as have a number of his forward colleagues, however should they hit form then Kildare are capable of beating any time in this division. Ifs and buts don’t win games, however.
Morgan O’Flaherty, who had a hip injury, is close to return but is unlikely to feature against Laois, while Ciaran Fitzpatrick had his cast on his arm removed yesterday (Monday). Selector Niall Carew is thrilled with the return of Moorefield man Daryl Flynn and has confirmed he is likely to feature at some stage during the meeting with the O’Moore men.
The St Kevin’s man knows his side will need to seriously improve if they are to get anything in round four and a win, he says, would throw the division right open again.
“We were disappointed with the performance in Letterkenny. The only thing that was pleasing is that are battling qualities came through. They weren’t going well but they battled hard and at least got a point from it,” said Carew.
He added: “I though our defence did well. We only conceded eight points but our forwards need to improve. Laois will be a much tougher test. They are unbeaten and have three big wins behind them. If we get all two points we’re back in the mix and I’m expecting a good game. Both sides play open football and anything can happen in a local derby. It going to be intriguing.”
Throw in on Sunday in St Conleth’s Park is at 2.45pm.