THE senior inter-county season might have come to an end for Kildare a fortnight ago but for the county’s minor footballers they still have plenty to play for, starting with next Monday’s All Ireland quarter final clash with Roscommon in Tullamore (4pm).
The game will form the second part of a double-header and will proceed the meeting of Mayo and Westmeath (2.15pm).
Three weeks ago Kildare claimed a first Leinster MFC title win 22 years when defeating Westmeath by 2-15 to 2-7 at Croke Park, a monumental achievement in so many ways.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” exclaimed Murphy following that game. “It really is the culmination and hopefully the beginning of something within Kildare. There has been many great people who will get no credit for this. All those guys know who they are and I thank them from the bottom of my heart because they are what make Kildare football.
“The lads (players) themselves deserve the real credit because they’ve put in a monumental effort. I love every minute of my involvement. It’s an absolute honour. Kildare has given me everything and by working with these guys all I’m doing is giving something back and it’s an incredible feeling. These guys keep you young, they keep you motivated and they keep you on your toes and it’s a great place to be.
“The important thing is they keep the want and the ambition and they’ve got a great start there, having been out there on Leinster final day. Playing in Croke Park is where everyone wants to play.”
But what was most impressive about Kildare’s historic victory was the fact that Murphy and his entire panel overcame personal tragedy in the days previous to the game to win for Kildare a first provincial minor since 1991.
On the Friday prior to their trip to Croke Park, panellist Craig Shannon buried his mother who passed away after succumbing to illness. Even when the game got underway, news was filtering through that an uncle of corner-forward, Chris Healy – who scored 1-3 and picked up the man of the match award – had died during the night before throw-in
“These guys have shown tremendous character over the last week,” beamed Murphy. “They’ve come up and they’ve responded with a performance like that out there and I know that takes character.”
As for Roscommon, there is a feeling within their county that their team can play better. Since their All-Ireland success of 2006, expectation has invariably attached itself to minor teams embarking on provincial and All-Ireland campaigns.
For the most part, Roscommon have handled the pressure but there has been a tendency to fall short in games they should have won. The recent Connacht final loss to Mayo, Roscommon’s seventh provincial decider appearance in eight years, saw Fergal O’Donnell’s side fall short after kicking 14 wides and gifting Mayo two goals early on.
It had been well flagged beforehand that Mayo paraded a knack of raising green flags and those two sucker-punches left Roscommon playing catch-up for the remainder of the game.
Kildare also have an ability to get goals so Roscommon won’t be facing unchartered territory next weekend. Since 2006, Roscommon have won provincial crowns in 2011 and 2012.
Like this year, poor shooting cost the teams that lined out in the 2008 and 2009 Connacht finals, and once again last year in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Kerry.
Indeed Roscommon’s record in quarter-finals is poor. Two wins (2006 and 2011) from six attempts (2007, ‘08, ‘09 and 2012) means that the Rossies will have to buck the trend against the Lilywhites.