Lilies clean bill of health for Carlow clash

Lilies clean bill of health for Carlow clash

Saturday morning, the sun is shining as we enter the plush surroundings of Johnstown House Estate, on the outskirts of Enfield, to meet up with Kildare manager Cian O'Neill.

This is no ordinary run-of-the-mill hostelry. It is top of the market, a place where not only county teams regular visit but so do English and Scottish sides for pre-season or whatever.

Equipped with a pitch described by Kevin Feely as “absolutely brilliant, akin to Croker) that also include all the modern day conveniences that top class sports people expect.

No doubt it comes with a hefty price tag and if a quick perusal of the menu is anything to go on, well it would not be falling into the chicken and chips bracket and that's for sure.

But that is what is expected these days from all the leading counties and it shows that no expense is being spared when it comes to preparation for Kildare for this (and all recent) championships.

Manager O'Neill meets us, along with S&C coach Neil Welsh, a Manchester native with strong Curragh connections who is attached to Sports Clinic in Santry.

Neil outlines his role and ensures us that after three years with the squad he is very happy indeed with where they are at  present.

The manager informs us that each and everyone of his 32-man panel are fit and available for selection, which, in his words, is testament to the work that Neil Welch is doing with the squad along with physios Rob McCabe and Alan O'Mahony.

Cian O’Neill reflects on what he had seen in Carlow's defeat of Louth as they (Carlow) “forced their way into the game, you could se it coming and there was only one team in it in the second half.”

Now in his third season, O'Neill said that “Carlow play a very specific style of football which is quiet different to the way we like to play” adding “that's the joy of it all.”

Reflecting on the League, O'Neill after going through every match confirmed that “the it was a harsh experience; we had good patches but were unable to get over the line” adding “who knows what might have happened if we had beaten Monaghan.”

Overall he says he is very happy where Kildare are at present; the three late arrivals onto the panel (Moorefield continent) have fitted into the squad seamlessly; all are extremely comfortably; all doing well and all fighting for their places come Sunday.

The manager did confirm that while the squad are in Johnstown Estate since Thursday evening seven were released from camp on Friday and six Saturday morning form exams but all would be together come Saturday evening; a full days' training on Sunday and a very important in-house game on the  same day that would more or less determine Sunday's line-up.

Kevin Feely confirmed he is firmly on track after picking up an ankle injury in the club championship, adding that the break back with their clubs was ideal after a disappointing league but “we really enjoyed the stint back with our own lads; and it helped to get the confidence back.”

The big midfielder said he really loves the few days 'camp' as it brings him back to his full time soccer training time while admitting that playing in Division 1 league was brilliant and very enjoyable if disappointing at the end of the campaign.

Feely confirmed that “competition for places is intense but that is the way it has to be if we are to succeed; there are still a lot of places to be filled on the team.”