Neil Flynn of Kildare in action against Colm Doyle of Offaly during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final
The crowds were back, well not in big numbers it has to be said, however, at times on Sunday in O'Moore Park, Portlaoise where Kildare and Offaly were vying for a last four spot in the Leinster SFC, one would have thought there was a lot more than the requisite 500 present, such was the din.
It was great to hear and no doubt the players appreciated the support both counties had.
While it seemed somewhat strange to see (and hear) the fans, one thing that did not change is Kildare footballers inability to win a big game comfortably when they are installed as roaring hot favs.
Sunday was no different.
Odds of 1/7 were what was on offer and for those who like to dabble in a so called bit of value, the handicap margin was six points.
Jack O'Connor admitted after the game that while he was well satisfied with the win, he did feel his team were somewhat undercooked.
I wonder to myself what would be the reaction if a hot pot at the Curragh, Naas or Punchestown, or wherever, was turned over, or even hard pressed to win, and the trainer came out with an observation that his horse was somewhat undercooked on the day.
Can you imagine.
What with all the allegations about this, that and the other in racing circles at the moment, I don't think a remark like that would do down too well within the walls of Hri, and that's for sure.
In fairness to Jack O'Connor he explained that while he would have preferred his charges to have had a good tough challenge of a work-out a week previously to avoid having a three week break from the action, due to the number of injuries the team have picked up, he was taking no chances.
Thus the undercooked remark.
No doubt The Lilies looked very flat, particularly in the opening 20-25 minutes or so, although the bit of a skirmish prior to the first water break may have saw them shaken out of their lethargy; one way or other Offaly must have been somewhat perturbed that having had so much possession in the opening half they went in for the half time team talk trailing, albeit by a single point.
Not sure what was said at the break but a little bird who happened to be in close proximity to the Kildare dressing room said while he couldn't exactly make out what was being said, it certainly was not said in a low key, gentile, manner.
Regardless, it did the trick as within less than ten minutes that one point advantage had expanded out to four, and climbing.
And when Neil Flynn, tip-toed and danced through the heart of the Offaly defence before leaving the leather nesting in the back of the opposition's net, Kildare had gone no less than eight point clear.
Time to relax.
Neil Flynn was magnificent again on Sunday.
Turn your mind back to last November; same teams; same venue; same prize at stake, a place in the Leinster semi final.
Neil Flynn emerged off the bench that day, a mere 24 hours after laying his dad to rest, and hit two brilliant frees, from both sides of the pitch, and another one to boot, in a three point salvo that ensured Kildare's victory.
On Sunday last he repeated that performance but also added a lot more to it.
His free taking was superb; anything within 55m or so he would fancy but the icing on the cake was his second half goal.
Fergal Conway had possession, spotted Flynn and while Conway got a fair crack on the skull, still managed to control the ball before letting it off to the Maynooth man.
Flynn, moved left and right, jigged and danced and as the opposition backed off expecting him to lay the ball off to a colleague, he decided to keep going and before you could say, game, set and match, the ball was in the Offaly net.
Brilliant or what.
Fergal Conway had to be replaced after picking up that 'knock' but he too had played a big part, not just in that vital score but throughout the game as he made his presence felt time and time again and any player in the green, white and gold of Offaly that came into contact with the Celbridge man, knew it.
Last time these sides met there were just four separating them; this time around just one more point, but for Ryan Houlihan picking up a second yellow and Jimmy The Lark getting a black card, those who hedged their bets and took Kildare -6 would have been home and hosed; although anyone who decided to lump on to Offaly at +6 collected which is fair enough.
As the game came to a close there was one more piece of play; something few were willing to discuss prior to the game — that was the draw for the semi final pairings.
With The Dubs getting over Wexford by a mere eight points, it seems there were more concerned to know if the Cluxton lad had decided to bid farewell, rather than stick the knife into Wexford; Westmeath handing Laois a mother-and-father of a hiding and Meath doing a similar job on Longford, the balls were in the drum and rolling within minutes of the final whistle at O'Moore Park.
If one was asked who would like to draw who, or more to the point, who would one prefer to avoid in the semi final, well what ever the thoughts the draw threw up The Dubs and Meath with Kildare meeting Westmeath.
Notwithstanding that Westmeath will be no pushover, but it is fair to say the draw was kind.
Maybe a sign of a change of fortune?
Isn't it amazing what a championship win does.
Probably a double header in Croker, Sunday week.
Here's hoping The Lilies get the right ingredients again, and the cooking is done to perfection.
Bring it on!
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