Journalists by trade are prisoners of their own banal platitudes. One of the professions common sayings refer to the disdain the majority of upstanding journalists have for “fans with typewriters”. Fortunately, contributors to Pundit Arena are not shackled by these constraints, so I’m going to drop all journalistic pretences.
On Sunday at 4pm I’ll join approximately 15,000 of my fellow Kildare men and women to watch our Leinster semi final against Dublin in Croke park. We are written off as no -hopers with good reason. We’ve lost our last 2 championship games against Dublin by a combined total of 29 points. We’ve lost a raft of players through retirement, emigration and a lack of game time. Paddy Brophy, who has long been considered the great white hope of Kildare football has gone to play aussie rules along with two more of our best young players Daniel Flynn and Sean Hurley.
Mick Foley and Johnny Doyle have both retired, many would argue this has resulted in a lack of leadership in the current side. Hugh Mc Grillen has gone travelling for a year while Tomas Connor, who was often deployed to devastating effect under McGeeney has left the panel due to a lack of game time. It is not difficult to understand why Kildare were also relegated to division 3 this year.
Everything that made Kildare progressive under the stewardship of Kieran Mc Geeney has been stripped away. They no longer systematically defend in numbers, buoyed by a phenomenal conditioning on par with any team in the country.
The team Jason Ryan has moulded is lighter and built around speed. It’s a largely young team, which boasts many relatively successful underage players. No longer is there the same intensity in the tackle that McGeeney ingrained in his side.
They seem more positive in possession and although results have been mediocre at best during his term to date, Jason Ryan has persisted with a system that is largely naive and built around man on man defending. Yet despite the obvious flaws in the system, despite the calibre of player that Kildare no longer possess, men of the calibre of Johnny Doyle, Dermot Earley, Glenn Ryan or Larry Tompkins, despite the fact Kildare haven’t beaten Dublin since 2000, there are many in the county who will travel in hope, and with pride.
Kildare reached 5 successive quarter finals in the McGeeney era, one semi final in 2010, but never won a provincial title. Despite what analysts on the Sunday Game might have told us during this time. Kildare were All Ireland contenders throughout McGeeney’s term.
A mixture of hard luck stories and the lack of another marquee forward cost them. Although that Kildare team never made the break through, they bore psychological scars at the hands of a great Dublin team. This new team that Ryan has created contains 4 players that faced Dublin in 2013.
Kildare are at odds of 12/1 to win on Sunday. What interests me more as a fan, is whether they play with a liberation going forward as Jason Ryan has clearly tried to introduce. If they do, I can continue to hope for better days.