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Ex-professionals impress for Kildare, strength of Cian O'Neill's bench and Meath head for the backdoor

We run through 5 talking points after Kildare’s Leinster semi-final win over Meath today.

1. Power of Kildare

THE IMMENSE PHYSICAL conditioning of this Kildare team was there for all to see beneath the Tullamore sunshine tonight. Cian O’Neill’s men were energetic, pacey and full of direct lines of running that Meath couldn’t live with.

Daniel Flynn scoring his sides second goal past goalkeeper Paddy O'Rourke Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Defensively they bullied the Royals, particularly in the first half where Kildare restricted their opponents to just four points.

The half-back line was commanding, but midfield pairing of Kevin Feely and Tommy Moolick were utterly dominant. They destroyed Paddy O’Rourke’s kick-outs, winning five in-a-row at one stage during the opening period.

Kildare have the football too mind, but they’re well able to mix it. They’re well-equipped to test the legs of an ageing Dublin side on the back of two taxing All-Ireland winning campaigns.

Pauric Harnan and Graham Reilly tackle Paddy Brophy Source: James Crombie/INPHO

2. Ex-professionals impress for Kildare

Kildare had three former professional athletes in their starting 15 tonight (Kevin Feely, Daniel Flynn and Paddy Brophy), and that figure will rise to four once Paul Cribbin returns to from injury.

Feely was outstanding – he kicked five points (including four frees) and collected three ‘Marks’ from kick-outs to give Kildare a good foundation in the middle third.

Meath couldn’t live with Flynn’s physicality and direct lines of running and he deserved man-of-the-match honours with 1-4 from play.

Less than two months ago, Paddy Brophy announced his decision to return home from the AFL and he’s readjusted to the round ball quickly. He was an excellent target man inside and chipped in with two good scores of his own.

Chris Healy and Fionn Dowling after the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

3. Depth of Lilywhites panel

The strength of their bench was quite striking. Take a look at the names who were introduced during the second-half: Eamonn Callaghan, Fionn Dowling, Peter Kelly, Chris Healy, Peter Kelly, Emmet Bolton and Neil Flynn.

Flynn is still making his way back from injury, while Ben McCormack and Paul Cribbin missed out altogether. Their return will further strengthen O’Neill’s hand.

On an interesting note, of the 23 players who featured in the disheartening O’Byrne Cup defeat to Dublin’s third string in January, 17 saw game time tonight. That’s a rapid improvement in a short space of time.

4. Facing a Leinster final

Beating Meath is one thing, but a likely meeting against the Dubs in a packed Croke Park on Leinster final day is a different beast entirely. Given the convincing manner of this victory, Kildare won’t swoop in under the radar as much as they’d like.

Unless Westmeath can pull off an upset of seismic proportions, it’ll be the first Kildare-Dublin provincial decider since 2009 when 0-7 from Bernard Brogan helped the Dubs eek out a three-point win.

A game against Dublin in 4 weeks’ time will tell us exactly where Kildare stand in the pecking order.

Andy McEntee Source: James Crombie/INPHO

5. Meath head to the qualifiers

While Meath deserve credit for the manner of their response after the interval, the truth is they left far too much work to do after a dismal opening 35 minutes. Meath’s attack malfunctioned and they struggled to get any sort of decent ball into the full-forward line.

Donal Lenihan kicked a few fine scores from in the second-half, as did Ruairi O’Coileain and Bryan Menton, while Cillian O’Sullivan’s driving runs kept the Kildare defence on its toes.

Outside of that four Meath struggled. Graham Reilly had a rare off-day, while the Royals failed to get any sort of strangehold on the game from midfield.

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