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'It's more of a pride thing that it's all us this year. All the players we have are from Kildare'

Captain Brian Byrne says the Kildare hurlers are reaping the benefits of having a homegrown panel.

IN 2017, KILDARE hurling manager Joe Quaid took advantage of GAA residency rules to recruit players from beyond the county’s borders.

Joe Quaid Source: Presseye/John McIlwaine/INPHO

The rule meant counties competing in the Christy Ring Cup and lower tiers can bring in players from MacCarthy Cup participants once they’re based in their adopted county.

Quaid, a two-time All-Star goalkeeper with Limerick during his playing days, called up former Kilkenny forward John Mulhall and Limerick’s Reidy brothers David and Mike to bolster his hand.

But the summer didn’t go to plan and Kildare exited the championship with an 11-point defeat to Carlow in the Christy Ring quarter-finals.

Quaid had previously struggled to get hurlers to commit to the county panel but last winter he admitted the squad did benefit from playing with the outside players he drafted in.

“We’re going to concentrate on the homegrown players,” he told the RTE GAA Podcast in October.

“Look it, we could have loaded the team (with outside players) in the first year. We had to do it last year and they contributed handsomely to the situation.”

John Mulhall with Conor McKinley John Mulhall in action for Kildare last season Source: Presseye/John McIlwaine/INPHO

This year Quaid focused on developing players born within the county and the Lilywhites have enjoyed a successful campaign, winning all four of their games so far this summer.

If they beat London on Sunday to lift the Christy Ring title for a second time since 2014, they’ll face Antrim in a play-off with promotion to the Joe McDonagh Cup at stake. It would represent major progress for the county.

“It’s more of a pride thing that it’s all us this year,” says Kildare captain Brian Byrne, who hails from Naas.

“Last year when stuff was going on, there was obviously mention of the lads that were in and mention of maybe that they were helping us too much. This year, it’s just all homegrown Kildare and it’s fantastic to see from one to 32.

“In fairness to Joe and his team, he ran everything by all of the group the whole time – especially last year when he brought in those few players. It was a team decision and, to be honest with you, we needed it because there lads going on holidays and lads just not taking up the opportunity to play hurling.

“This year – I’m not sure if it’s that the club scene was good or the young lads were just able to play senior hurling – but when he made the call, a lot more people said, ‘Yes.’

“In fairness to the lads, they gave us huge help last year, they brought a serious skillset to training. This year, now, it’s good that all the players we have are from Kildare.”

Byrne is also a talented footballer who played U21 with Kildare in 2016 and won a Sigerson Cup medal at wing-forward with UCD earlier this year.

Brian Byrne and Liam Knowles 23/1/2018 Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Things weren’t looking so good for Kildare after the Division 2A campaign where they lost off five of their games, including a 1-19 to 0-15 defeat to tomorrow’s opponents London in Ruislip which consigned them to relegation.

But they managed to turn things around in time for the championship and Byrne praised Quaid for his role in keeping spirits in the camp high during the testing times.

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“In the league, it wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t what we were looking for this year,” he explains. “We took a break after the league, got our heads straight and worked hard in training. Ever since that, the ball has been rolling and it’s been a good time.

“It’s hard to pick up lads, especially after how the league went for us. Himself and his whole backroom and – and the lads in fairness – really stepped up to the mark.

Brian Byrne and Brian Regan Kildare skipper Brian Byrne and London's Brian Regan Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“We went back to club hurling, lads were getting game time and the winning momentum came again – we got a bit of a buzz going. We all got together, trained hard and haven’t looked back since then.

“It was tough for Joe in his first year. This year now, there’s something different – there’s a real buzz. It’s all Kildare players – a lot of young lads, core players who have been there for a good few years. There’s just a good blend.”

Byrne is hopeful his team lift the trophy in Croke Park on Saturday to inspire a new generation of young Lilywhite hurlers.

“At the end of the day, all young kids just want to win games. Especially when they see their county heroes winning competitions, it’ll give them a bit of an urge to get out on the field. There’s nothing better than winning our All-Ireland – hopefully, it’ll bring on a few young lads as well.”

Christy Ring Cup final

  • London v Kildare, Croke Park, 2pm – (Live on TG4′s Youtube)

Kildare (vs London)

1. Paddy McKenna (Clane)

2. Cian Forde (Maynooth)
3. John Doran (Leixlip)
4. Paul Sullivan (Naas)

5. Éanna O’Neill (Coill Dubh)
6. Mark Moloney (Celbridge)
7. Mark Grace (Coill Dubh)

8. Niall Ó Muineacháin – (Celbridge)
9. Brian Byrne (Naas – captain)

10. James Burke (Naa)
11. Paul Divilly (Confey)
12. Kevin Whelan (Naas)

13. Shane Ryan (Naas)
14. Martin Fitzgerald (Ardclough)
15. Jack Sheridan (Naas)

Subs:

16. Paul Dermody (Éire Óg Corra Choill)
17. Dylan Brereton (Coill Dubh)
18. Chris Bonus (Clane)
19. Bernard Deay (Clane)
20. Simon Leacy (Naas)
21. Barry Cormack (Éire Óg Corra Choill)
22. Sean Gainey (Naas)
23. Mick Purcell (Naas)
24. Mark Delaney (Coill Dubh)
25. Shane Walsh (Naas)
26. Diarmuid Cahill (Coill Dubh)

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Kevin O'Brien

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