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Jack O'Connor: 'I've never been involved in a game with that kind of a scoreline'

It was a game of two halves as Kildare shipped five second-half goals to the Royals.

Jack O'Connor and Kevin Feely dejected after the game.
Jack O'Connor and Kevin Feely dejected after the game.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

JACK O’CONNOR ARRIVED up the steps of the Cusack Stand to try and make sense of Kildare’s Leinster exit with the awaiting press corps. 

Things were looking rosy for the Lilywhites at half-time. A flurry of points put daylight between them and Meath, leaving them six clear and apparently in control of the contest.

Within three minutes of the restart, Meath had registered two goals. By the end, the umpire behind Mark Donnellan’s goal had raised the green flag five times in the second-half.

The Royals won the latter period by 5-5 to 0-5 in what was the most unusual of games. 

“When you’re trading points for goals the scoreline changes fairly rapidly,” reflected O’Connor. “I’ve never been involved in a game with that kind of a scoreline. We were beaten by nine points and I think we had more scores more than Meath had.

“The bottom line is that we’re very disappointed. I don’t think we got what we deserved out of the game but there’s no room for sentimentality.”

Asked what he said to his players half-time, O’Connor quipped: “I didn’t say the right thing anyway!”

He continued: “Look I’m long enough in the game  I knew the game was going to be very tough in the second half because Meath being Meath were never going to sit down.

“I said that to the lads at half time that this was going to be a ferociously tough, it you thought the first half was tough this will be twice as tough. And while Meath didn’t have a great campaign at Division 1 they are playing at a level that is a bit above where we were playing and I thought that told at times in the second half.

“It’s playing at that level and it’s a level of conditioning that we have to get to that we can sustain our first half performance for two halves. Because we did well, we ticked all the boxes in the first half.

“We went out to pressurise their kick out and we disrupted them on nine of their 16 kick outs in the first half which was great going for us and we won most of our own.

“But unfortunately you have to sustain that through the game and we weren’t able to do that.”

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Kildare looked open at the back in the quarter-final against Offaly, where they shipped 0-16, yet they restricted Meath to just four points in the opening 35 minutes here.

But when Andy McEntee’s side hit goals through the excellent Matthew Costello and Jordan Morris, the floodgates opened. O’Connor said those goals gave belief to Meath at a crucial stage of the game.

“We thought we were in a good position at half-time, just those two goals at the start of the second half gave Meath that energy and belief they needed.

“Obviously they steam rolled us a little bit in the second-half but I still don’t think the scoreboard is reflective of the performance of Kildare. I’d want to watch the footage back but it seemed at least two if not three of the goals were our own fault, mistakes and that can happen.

“Look my immediate reaction is we need to be playing at this level, this was another step up for us and I thought we handled it well for the first 35 minutes. We exerted an awful lot of energy on stopping their runners and breaking them down on their kick-out but the bottom line is we couldn’t sustain that for the second-half and that was the story of the game.

“They pressurised us and we coughed up a bit of ball, it isn’t that Meath did anything spectacular they just pressurised us and forced us into mistakes, that was the story of the second half.”

Ultimately, O’Connor put the defeat down to Meath’s superior conditioning and experience at a higher level.

“We’re well aware there’s a big gap between Division 2 and Division 1. Meath were very competitive in Division 1,” he said.

“Andy McEntee has an awful lot of work done with that team over the last three or four years, they are at a good level of conditioning and all the rest. They’ve played a lot more here at Croke Park than we have. 

“That was the biggest factor that they’ve been playing at a higher level than us and I think that showed at times in the second-half.” 

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Kevin O'Brien

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