Johnny Doyle: 'Who's going to lift the spirits of Kildare football? That's the challenge for the lads.'

The42 columnist Johnny Doyle on the mood in Kildare after a shock loss to Carlow and a tough qualifier tie against Derry.

Kildare players before last summer's Leinster final against Dublin.
Kildare players before last summer's Leinster final against Dublin.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

THE MOOD IN Kildare football has been low all year and it hasn’t picked up over the last couple of weeks.

Not winning a game made for a really tough league. A couple of the games were there for us, especially against Tyrone and Monaghan, but we just couldn’t get over the line. There was a worry coming into the Carlow game off the back of the league, a real fear of the unknown. It was being billed as Division 1 against Division 4 but in reality Division 2 against Division 3 was a better reflection given how the league had gone.

I was mindful of the way Carlow set up makes them difficult to break down and the way they believe in their gameplan. I still thought we’d enough quality to get through and win it. But look hats off to Carlow, they brought their A-game and we’d no answer to it.

The qualifier draw hasn’t exactly given us a handy road back. Going up to Derry was a tough draw in the days when we were going well. The mood of the supporters and the general public is not good. I’m sure the players are feeling that. You can protect yourself from a certain amount of it but it’s hard to keep away from it all too.

We’re a very proud county, football is the main game in town. It is at a bit of a low ebb at the moment and I’d say the supporters won’t travel in big numbers on Saturday. Who’s going to lift the spirits of Kildare football? That’s the challenge the lads face. They’re going to have to play this one as if it’s their last.

A couple of things really disappointed me about the Carlow game. Obviously they get lots of men behind the ball, 14 and sometime 15 even as Paul Broderick came back on occasion. The difference with a lot of the teams that set up defensively is they struggle to get scores at the other end.

It takes a huge work ethic. Being honest you need 18 players to really be able to play that sort of game for the full 70 minutes. You’d have wondered where Carlow were going to get scores from but the big thing was Kildare made some ridiculous fouls to give away frees.

It was just shooting practice for Broderick. He’ll punish you every time. In the league final he’d a bit of a nightmare from scoreable frees but he was definitely in the zone against Kildare. He was awesome in fairness to him.

Carlow's Paul Broderick scores a free Paul Broderick hit 0-11 for Carlow against Kildare. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

But we played into their hands too. At one stage Sean Murphy broke through, he was nearly going to get done for over-carrying, he just hand-passed it five yards ahead of him to nobody and someone clattered into him, giving away a free inside the ’45. It was ridiculous stuff. That was disappointing from a defensive point of view.

The other thing that really disappointed me was we lacked that hard running in attack. We got to the top of the D and we just went around the players, nobody took the initiative to run hard, coming off the shoulder to maybe draw that free or go hard at them. It was a case of giving it to lads who were standing still.

Fergal Conway with Diarmuid Walshe Kildare's Fergal Conway with Carlow's Diarmuid Walshe. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

When you’re chasing a game, that just draws energy away from a team, you could even hear the supporters were getting frustrated. We just needed one or two lads to go hard at them, head for the centre of the goal, not out to the corner and break that gainline. That was the real disappointment for me. We couldn’t manage the game. Without playing particularly well, we got it back to two points at one stage, the game was still there for us for long periods. We just couldn’t go and seize it.

Carlow supporters celebrate on the pitch after the game Carlow players celebrating after their victory over Kildare. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

This time last year, we were in a lot healthier position. I would have felt it was going to be a big ask going in to play Dublin in a Leinster final but I felt after they were a coming team and that performance would drive them on to a new level. Okay, there was nine points in it but from where Kildare had come, keeping it within single figures against Dublin was progress.

The signs were there that they were the next best to Dublin in Leinster but it’s hard to pinpoint where it’s gone wrong since. It’s no one big thing but losing games in Division 1, suddenly the confidence was eroded for the team and individuals. When confidence is low, it’s a strange place to be.

Kildare's Mark Donnellan reacts to conceding a goal Kildare goalkeeper Mark Donnellan after concedin a goal against Carlow. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

The only way to get out of that rut is keep working hard and back yourself to get out of it. You have to keep driving those around you. Believe that you’re going to come through this. Don’t think about the last game, focus on next one. It sounds like cliches but that’s all you can do.

I read Tomás Ó Sé’s column in the Irish Independent before the Carlow match and to be honest, I was disappointed with Tomás. I thought it was way over the top. He got very personal.

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Tomas O’Se RTÉ pundit Tomás Ó Sé. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Obviously Tomás has experience of Cian O’Neill and he has to fill the pages. In hindsight there is stuff there reading back on it, after the way Kildare played, that it’s hard to argue with. In management, the buck stops with the manager. When things are going well, it’s a result of the players. When things are going bad, it’s all the manager’s fault.

Cian is hard on himself. I know Cian well, I was in school with him. He’ll be tearing it apart himself. His job is to get the best out of what he has and he knows that himself. But it’s not a nice place to be. It can be a very lonely place. You get all the phone calls and plaudits when things are going well. But when things aren’t going well, that is when you need the support. I’m sure the calls weren’t coming thick and fast after the Carlow game. I’m sure he’s feeling the pressure.

Cian O'Neill Kildare boss Cian O'Neill. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

The challenge now going into the weekend is to get those boys chomping at the bit, go up to tear into Derry and see where that takes them. Kildare are fighting for their lives, who’s going to step up to the plate?

I don’t doubt the quality at all in this team. There’s good footballers there. It’s just what team arrives. It’s not going to be about the skill or your talent, it’s the willingness to chase and work. Have we got enough men to win 50-50 balls, put your ball on the line?

That’s the starting point, you need to bring that quality to the table. Talent only kicks in after that. I’d like to see the lads go hard at this from the word go. It’s a long road to Derry but it’s a seriously long road home if you’ve not performed. I’ve sat on that bus, it’s not a nice place. It’s a tough draw but I’m sure the players want to right the wrongs of the Carlow game. No better place to test themselves.

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