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Mac Lochlainn praises 'Kildare man' Johnston

He also expects a tough game with Meath at the weekend, despite his side’s excellent recent against the Royals.

Meath's David Gallagher and Aindriu Mac Lochlainn of Kildare.
Meath's David Gallagher and Aindriu Mac Lochlainn of Kildare.

OVER THE PAST few months, Seanie Johnston has received criticism in certain quarters over his controversial and highly protracted move from Cavan to Kildare.

However, Kildare’s Aindriu Mac Lochlainn has nothing but kind words for the player, who he knows well from their days competing against each other.

“Me and Seanie would have a good old relationship over the years, we’ve had to mark each other a few times in the championship and it would have been a little bit spicy,” he told TheScore.ie.

“But Seanie is moving well. I wouldn’t have known him outside of football and marking him, and it would have been championship. So you want to win and you’ll do whatever you can do for the team to win.

“So it’s the only relationship I would have had with him. But he’s a sound lad.

“And for me once he came in the door and was willing to put in the same effort I was willing to put in, that was good enough for me.

“In my eyes he was a Kildare man there and then, it just took other people a while longer to realise it.”

Mac Lochlainn also played down suggestions that Johnston’s decision to leave Cavan was a brave one.

“Maybe that’s the feeling outside looking in but I don’t think Seanie will feel like that and we don’t feel like that.

“He’s only here to play football and for me once I saw that willingness to work hard when he came in, and once anyone comes in and does the training we do – especially the rough ones no-one wants to do – for me that was the tester and he was more than willing to do it.”

While Johnston is not yet eligible to play for Kildare, Mac Lochlainn believes he has the potential to become an integral member of the side, provided he demonstrates the necessary level of patience.

“Seanie’s time will come when he’ll be able to play. He’s moving well at the moment and Seanie’s goal or task now is to get into the playing panel and push for the team, that’s Seanie’s goal.

“He’s moving well and he has every chance of doing that with his abilities. But that’s the task set for him now.”

And despite the considerable level of controversy surrounding Johnston of late, Mac Lochlainn claims he paid little heed to all the recent talk regarding his move.

“Genuinely, and I’m not just saying it, I haven’t taken a blind bit of notice of it.

“That’s just being truthful. When Seanie turned up for training the same as me, that’s all I want to know about it.

“If he wasn’t, then I’d want to know about it. But he’s just turning up at the same time as me so that once that was happening, that’s all I was really concerned about.”

And on the subject of his side’s upcoming clash with Meath and the teams’ past encounters, Mac Lochlainn admits luck has played a role in their excellent record over the Royals in recent years.

“It’s always funny, a player’s going to say that but you can see in the last couple of years there’s been nothing between the teams, especially our last league game.

“They had a shot to win that came back off the post and we ended up getting a fisted point. That’s the closest it’s been between us in the last few years. I can see it being as close the last day.”

And despite Kildare winning the last five encounters between the sides, Mac Lochlainn believes Meath will pose a considerable threat this weekend.

“When you’re playing in Leinster and in the same division, you play against each other a lot.

“I suppose at underage level a lot of the players have come up at the same time so we know each other well.

“There’s very little between the teams, so they’re always very competitive. With both teams being in Leinster, the supporters travel up in numbers so it adds spice.”

(INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

A series of increasingly improved performances earlier this term ultimately led to Kildare winning the Division 2 title this year, but it will count for little if the side fail to reproduce such form in the championship this year.

“It was something we set as a goal for ourselves at the start of the year and when you do that and achieve it, it feels good.

“When you put yourself out there and you achieve it, it feels good.

“So that was a big thing for us, to get back to Division 1 football. It was a test, it was a big deal for us.

“But you can win the league and get knocked out of the championship in the first round and get absolutely slated so we knew that in that regard it was just a small stepping stone.”

And despite the high stakes, Mac Lochlainn says he does not feel pressure from the burden of expectation.

“It’s not really a pressure as such, when you’re putting a lot of time and effort into anything in your life you want to achieve and that would be more disappointing for us.

“It’s not really a pressure for us to get to a Leinster final and win it, we just want to get over Meath to get ourselves into position to win some silverware.

“So we really don’t feel any extra pressure as such.”

Critics of the side claim they lack natural forwards, though Mac Lochlainn dismisses these suggestions.

“I find it a bit farcical. I don’t know what games they’re watching, to be honest with you.

“I can nearly say that every player, including those that don’t start, they’re the most natural, hard-working forwards.

“Lads can take frees off the ground and out of their hands, with both feet, lads who are willing to work hard, to make runs for other players.

“So I don’t know where it comes from, genuinely I don’t.”

And despite playing a significant role with the county for the past decade, Mac Lochlainn is by no means a guaranteed starter for the side – not that he will be making any complaints if he isn’t given the nod to play.

“I think that’s just the way it is in football these days, I’ve been involved for the past 10 years and this is probably the most competitive panel we’ve had.

“The way it’s gone now you’re not really fighting to start in the corner or the half-back line, you’re fighting to start in the backs because most players are versatile now.

“So you don’t really know where a manager will have an idea for you to play. So you just try to play out of your skin to make that choice easy for him.

“That’s the way it is, you have to be a team player. If Geezer doesn’t want to start me at the weekend and wants me to come on and do a job, I’ll be happy, once I can contribute.”

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