Bryan Keane/INPHO Kildare manager Jack O’Connor.
# Tough week
'That man hasn't much sleep got and emotionally it was very tough on him' - O'Connor hails brave Flynn
Neil Flynn arrived off the bench to clip three vital scores against Offaly just a day after his father’s funeral.

JACK O’CONNOR PAID tribute to Neil Flynn for his decisive cameo against Offaly amid difficult personal circumstances.

The Maynooth forward togged out for Kildare just 24 hours after his father Fergal was laid to rest, following his sudden passing on Tuesday. 

And Flynn played a crucial role in Kildare’s four-point victory, arriving off the bench in the final quarter to kick three placed balls between the 69th and 74th minute.

Flynn slotted over an advanced mark and two frees, with his opening score from the flank of particular importance as it extended Kildare’s lead to two at a time when Offaly had all the momentum. 

“I just want to play a tribute to Neil Flynn he buried his father yesterday and came in and kicked a savage score from the sideline and kicked two more points so hats off to him,” said O’Connor.

“That man hasn’t much sleep got and emotionally it was very tough on him but I think that’ll do him a lot of good and it’s a great sign of the man.

“Hopefully that’ll give the family a little bit of a lift after the tough week that they’ve had.”

Championship debutant Darragh Kirwan also shone in the Lilywhites’ attack, top-scoring with a six-point haul.

Tall, strong and equally adept off either foot, Kirwan led the line for Kildare on an evening where they shot 14 wides and dropped a further six balls short. 

“14 wides is a lot of wides and we kicked 20 points so if we halved the number of wides we would have had a right good score but today was about getting over the line,” said O’Connor.

“Meath obviously won’t be shaking in their boots after seeing that seeing as they had a huge win in Aughrim,” he said of next weekend’s semi-final opponents.

“But we’re in the hat for next week and we’re looking forward to it. We’d five lads making their debuts today so that’ll stand to them. Young Darragh Kirwan, for a man in his first championship start, had a great outing.

“He’s a good lad, he’s done well since he came in,” he continued. “He’s playing with great confidence and obviously he bailed us out today with six points, it’s a great return.

“Obviously we need to improve, I’m not going to stand here and sugarcoat that, we have to improve but I’d be hoping that the improvement is in us seeing as we got that game under our belts.”

Daniel Flynn battled hamstring problems coming into the game and was called ashore after a mixed 41 minutes, but O’Connor is hopeful the game will stand to him.

“He tried hard and a couple of things didn’t come off for him but that run out will do him good, like horse racing terms he’ll improve on the run.”

darragh-kirwan-is-tackled-by-eoin-carroll-and-declan-hogan Bryan Keane / INPHO Darragh Kirwan runs at the Offaly defence. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

The former Kerry boss is also optimistic that Eoin Doyle – who was introduced off the bench in the 68th minute – and Mick O’Grady will be in contention to feature against the Royals. 

“Mick is doing a bit, he has a bit of an adductor problem. He did a bit Thursday night and he did a bit this morning so he’ll be in the frame next week because we have to throw everything at it now at this stage.

“[Eoin] had a similar issue but I’d say at this stage fellas are willing to play through pain you know.”

Meanwhile Offaly boss John Maughan was non-committal on his future with the county after the conclusion of his second season in charge.

“I don’t really know. It was a long shift today now and it will be late when I get home. I work as well, this is a hobby. It’s a big drive from Castlebar. I don’t know.

“You have to be wanted as well and in this game there’s no such thing as a contract or anything, you just roll along and see how you feel. You talk to the county board and see do they want you or not.

“But there’s a good management team there, a lot of coaches and strength and conditioning guys are very, very good. I think it’s very important for Offaly to hold onto them if they want to progress.”

john-maughan Bryan Keane / INPHO Offaly manager John Maughan. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

On the game itself, Maughan felt Offaly had the opportunities to win in a much-improved display from the previous weekend’s defeat of Carlow. They shot just three wides but crucially left three goalscoring chances behind them.

“We’re disappointed that we didn’t win. We had the chances to win it. We created the better goalscoring opportunities and didn’t convert. I felt that if we converted of those it would have propelled us maybe to victory.

“But we were right in the game until the very end. Kildare kicked a few outrageous points in the last couple of minutes to stretch their lead to two or three points. 

“But we had it back to a single point after their lead had drifted out to four. But I’m very, very proud of the performance. They were manly, an awful lot better than we were last weekend.

“Last weekend was a difficult encounter but certainly we rattled Kildare. But we didn’t just come here for a morale-boosting defeat, we came here to win the game and that’s genuine. I thought there was a great edge to the players before the game, they were very, very confident and it’s just disappointing.

“I think if we’re going to improve the lot in Offaly football we’ve just got to win, take a big scalp like a Kildare or Meath last year and unfortunately we haven’t done that.”

The Mayo man almost oversaw victory over Meath in the 2019 Leinster quarter-final and similarly they ran Kildare close yesterday but didn’t have quite enough to see them over the line. 

“The reality is we haven’t moved that far, we’re still in Division 3 and we haven’t taken a big scalp. If we managed to have a victory over Meath last year or Kildare today it would have propelled the thing and given them that little bit of confidence.

“There’s nothing wrong with Offaly football it’s just it can be unattractive playing in heavy conditions in winter football and playing against teams that park the bus and play 15 behind the ball.

“We’re not good at that but that’s the way football has gone. It’s not easy on the eye, it’s unattractive but here this evening we had a very good open game of football. It was end to end and if we had spectators here they’d have enjoyed it.”

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