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Kildare midfielder Kevin Feely.
Kildare midfielder Kevin Feely.

Kevin Feely happy to return for Kildare

By Seán O’Regan

After signing for Charlton Athletic in 2012, Kildare’s Kevin Feely pursued a career in soccer, which included loan spells at Carlisle United and AFC Wimbledon before settling at Newport County. In 2015, the young Athy man called it a day across the water in order to come home to play for his county.

“Gaelic Football was definitely the reason,” Feely says. “Soccer was a job for me, it was never really something that I was enjoying overly much, I didn’t really have any huge ambitions to do good things in soccer whereas I would always have looked at Gaelic as something that I could achieve things in, with Athy and Kildare.”

Last year was the 24 year old’s first campaign back in the white of Kildare, which included a Leinster campaign that ended with a semi-final loss to Westmeath and a qualifier defeat at the hands of Mayo.

However, this is a new campaign, a fresh start for all involved in Kildare, and Feely is a firm believer that a good performance against Dublin this weekend in the Leinster final will heal some of the wounds that have scarred the Lilies for the last 12 months or so.

“I had high expectations last year, probably a bit too high, maybe not too realistic,” Feely admits. “I was a bit disappointed at the end of last year that we didn’t achieve what we wanted to in Leinster and in the qualifiers as well but so far this year has kind of made up for it.

“We are moving well and if we could put in a good performance in the Leinster final and do ourselves justice, that would go a long way towards justifying my reasons to come home.”

One vital aspect of Feely’s game is his versatility. From midfield in both of Kildare’s Leinster outings to date, Feely has contributed seven points, with six coming from placed balls.

His fielding in the middle third of the pitch is crucial in providing a platform for Kildare to build from, and the man himself believes that the ‘mark’ has benefitted his team considerably.

“I didn’t see how it was going to slow the game down. All I could see was, here’s an outlet for teams that maybe want to build a platform higher up the pitch from their kick outs. I think the evidence is there that it’s been creating more of a spectacle in games and less short kick outs, (enabling) teams to build an attacking platform in the middle third of the pitch which is brilliant.”

“It doesn’t give the mass defences a chance to get back behind the ball.”

Kildare’s recent record against Dublin in Croke Park hasn’t been overly impressive. Kildare have been swept aside by the boys in blue in 2013 and 2015 on an aggregate score of 9-34 to 1-23. Interestingly, Feely has only ever claimed a single win in GAA HQ, and that was against Wexford in a dour affair.

According to Feely, who was also deployed as a full back during his time at DCU, there is a sense of disappointment surrounding Kildare’s performances in Croke Park, something that they are looking to change.

“We definitely feel like we’ve let ourselves down in the most recent games played in Croke Park, but it’s hard to really know whether that’s just coincidence or whether it’s something that’s actually affecting us and the only way we can put that right is by putting in a good performance for 70 plus minutes in the Leinster final, on probably the biggest occasion we’ve faced in Croke Park in a number of years.”

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