Kildare manager Jack O'Connor during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Kildare at Croke Park in Dublin.
Kildare manager Jack O'Connor during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Kildare at Croke Park in Dublin. 

O'Connor believes the future is bright for Kildare football

By John Harrington

Kildare manager, Jack O’Connor, believes the Lilywhites still have a lot to be positive about despite today’s defeat to Dublin in the Leinster SFC Final.

Promotion to Division 1 of the Allianz Football League has been attained and team certainly went out on their shields against the six-in-a-row All-Ireland champions.

He’s hopeful that the youthful age-profile of the team means further room for improvement can be made in the coming years.

“Well, you know, another thing that the media didn’t pick up was that we came up last year, we picked an initial panel of 39 players there’s only 16 or 17 of those left so we’ve got an awful lot of youth and energy into the panel and this is our first year really having a go at this so I think they’ve made good strides in the first year and you would expect that they will keep improving,” said O’Connor after today’s match.

“I think you have to factor in as well that the underdogs, we being the underdogs, we needed everything to go for us and we came into the game without one of the best midfielders in the country in Kevin Feely and probably one of the best man-markers in the game in Eoin Doyle and also Paul Cribbin, who was having a great year for us, a very athletic wing-forward.

“We would need all those resources. The Dublins and the Kerrys and the Tyrones and that can afford to be without a couple of players, whereas we probably wouldn’t. That’s the harsh reality of it.

“We’ve had our share of injuries, particularly for this game which was very disappointing for those three players after the length of time they have soldiered for Kildare that they weren’t part of this today.

“Regardless of the result, I thought the Kildare players showed massive heart out there. I don’t know how ye guys saw it but they did all we asked of them. A little bit of composure on the finishing and that would have been very interesting after the last water break.”

Eight points was Dublin’s smallest margin of victory in a Leinster Final since 2013, but O’Connor admits the rest of the teams in the province are still playing catch-up against a county that has now won 11 Leinsters in a row.

“Still a fair gap,” he said. “Eight points is still a fair gap now. You’d like to think that Dublin can’t go on forever and maybe in the next couple of years that Kildare will continue to close that gap because Kildare is a big county, 220-odd thousand people.

“We need to be competing at the top table, we need to be playing big games here and that’s the message I got two years ago, to freshen the panel, make Kildare competitive again and we can only do that by getting back to Division 1 playing games against top-class opposition, knowing where the level and the standard is and let’s see where that goes after this.

“I thought we'd opportunities out there, I wasn't taking the stats but I'm fairly certain that we dropped five or six into the goalie, kicked a few poor wides, didn't seem to be getting and close decisions or marginal decisions that might have gone for us another day.

“I just thought we had opportunities but at the end of the day we got beaten by eight so it's hard to disagree with the scoreboard but I certainly thought we could have made it a lot closer. Sure what can you can do now, the result is the result and that's it.”