Were Kildare the most over-rated team in the country?
Kildare’s collapse on Sunday has prompted a little revision of their status as leading All-Ireland contenders, but should they have had that status in the first place? Two JOE staffers go head to head.
Conor Heneghan says… on this of all weeks, generating some anti-Kildare feeling isn’t the most difficult of tasks, but in a way, the Kildare camp will be happy that the hullaballoo over Seanie Johnston’s incredibly brief hurling career at least took some attention away from what was a terribly limp display by the Lilywhites on Sunday.
Incidentally, I had promised myself that I would mention Seanie Johnston as infrequently as possible in this article and then, boom, he gets name checked in the very first sentence. But, I digress.
On Friday, I suggested that, because of Meath’s reputation for fearlessness against supposed superior opposition, they had a better chance against Kildare than most were giving them and thanks to that attitude and some sterling showings by a new breed of Royals, they got their just rewards. In reality though, did they have that much to fear in the first place?
Countless times this season, whether in print, in television or elsewhere in the media, Kildare have been classed as one of the top five teams in the country, if not the leading contender for the All-Ireland title outside of Dublin, Cork and Kerry. Donegal (now certainly in the top four, if not top three), Mayo and even Tyrone also came in for consideration, but Kildare were always included in the mix. But where is the justification for such a lofty status?
The Lilywhites have been seen to have made giant strides under Kieran McGeeney and to a certain extent that is true. It is no surprise that one of the most dedicated players to ever play the game and a man that was nearly a professional athlete at times has moulded the current Kildare outfit into one of the fittest and most conditioned sides in the country. The fact that their kit is all white and their jerseys are practically painted on helps them look that bit more intimidating, but they have the physical goods to back that image up. Offaly manager Tom Coffey recently likened them to the All-Blacks for God’s sake.
Because of their stamina and durability, the qualifiers suit them; they have steamrolled plenty of sides going down that route in recent years. At the weekend, Joe Brolly revealed that the Derry side beaten by Kildare last year had personally testified that were blown away by their physical capabilities; they simply ran past, around or through Derry and the opposition couldn’t cope.
When it comes to the business end, however, their excellent conditioning becomes less of a factor. Certainly, Donegal, Cork and Dublin are in equally as good shape and Kildare have been forced to find an alternative way to win. And they haven’t been able to do so yet.
The long-held theory about Kildare is that outside Johnny Doyle, they lack a really prolific forward to share the scoring burden, but again, it is only at the business end that the theory applies because they have racked up some serious tallies in the qualifiers. Look at the games where they have exited the Championship in recent years, however. 0-14 (after extra-time) against Donegal last year, 1-14 against Down in the 2010 semi-final, 1-11 against Tyrone in ’09 and the same tally against Cork in ’08. Decent scoring maybe, but just not enough
Under McGeeney’s management, Kildare have made it to one All-Ireland semi-final and three quarter-finals since 2008 because of their aforementioned suitability to the backdoor route. On the way there, however, they haven’t beaten anyone who, at that time, could be classed as a contender for the Sam Maguire or could be considered amongst the top six teams in the country.
Granted, they’ve ran Dublin close a couple of times in Leinster, but so have Wexford and you don’t hear them being heralded to anywhere near the same extent. They could have beaten Donegal last year and Down in 2010, but McGeeney himself will probably be the first to say coulda, woulda, shoulda; the bottom line is they didn’t and unless they do so after an all too familiar run through the qualifiers this year, then there should always be an asterisk after their name when talking about the heavyweights in the football championship.
Good? Yes. Over-rated compared to the others? Absolutely. Contenders for the All-Ireland? Probably not.
Then again, a certain forward – we dare not speak his name… again – might prove Kildare’s saviour this year, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Sean Nolan says… to my mind, Kildare were under-rated this year, not over-rated and anybody who writes them off yet needs their head examined.
There was some amount of Schadenfreude unleashed in the aftermath of Kildare’s defeat to Meath on Sunday. You would think Kieran McGeeney had spent the entire spring appearing on TV like Mattress Mick, shouting into the face of the Irish public that his team was going to win the All Ireland this year.
Some of it, more than some in all likelihood, had to do with Kildare’s most famous hurler but there seems to be a lot of dislike out in the general GAA populace towards the Lilywhites. It seems that a perception has grown up that they think they are better than they are and that the media fawn over them in a way that doesn’t reflect their place in the pecking order.
To my recollection nobody tipped Kildare to win the All Ireland and few, if any, tipped them to even win Leinster. They were ranked as about the sixth best team in the country – behind Cork, Dublin, Kerry, Mayo and Donegal – and that seems about right.
Who would you have ahead of them? Tyrone? No. Down? No. Meath? Even after last week, no.
In fact, you could argue, and I will, that they could be rated ahead of Mayo and Donegal. Literally only a kick of a ball saw Donegal past them last year. Mayo, impressive and all as they were against Leitrim, would still not be a side feared by any team in the top 10 in the country. If Mayo were playing Kildare last weekend, would Mayo be hot favourites? No more than tepid in my book.
The Lilywhites have a team with a smattering of All-Stars, a fit again Dermot Earley and a manager who has never suffered a defeat in the Qualifiers. They are just off the back of winning a hugely competitive Division 2 crown and anybody who seriously expects Cavan to beat them in Breffni Park needs to tweet it out to give Liam O’Neill a laugh.
Much is made of their physical preparedness but there are many teams – Dublin, Donegal and Cork would be three – who can match them but just because they choose to wear a snugger O’Neill’s jersey than most, they don’t deserve any extra scrutiny. The arrival of a certain Cavan forward has brought a lot of grief onto their shoulders, and it was self-inflicted, but they now have a new, talented player to slip into the team. He will only make them better, yet people still harp on about how over-rated they are.
Kildare are far from finished. Yes, they played poorly, probably their worst Championship game since Geezer’s debut defeat to Micko’s Wicklow in 2008, but how many teams have we seen turn around a bad defeat early on before going all the way?
Until they win something, and Division 2 doesn’t count, they will always be accused of having ideas above their station. Those ideas have been projected onto them by rival fans, and the players and management have been modest in their public comments. As they should be for a team challenging for the All Ireland, which Kildare are.
They may not be the most talented team in the country, and they have more athletic gifts than footballing ones for sure, but that formula worked for Cork in 2010. It can work for Kildare in 2012.