'It’s time to hand the baton over': Cian O'Neill steps down as Kildare manager

'It’s time to hand the baton over': Cian O'Neill steps down as Kildare manager

Cian O'Neill has stepped down as Kildare senior football manager after four years at the helm.

The Newbridge man said his decision was "undoubtedly informed" by the group not always reaching their potential, despite "relative successes".

His most prominent success as manager was eliminating Mayo from the Championship last year in the famous 'Newbridge or nowhere' match. The squad's stance against the GAA's fixture-makers to get home advantage paid off as Kildare advanced to the Super 8s.

They weren't able to match those performances this year, being defeated by Dublin in Leinster and Tyrone in the qualifiers.

"Having recently informed the players, management and backroom, I met with the co. board yesterday to inform them of my decision to step down," said O'Neill in a statement.

"As a proud Kildare man, it was an honour and privilege to have been given the opportunity to work with an exceptional group of players, each one of us doing our best to represent our clubs and county with distinction at all times.

Unfortunately, the successes of consecutive promotions from Division 3 to Division 1, a first Leinster final in eight years and progression to the Super 8s in 2018 was met with equal disappointment across these four years where frustratingly we didn’t always reach our potential as a group.

"As manager, this is my greatest regret and ultimately my responsibility, and this undoubtedly informed my decision to step away from this role.

"This will hopefully leave time and space for my successor and the chosen group of players to take the challenge to a new level under a new direction."

Kildare achieved back-to-back promotions in O'Neill's first two years and contested the 2017 Leinster final, but those results were mixed with shock defeats to Westmeath and Carlow.

This year, they had Championship wins against Wicklow, Longford (after a replay), and Antrim, and finished fourth in Division 2 of the League.

O'Neill, who is Head of Cork IT's Department of Sports, Leisure and Childhood Studies, thanked all those involved in his set-up, including the "incredible bunch of players".

"Your effort, diligence and commitment to be the best player you could be was what kept us all going in difficult times and laid the foundation for our relative successes in the good times.

"Your journey is only starting in many ways – every season takes on a life of its own – so I look forward to watching and supporting you all in the months and years ahead.

There is so much uncertainty in sport and life, but one thing that I am certain of is that you are a credit to your club, your county and your families.

"Finally, to my wife, Tammy; father, Peter; and all of my family and friends; I thank you for your unrelenting and unwavering support, belief and patience ever since this journey began.

"I couldn’t have given all that I gave to this role without your backing and support.

"After four years of travelling from Cork to Kildare 3-4 times a week, and with it a level of commitment and selfishness that means other aspects of life undoubtedly suffer, it’s time to hand the baton over."

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