By Daragh Small
Kildare defender Johnny Byrne says his county are desperate to leave championship 2018 with their heads held high with a big performance against Kerry this weekend.
Kildare make the trip to Killarney on Saturday with little other than pride to play for after Super 8 losses to Monaghan and Galway.
Kerry need a win to keep their semi-final hopes alive, but despite six games in seven weeks, Byrne vows the Lilywhites won’t go out with a whimper.
“There still is something to play for. Kerry is one of the best teams, there still is always something to play for when you are playing one of the top teams like that, who have won many All-Irelands,” said the 26-year-old Allenwood clubman.
“No matter what the stakes are, you want to put down a marker and that’s what we are going to do again.”
Kildare had a difficult start to the year and, with seven defeats in a row, they were relegated from Division 1 of the National Football League on their return to the top flight.
Then, Cian O’Neill’s side succumbed to a shocking 2-14 to 1-10 loss at the hands of Division 4 outfit Carlow in their Leinster championship opener.
However, it meant for a revival through the back door and victories over Longford, Mayo, and Fermanagh.
Byrne says the team have grown stronger as a result and are set up perfectly for a big 2019.
“I’m proud of all of the players that I stood beside all year. Next year is another year. Kildare has come a long way,” said Byrne.
Kildare bowed out of the competition with a three-point defeat by Galway in front of a passionate Newbridge crowd.
It’s just a pity [we are out now],” says Byrne.
“The atmosphere was incredible, the Kildare supporters, everyone that came along. The crowd was unbelievable.
"They have been all year. Kildare football is on the up.”