McGeeney plays down Lilywhites hype

KIERAN McGEENEY was in firefighting mode on Saturday evening but it was to no avail. The flames of expectation were already licking at his heels, fanned by his own team’s stunning performance.

Victories over Offaly and Wexford had already caught the county’s imagination but the manner in which they torched Laois two days ago has taken things to a new level.

Dare we mention ‘98 at such an early juncture? Their efforts thus far have already ensured a place in the Leinster final for the first time in six years and a first title since the start of the millennium is well within their compass.

For the second game in a row, Kildare ended a game having scored 2-12 from play. All their starting forwards contributed but the truly terrifying statistic is their 13 wides.

Whatever angle you looked at it from, it was damn impressive.

McGeeney has fashioned a side in his own image, right down to the tight-fitting tops that accentuate their bulging muscles.

Their physique blew Laois away. Their mobility bamboozled them. Their forwards crucified them. In the end, the margin was 15 points. A point per man. How fitting.

“It’s not an indication of how good you are overall,” said McGeeney. “It is an indication of how good you were on that particular day. Things change and we know if we take our foot off the pedal against Dublin (his words, not ours) we’ll not get a performance.

“If you look at the Tyrones and Kerrys the thing that stands out is the willingness to work. If there was a short cut to success it would have been discovered a long time ago.”

He was fooling no-one. Okay, Laois were awful but not for the full 70. They started with real intent and led by four points to one before Kildare found the net.

Alan Smith’s goal after nine minutes, his third in three games, and their second from full-forward Eamonn Callaghan five minutes after the break, put a lid on the result.

Consider that for a second. In 31 minutes Kildare had transformed a three-point deficit into a game-winning scoreline.

They scored 12 points on the trot in the middle two quarters, keeping Laois scoreless for just two minutes shy of a half an hour.

“You can read a lot into it but the fact of the matter is you don’t get anything extra for winning by more,” said McGeeney. “We pushed on, which is encouraging but we could play Laois tomorrow and get a different result.

“When you get your chances you have to take them and the good teams do that, the Tyrones, the Galways, the Dublins and Kerrys. When they get on top they are able to put away their scores.”

He wouldn’t thank you for pointing it out, but his frequent referrals to Tyrone and Kerry are indicative of his frame of mind. A Leinster title might be his immediate aim but his sights are squared higher.

They look well equipped to make a long summer of it too. Kildare are a well-oiled machine playing an attractive, fluid style of football that is allied to brute strength.

Blue chip names like John Doyle and Dermot Earley are performing at their peak, the latter after years of injury problems, but Kildare are about the collective, not the individual. Most of them could pass you in the street unnoticed but defenders like Mikey Conway and Morgan O’Flaherty, or forwards like James Kavanagh, won’t inhabit the shadows much longer.

“It’s the team performance,” McGeeney stressed. “I thought Ronan Sweeney, when we were out of it, was superb in the way he took them on and got three scores for us. Kavanagh came into it as well from his running, Eamonn Callaghan’s tackling back… “And I thought (Emmet) Bolton again was exceptional for us in the corner as was Mick Foley. Brian Flanagan was great in the middle too and Morgan O’Flaherty.”

If McGeeney couldn’t single out any one player, neither could his counterpart, but for very different reasons. Not one Laois player left the field with his reputation enhanced.

Saturday’s defeat was the most depressing from a Laois perspective since the eleven-point defeat to Meath in the 2002 All-Ireland qualifiers.

Their bubble has well and truly burst. Sean Dempsey was right when he said Laois are better footballers than they showed but they lack the structure, commitment and strategy that McGeeney has brought to their neighbours.

Worrying times.

Scorers for Kildare: J Doyle 0-7 (6f); J Kavanagh 1-2; A Smith 1-0; R Sweeney 0-3; P O’Neill, E Callaghan, 0-2 each; D Earley, M Conway, 0-1 each.

Scorers for Laois: MJ Tierney (3f), D Kingston, (3f) 0-3 each; B McCormack, G Reddin, 0-1 each.

Subs for Kildare: R Kelly for Sweeney (57), K O’Neill for McGrillen (59), K Ennis for Smith (60), G White for Conway (65), A Rainbow for O’Flaherty 66.

Subs for Laois: J Higgins for Sheehan (43), C Coss for Kingston (49), N Donogher for Rooney (51), C Rogers for McCormack (54), A Fennelly for Stapleton (57).

Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).

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