Lilies ready to finish with a flourish

SLOW starters they may be, but as long as Kildare keep finishing their All-Ireland Championship games with searing bursts for the finish line, James Kavanagh will be a happy man.

The Lilywhites have been the ultimate slow burners of the Championship, losing out to Louth in Leinster before a simmering qualifier campaign that finally boiled over with an impressive quarter-final victory over Meath.

Their individual games have often followed that same theme with slow starts in the ties against Monaghan and Meath, when they fell three and six points behind early on, before eventually winning both games by handsome margins.

According to Kavanagh, yesterday named as Opel GPA Player of the Month for July, the Lilywhites now possess the confidence that they can overcome even the slowest of starts – bad news for All-Ireland semi-final opponents Down.

“Yeah, once you’re within firing distance of a team come half-time, you know that Kildare are capable of pulling it back in,” said Kavanagh.

“Things go through your head at the time (when you fall behind). But it’s just about keeping the work rate up and not letting it get to you. I know we are starting slow but we’re also finishing very well.”

Gifted forward Kavanagh chose his words carefully ahead of Kildare’s biggest game in 10 years when they last contested an All-Ireland semi-final.

They lost back then in 2000 to Galway and the omens aren’t necessarily good this time around either, as Down, their opponents on August 29, beat the Lilies by 11 points in the first round of this year’s Allianz League.

Kildare were admittedly under strength that day but it was on their home turf in Newbridge and Kavanagh winced at the memory of the 1-16 to 0-8 defeat.

“I played and I played bad as well,” said the talented forward, who gave an exhibition of point scoring against Monaghan and hauled back Meath with a brilliant solo goal before half-time.

“In fairness to Down they’ve kept their form up all year. They started strong and they’ve kept that up. We know we’ve a lot to do. Hopefully it won’t go the way the league match went.

“We would have been doing a lot of heavy work at the time but in saying that you don’t go out to be beaten by 11 points on your home pitch, no matter how heavy the training is.”

Kavanagh is the second Kildare forward to gain a player of the month award inside a week after Eamonn Callaghan was rewarded with the Vodafone GAA gong last Wednesday.

It reflects their greater attacking options with captain Johnny Doyle previously taking much of the scoring responsibility on his shoulders.

“Kieran (McGeeney) has said that he’ll never have a go at a lad for shooting and missing,” continued Kavanagh. “He’d more get on your case if you were in a shooting position and you weren’t shooting.

“That has encouraged the forwards to have a go. I would say it’s shoot on sight. It’s more a decision making thing, knowing when you are in a shooting position and when there’s not a lad better placed, that you should just take a shot.

“It’s been working well but the next match could be tight. It’s all about us doing the simple things again and working hard and taking the scores.”

Kavanagh is optimistic about midfield All-Star Dermot Earley’s chances of shaking off a knee injury to play against Down.

“I haven’t been talking to him in the last week but as far as I know, he is all right,” said Kavanagh.

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