Injury shadow-boxing doesn’t alter Kildare’s favourite tag

RARELY has a week been so dominated by talk of injuries. All eyes were on Nowlan Park last Wednesday for Henry Shefflin’s resurrection, and breath will be bated yet again in Croke Park tomorrow in the minutes before 3.30pm.

Kieran McGeeney has named Dermot Earley in his starting 15 for this semi-final but such announcements are frequently made for cosmetic purposes only and no-one will believe anything until Pat McEnaney gets things underway.

Ambrose Rogers’ situation has been equally impenetrable and much the same wait-and-see approach is being maintained with the star named amongst the Down subs for tomorrow’s clash.

Both have eared the moniker of talismen for their respective counties, but all evidence accumulated thus far would suggest that Rogers’ loss would be a greater blow to Down than Earley’s to Kildare.

Kildare demonstrated in the semi-final, when Earley departed after three minutes, that they have the wherewithal and composure to get by without him thanks to a fine performance by Hugh Lynch.

Down simply can’t be sure that they could cope quite so seamlessly and it remains to be seen how James McCartan would compensate for his chief midfielder’s loss.

The simplest solution would appear to be a promotion for Peter Fitzpatrick alongside Kalum King although another body of opinion would have it that Dan Gordon could be released from his role as full-back.

Such an alteration hardly seems wise or profitable given the traditional fragility of Down’s defence, and their improvement in that department since Gordon migrated back to the edge of the square.

Kildare may retain a penchant for inaccuracy but they have managed 2-17 in two of their last three games and John Doyle has James Kavanagh, Eoghan O’Flaherty and the goal threat of Alan Smith to support his cause.

Down, too, can boast some serious ammunition in the forward echelons. Martin Clarke and Benny Coulter demand most attention but the Ulster outfit can also depend on grafters-cum-scorers like Danny Hughes and Mark Poland.

That said, more questions hover over the Mourne men.

Their destruction of Sligo was coloured by the Connacht side’s provincial trauma the week before and Kerry were clearly under-strength and there for the taking.

There are less caveats to Kildare’s claims.

They have been gathering strength and momentum at pace since losing a shoot-out to Louth in Leinster and scraping past Antrim after a replay. Their frequent ability to keep their heads when in a hole speaks of a deep mental strength.

With McGeeney at the helm, they have morphed into something of a replica to those fearsome Armagh and Tyrone sides of recent vintage and Down lost to both those counties in their biggest tests to date this year.

Whatever the identity of those starting in midfield, it is unlikely that the game will be won or lost there what with breaking ball and work-rate in the middle third of the field all the rage in modern-day football.

Tomorrow will be Kildare’s day.

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