Jason Ryan launched an impassioned defence of his players and backroom staff after stand-in captain, Emmet Bolton produced a stunning 70th minute goal to keep Kildare’s hopes of staying in Division 2 of the Allianz Football League alive.
When Damien O’Connor kicked a wonderful point with the outside of his right boot into the wind a minute earlier to put Laois in front, the Lilywhites were bound for the third tier.
The prospect of such a fate had caused consternation among supporters, many of whom have been subjecting Ryan, the management, and the panel to heavy criticism.
The Kildare boss is aware that relegation may still become a reality, although a win over Galway next weekend would almost certainly guarantee safety.
Nonetheless, he is adamant that he is heading a united group and pointedly thanked the supporters who got behind the team on Saturday night at O’Moore Park.
“Stay believing in this group” was the message to those questioning the credentials of his backroom team and the players.
“They’re working really hard. Supporters come to the games, they’re not at training sessions. They don’t’ realise how hard these fellas work and how hard Ronan Quinn, Damien Hendy, Morgan O’Callaghan, Mick Casey, Kevin Croke and all the guys in the backroom team are working with the players.
“I am very lucky to be involved with such a hard-working group. It’s great when you win but it’s damn hard when you lose and thankfully getting the win means we’ll sleep a bit better and at training on Tuesday there’ll be a nice bit of buzz around the place.”
Ryan insisted he was under no more pressure now than when he was appointed manager after the controversial decision to end Kieran McGeeney’s term with the county.
“Kieran McGeeney is a legend so to try to replace him as manager is pressure. Coming to Kildare with the expectations for a team, that’s pressure. That’s part of sport. You’re in it to win. I’m not involved with Kildare to be second best. With a bit of luck we’d be on eight points but we’re not, we’re on four points and we have to work hard to get those two points in Tuam next week.”
The Waterford native agreed that there was much improvement needed in terms of more clinical shooting and not allowing the performance to dip as happened after Colm Begley’s 56th minute goal which helped Laois turn a five-point deficit into a one-point lead. The overriding feeling was one of pride.
“It’s probably the last few minutes, when the Laois goal went in, it’s how the guys responded. It wasn’t that we straight away sparked into life but it was the belief that we kept going. What a goal to finish up by Emmet and then to get another score afterwards (from Paul Cribbin) was brilliant. We are learning all the time. This is a team that is developing and growing. Every time that we take a knock we’ll learn from it. I believe that.”
The teams went in level at the break on 0-5 apiece but Kildare dominated the third quarter, winning the majority of the midfield breaks and Ciaran Fitzpatrick leading an outstanding defensive effort. The brilliant Alan Smith and Padraig Fogarty were prominent at the other end of the pitch as Kildare moved into a double-score lead but Begley’s goal sparked a renewed Laois effort that looked well-timed until the dramatic conclusion.
E Bolton 1-1; P Fogarty 0-3(2fs); E O’Flaherty (1f), N Kelly, P Cribbin 0-2 each; M Donnellan (45), A Smith 0-1 each.
C Begley 1-1; D Kingston 0-3(2fs); N Donoher 0-2; E O’Carroll, D O’Connor, R Munnelly (f) 0-1 each.
M Donnellan, C Fitzpatrick, M O’Grady, O Lyons, K Cribbin, F Conway, P Kelly, G White, P Cribbin, N Kelly, E O’Flaherty, E Bolton, F Dowling, P Fogarty, A Smith.
T Moolick for Dowling (57), K Murnaghan for P Kelly (64), M Conway for N Kelly (64), C McNally for White (68), T O’Connor for O’Flaherty (70+1).
G Brody, G Hanrahan, M Timmons, D O’Connor, D Strong, R Kehoe, C Begley, B Quigley, J O’Loughlin, N Donoher, C Boyle, E O’Carroll, R Munnelly, D Kingston, P Kingston.
S Attride for Hanrahan (15), T Shiel for P Kingston (21), B Sheehan for Munnelly (52).
D O’Mahoney (Tipperary)