And after their stunning demolition in Saturday night’s replay at O’Connor Park, the former Wexford boss also hailed his players for their increasing ability to identify and address their own weaknesses during games.
“Over the last number of weeks we would recognise that the players themselves are problem-solving,” said Ryan. “At half-time they are dealing with a lot of the issues. Acknowledging what they are and then dealing with them.
“I felt that’s a big part of what they did today. At the start of the second-half they didn’t give the ball away and reduced the ball that Laois won. That was the platform.
“In Kildare, you’re the best in the world or the worst in the world. That’s just the way it is. You gotta be secure in your belief of what we as a group are doing. That’s the most important thing.” That belief looked shaky at times in the drawn game and in the first-half of this replay, when Laois spurned two good goal chances, notably when Ross Munnelly’s 10th minute penalty – awarded for a foul on Donie Kingston – was saved by Mark Donnellan.
“There was a stage in the first-half the game could have gone away from us,” conceded Ryan. “The penalty save by Mark Donnellan... if Laois had scored that goal there was a little bit of daylight between them us. That save was vital for us in the first half.” Laois were the better team in that initial period and Kildare did well to go in at the break trailing by just 0-9 to 0-8. Brendan Quigley blazed wide from a great position not long after Donnellan’s stop and it seems certain that a goal would have had a significant impact.
Kingston excelled operating closer to goal than he had in the drawn game, while wing-forwards Evan O’Carroll and Niall Donoherscored three points each from play in the first half, with O’Carroll converting a late free from outside the 45 to edge Laois ahead at the interval.
Conceding two goals and three points in the first three minutes and 15 seconds of the second-half rattled them though and Kildare’s confidence, which had been boosted by the previous week’s comeback from three points down, soared once more.
The goals came from inspirational captain Eamonn Callaghan and the tireless Cathal McNally. Kingston, who along with O’Carroll was Laois’ most effective player, grabbed a goal back but Eoghan O’Flaherty capped a brilliant performance with Kildare’s third goal to remove any doubt.
Laois manager, Tomás Ó Flatharta gave credit to the victors while insisting that he could have asked no more of his players.
“We were really pleased with the performance in the first half,” said Ó Flatharta. “I think the scores that Kildare got in those first few minutes gave them great momentum, and it was really very difficult to get back after that.
“I’m very pleased with the lads, the effort that they have put in, and in the first half they really showed that. But I think credit is due to Kildare in the way that they played in the second half.” Ryan was anxious that nobody would get carried away by the victory.
“It was important to get a win. Whether it (brought us) back to Croke Park or wherever… it was about getting the win.
“We played Laois in the league and beat them already – it’s not as if we did something amazing. We’ve beaten a team that we beat already this year. We’ve a lot of football that we want to play yet.”
E O’Flaherty (1-4, 2 frees); C McNally (1-2); P Fogarty (0-4); E Callaghan (1-1); P Cribbin (0-2); K Murnaghan, G White, O Lyons, P O’Neill, N Kelly (0-1 each).
E O’Carroll (0-5, 1 free, 1 ‘45’); D Kingston (1-2, 2 frees); N Donoher (0-3); T Shiel (0-1).
M Donnellan, C Fitzpatrick, M O’Grady, O Lyons, K Murnaghan, F Conway, E Bolton, P Cribbin, G White, P O’Neill, E O’Flaherty, C McNally, E Callaghan, P Fogarty, A Smith.
E Doyle for Conway blood (21-29), Doyle for Conway (ht), T Moolick for McNally (52), D Hyland for Bolton (57), N Kelly for Smith (59), H Lynch for White (64), M Conway for Callaghan (67).
G Brody, S Attride, M Timmons, R Kehoe, D Strong, C Begley, D O’Connor, B Quigley, J O’Loughlin, N Donoher, C Boyle, E O’Carroll, R Munnelly, D Kingston, T Shiel.
E Culliton for Brody blood (8-14), P Kingston for Munnelly (43), J Finn for Shiel (51), G Hanrahan for O’Connor (60), G Dillon for Strong (65), B Sheehan for Donoher (65), E Lowry for Boyle (65).
A Nolan (Wicklow)