Ciarán Whelan urges Kildare to ‘make it difficult’ for Dublin

Ciarán Whelan didn’t quite do a Tomás Ó Sé on it, but he is seriously dubious about Kildare’s chances of beating Dublin in Sunday’s Leinster semi-final.

Ciarán Whelan urges Kildare to ‘make it difficult’ for Dublin

Nothing he has seen of the Lilywhites in their jousts with Laois, not even that rush of scores in the third quarter of the replay last Saturday week, convinces him that they will pull off the shock of the summer so far.

“I think the biggest challenge for Kildare coming into the game, is one mentally. Croke Park is a lonely, lonely place when the Dubs get a run on a team. Their second biggest challenge is they have to keep the game tight in the first 20 minutes. They bring great confidence and belief into the game, based on their last two performances where they dug out a draw and they won.

“But that confidence can drain away within 10 minutes if Dublin get a run on them. The Longford game is the perfect example as much as Jack Sheedy played it in the spirit of football. The Longford players were left looking at that scoreboard and looking at that clock thinking, ‘Jeez we’ve 65 minutes of this and that game is over’.

“So I think Jason Ryan’s got to approach it in a manner that keeps the game tight for at least the first 15 minutes. He’s got to break the game down into periods. He’s got to build on their belief within the game rather than before it.”

Even if Kildare go against the grain of how the county plays its football since Kieran McGeeney and Ryan’s own philosophy, and park the bus, Whelan can’t imagine it will help Kildare’s cause.

“The half-back line played very deep against Laois. They probably played too deep and that could give (Diarmuid) Connolly and (Paul) Flynn and the likes of those a chance to open them up. So he’s going to have to be shrewd with how he gets bodies back.

“My biggest fear for Kildare is that they don’t have the firepower up front. That even if they do come and play their defensive game, they’re going to be very reliant on Alan Smith and Padraig Fogarty, Niall Kelly coming off the bench, to put in big performances.

“I don’t think they have the strength in depth. Laois gave Kildare a phenomenal amount of space and time in the reply. They lacked intensity, Kildare’s deliveries went in without pressure. They made Kildare look very good so the 3-16 comes with a health warning.

“Dublin’s biggest challenge is their own complacency and their own headspace. Dublin come into the game like they did against Cork in the National League, it’s curtains.

“If they come in a little lackadaisical and they’re not tuned in, they’ll give Kildare an opportunity.”

The former Dublin midfielder dismisses Ryan’s reference to the game as Division 3 versus Division 1 as just spin: “He’ll want Kildare coming in written off”. Although he accepts there is truth in what he says as much as Kildare were only demoted to the third rung of the league this year.

From a Dublin perspective, he wants to see Ryan’s men put it up to the Leinster champions. “Stepping back, you would like and hope Kildare would come and they keep it tight and you hope they ask questions of Dublin. If you’re any manager in Leinster, you’ll be trying to set your team up for Dublin, where Dublin’s biggest challenge been, breaking down the defensive template. They’ve struggled with it. They’ve played a couple of challenge games where they’ve struggled with it so they haven’t found a way yet to break that down.

“Nobody in Leinster is going to put up that resistance to them, which leaves them very vulnerable in August. It would be very useful from a Dublin perspective if Kildare came and made it difficult for them.”

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