Dublin legend Barney Rock senses an air of confidence about Kildare people ahead of Saturday’s Leinster SFC final.
As they look to claim a 12th consecutive provincial title, Dublin have won their quarter-final and semi-final games against Wexford and Meath by an aggregate of 34 points, a staggering figure when it was claimed this would be the most competitive Leinster SFC in years.
But Rock, who managed Celbridge to their first-ever Kildare SFC crown in 2008, gets the impression from the county’s followers he knows that the Lilywhites will be able to compete, if not beat Dublin, having been three-point victors in their Division 1 game in Newbridge in March.
"I don’t think Kildare will fear Dublin. They’ll have a cut at us and most of the Kildare people I have spoken to believe they’re going to turn over Dublin on Saturday. It’s going to be an interesting one, maybe a three or four-point game," he said.
"Kildare have good footballers but on top of that they’re tall and athletic. Their management team seem to be the right people for them. You look at the way they played and the commitment levels they brought and that’s bound to rub off on the players. They’ll be quietly confident that they can pull one over Dublin.”
It’s 22 years since Kildare last beat their neighbours in championship football and the margin was nine points in last year’s Leinster final. Afterwards, then manager Jack O’Connor took umbrage with how his team had been written off in the build-up. It was believed at the time the team was set up to simply contain Dublin. Rock thought so too but anticipates Glenn Ryan, Anthony Rainbow and Co. will encourage their team to be more expansive.
“Last year, Dublin were grand, they were in control but then all of a sudden Kildare got a goal and there was a bit of doubt. I’m sure their tactics will be different to Jack O’Connor’s last year when it seemed they were trying to keep the score down. I expect it to be a bit more gung-ho from Kildare.”
With his son Dean on the team, Rock has never been keen to run down or play up Dublin and is loath to read much into the recent victories.
“You can only play what’s in front of you and Dublin were well able to play against them but Kildare will be far sterner opposition. They won’t be able to get away from Kildare as easily as they did against Wexford and Meath. Likewise, Kildare know they won’t have it all their own way like they did down in Newbridge earlier in the year.”
The training camp in Portugal between that forgettable league campaign and the Wexford game appears to have done wonders for Dublin but preparations are not something the Rocks discuss.
“I don’t ask any questions of him and then I don’t get any lies. You have to remember too that they tried out a lot of players in the league and some key players were injured. A few of them have come back and they seem to have improved but this will come down to the day, not on how much they have won by in recent weeks," he added.
“Dublin have always been a good championship team. People will always knock Leinster but Kildare have been coming the last couple of years and have fellas who have won silverware. Dublin have to be more competitive than Kildare. I really see it going down to the final 10 minutes. In the past, they could rely on their bench to make the difference and that would be the hope here but it’s going to be tight.”