How Kildare became the chart toppers for Emmet Bolton

While much of the focus on links between Mayo and Kildare revolve around Cian O’Neill - the Lilywhite manager who served as coach with the westerners when they reached the All-Ireland final in 2012 - there are other connections between the counties.

Kildare’s all-action middle-eight man, Emmet Bolton recalls travelling to Mayo games up to his mid-teens, before he began to become a regular in the All White jersey. With that, his father’s loyalties altered too.

“Dad’s from Mayo” explains Bolton. “He has eight brothers. A couple of them played for Mayo, a couple of League games, and an uncle of mine, Oliver would have played masters’ football with Mayo. Up to probably the age of 16 I was going to a good lot of Mayo games.

“They would definitely have been my second team but I would have watched them more when I was younger than I would have Kildare.

“I would have watched the likes of Liam McHale, Ciarán McDonald, James Nallen, these sorts of guys. I only really played U14 and U16 on B teams for Kildare so we would have had time to go to plenty Mayo games. But once I progressed, Dad started going to Kildare games.

He’d still follow Mayo and I’ve an uncle who still goes to every single Mayo match but with me involved he goes to the Kildare games now and if there’s a clash he’ll be with us. It’s 1935 since we met in the championship, which is amazing, but we’ve had two League games over the last three or four years and he tells me he’s supporting Kildare!”

Kildare struggled in the Leinster Championship, even in victory against Wexford and then defeat to Westmeath, when they looked laboured and lacking in confidence.

While far from perfect against Offaly in the second round of qualifiers, they showed plenty of spirit and Bolton saw the benefits within the camp immediately after.

“That type of game is worth anything. We didn’t play as well as we wanted to. You had to look at the Wexford and Westmeath games.

“We tried a different system that didn’t work as well as we wanted it to and that was down to the players, not anybody else. The transition to attack let us down big time.

“Going into Offaly, it was something we had to change so we went with only one guy back and played a game plan to be a bit more free-flowing going forward.

“It paid off, we got 1-22 and I think 1-16 from play.

“On the flip-side we conceded 2-14 and that was a bit disappointing but character-wise, guts-wise was absolutely fantastic. Walking off the pitch that was the most pleasing thing for me.

“We did the recovery session the next morning and you could see the buzz around between the guys.

“It was fantastic to come out the right side of a game like that” Mayo represent a far greater challenge however.

“You have the likes of the two O’Shea brothers, Lee Keegan, Cillian O’Connor, Colm Boyle, boys like that are fantastic footballers. They’ve had a couple of blips already this year.

The Galway game didn’t go to plan, their first half against Fermanagh, albeit against a strong wind but they have a fantastic team there. It’s a massive step up and if we perform to the level we did against Offaly we’re going to come up short.

“We’re going to have to improve and we know that. We have a foundation there in terms of the character that we showed on Saturday and that will hold us in good stead for this Saturday.”


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