Laois might have been abysmal, but the impression of a Kildare team growing in confidence and capability was inescapable in Tullamore, on Sunday. Daniel Flynn has sensed as much within the confines of the camp, and in the county at large.
“We’re enjoying our football and that has a lot to do with it. We are just confident in ourselves. Even around the county, you can feel it. There is a pep in the step. Success breeds success and we’ve come up from Division Three to Division One.”
The liberation of the side has been obvious. Stilted and cagey last year, they tottered past Wexford in their first Leinster Championship game with the grand total of nine points, and fell to Westmeath in the semi-final, after scraping 1-11. They hit Laois for 1-21 at their ease.
Manager Cian O’Neill spoke in February about the fact that he had been operating in 2016 without a clutch of key men for most of the campaign: Defender Paul Cribbin, Kevin Feely in midfield, and forward Flynn were among the absentees.
All three were prominent in swatting Laois aside and the sight of Flynn hurting his opponents for 1-3 from play was particularly pleasing, given it was his first championship start since featuring in Kieran McGeeney’s last game in charge, a qualifier loss to Tyrone, back in 2013.
Two years with Port Adelaide and a year lost to injury, on his return home, were the cause of that, but the towering full-forward showed just why Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley raved about his power and speed, on signing him to the AFL four years ago.
“There hasn’t been a clear path for a long time now,” said Flynn, “so it is just great to be able to play.” With Paddy Brophy just home from West Coast Eagles — and on the bench at the weekend — there is a sense that the pieces of the jigsaw are falling in to place. Eleven of the side that won the Leinster U21 Championship in 2013 featured on the senior panel at O’Connor Park.
“The squad is gelling together this year, with all the underage teams that won silverware,” said Flynn of a Kildare side that now faces into a provincial semi-final against Meath in a fortnight. “It’s very enjoyable and we’re all bouncing off each other. Lads are just more self-assured. These things happen in waves. We had McGeeney, and then we dipped a bit, and now we are coming back to form again.”
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