Lilies were shaken, not scarred, says Cian O’Neill

Kildare manager Cian O'Neill

Kildare boss Cian O’Neill insists his squad has not been scarred by a league campaign that delivered little aside from seven straight losses and a return ticket to a second tier they had only left last year.

The Lilywhites have been the archetypal yo-yo side in recent times, traipsing up and down the league ladder, from Division One to Three, since 2014 when they last spent a second consecutive spring in the same bracket.

“I can honestly say no,” said the former Kerry trainer. “There was a part of the league where, definitely, we were a little bit shook. That was after the Mayo match. We were very competitive and confident in the first four matches and we were close.

“But (Mayo) was a match where we just didn’t perform and that was an accumulation of defeat, defeat, defeat just catching up on the guys. We regrouped well for the Kerry match. We were competitive, just not good enough on the night.

“So, I don’t think so. The big thing was to have that big break between the league and the championship. Most counties have it anyway. Just to give the players ten days off. Management needed it, too. I needed it. The backroom needed it.”

The mentality now is that this is the start of a new season.

O’Neill has declared himself happy with the work put in between the league and their championship opener against Carlow on Sunday and a few soothing challenge match victories have even been applied to their wounds.

This being the GAA, though, defeats brought with them whispers of internal issues and O’Neill found himself having to address stories of indiscipline relating to the sixth round visit to Kerry after the last of their fixtures, at home to Galway, a week later.

We can’t control what is said and what rumours are… Jesus, I could write a book on all the things — and I don’t mean controversial things. It’s more about who is injured who is not, who played for their club, or didn’t.

“We knew that night (in Kerry) that we were relegated so we agreed as management and players that we were going to have a couple of drinks and we did that. The hotel organised the whole lot literally after the match.

“We didn’t plan for it because we wanted to win that match and we were still in a shout of staying up if we had won. These things grow legs but it didn’t impact the group or the squad. The squad is still the squad it was for the league with a couple of tweaks.”

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