Meeting of Armagh and Kildare between two sides climbing out of a trough

Daniel Flynn spoke openly and honestly at a media event earlier this week about all things Kildare; from their woeful Croke Park record to his costly missed goal chance against Dublin in the Leinster final.

Yet when the conversation swung around to Kieran McGeeney, an anticipated topic given his direct link to the current Kildare and Armagh teams, tumbleweeds began to float by.

McGeeney gave Flynn his chance with Kildare in 2012 and the following year the big forward was part of a star-studded U21 team that ‘Geezer’ managed to a Leinster title.

So what was he like?

“Lovely fella, I haven’t a bad thing to say about him,” said Flynn, briefly.

And didn’t the players want McGeeney to stay despite the county board axing him a few months later?

“If you say so,” retorted Flynn.

Flynn’s reluctance to speak about McGeeney wasn’t quite at the level of the Kilkenny player - he shall remain nameless - whose leg once began to shake when asked a harmless question about Brian Cody, but it was interesting all the same.

He clearly didn’t fancy giving any oxygen to the debate over whether McGeeney should or shouldn’t have been turfed out after six relatively successful seasons in charge of the Lilies.

Paul Grimley was part of McGeeney’s management team in Kildare for the first two years, in 2008 and 2009, and has no problem saying he believes it was a mistake on the part of the Leinster county.

But the 2002 All-Ireland winning Armagh coach, who went on to manage the Orchard County, described it as a hugely enjoyable experience there generally.

“I was with Kieran when he started off in Kildare and I have to say I have some fantastic memories,” said Grimley. “The players had a great manner, did everything you asked of them. And that’s not a given when you take over a group.

They were just decent lads and maybe didn’t get everything they deserved in the years after that.

“They should have been in an All-Ireland final in 2010 but were beaten by Down. That was a game Kildare should have won.”

Three years later, McGeeney was shown the exit door after a poor Championship was followed by a county board vote that went narrowly against him.

The Armagh man had already begun a transition period and 10 of his U21 team from 2013 featured in this year’s Leinster senior final yet those who voted on his future at the time seemed to lack the same patience. Grimley believes that John Doyle, Kildare’s talisman forward under McGeeney, spoke for the group when he said the 2002 All-Ireland winning captain shouldn’t have been jettisoned.

Maybe the clubs should have listened because it’s only this season that Kildare look like they’re back making progress again after a slump that allowed Meath and Westmeath to overtake them in the provincial pecking order.

“Kildare suffered a heavy defeat to Kerry in an All-Ireland quarter-final a couple of years ago and Armagh would have been seen as being in a similar boat, of not fulfilling their own potential,” said Grimley.

“It looks like both camps are setting themselves up that if it doesn’t happen this year then next year they are going to be a good bit stronger again.

“Kildare’s performance against Dublin in the Leinster final was full of courage and character in how they bounced back from the early goals and the bad start.

“They actually played some fantastic football after that and held their own for long periods against a side that’s considered the best we’ve seen in the last 20 years or maybe longer. That’s got to stand to them.”

Beaten provincial finalists have typically fared poorly in their subsequent final round qualifier game.

Of the 66 Round 4 games that have been contested by provincial runners-up, 62% of them have lost.

Yet remove those teams who have had just a week or less to recover and the percentage drops down to almost 50-50.

Galway proved last weekend against Donegal that with at least 13 days to recover from provincial disappointment anything is possible and Kildare will be confident of pulling off a similar win over Ulster opposition.

“The big thing Kildare have going for them is that they’ve been to Croke Park in their last game and performed well there, albeit losing,” said Grimley.

“Tipp would have been slight favourites the last day against Armagh, and it was a great win for Armagh, but this is a wee step up again.

“It’s not anything Armagh aren’t capable of but Kildare, at this point in their development, probably feel they’re a bit more settled than Armagh.

“I actually think it could be an excellent game between two fairly even teams. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t a free-flowing, attractive match.”



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