So much for the litmus test.
This was supposed to be an evening of discoveries. Were Kildare and Meath finally back close to a level in keeping with past glories? Should Dublin be worried? Was the monotony of the last 10 years in Leinster on the verge of being done away with?
Well, Kildare are through to their first provincial decider in eight years but only after adding this facile nine-point win to an earlier 14-point dismissal of Laois. So, they have journeyed this far without having to reveal anything much about themselves in the process. Not ideal.
Look, they are clearly a decent team.
Cian O’Neill has put his faith in a crop of younger players while retaining the services of a good few old sweats and he has presented them with a working template. This is his second year on the project with his native county and it is progressing just swell.
Kildare can play with a sweeper, as they did against Laois at times, or without, as they did here. They boast a pretty good defensive system, a midfield that has the potential to excel and a handful of forwards who can do real damage.
Their full-forward line claimed 2-9 from play on Saturday but more on that later.
As with the Lilywhites under Kieran McGeeney, they are fit, they possess a strong work ethic and they have a support base that is desperate for a bandwagon to take them up the motorway towards Croke Park, but they will do so next month with questions still abounding.
Not that they can be blamed for that.
Laois were atrocious, a side devoid of any gameplan worthy of the title and one with players seemingly incapable of the most basic of functions. And Meath, after all the positivity in recent months under Andy McEntee, were one-dimensional and ultimately disappointing.
Those are two pretty big caveats when it comes to assessing Kildare.
Between them the sides managed to send the ball wide or short of the sticks 29 times here. That’s close to a 50% failure rate. That doesn’t account for attacks ended prematurely further out the field and there were plenty of those on a scorching evening in front of 12,702 spectators.
Meath, in particular, were stopped in their tracks time and again. Plan A was to launch the ball long from Paddy O’Rourke’s kick-outs and those were mostly gobbled up by the superb Kildare midfield pairing of Kevin Feely and Tommy Moolick.
Plan B? If it existed then it wasn’t called on. On the rare occasions Meath did claim possession, they either ran into contact and lost the ball or launched poor passes into a forward line smothered by a defensive unit boasting an impressive spine of Mick O’Grady and Eoin Doyle.
Kildare move well. They still lean on short hand-passes to a fault but the manner in which defenders such as Ollie Lyons and Keith Cribbin vault up the field is impressive and a batch of their scores, including Cathal McNally’s goal 13 minutes in, were sourced from deep down the field.
Chief among the concerns is their attack. As always.
Eleven Kildare players sent balls short or wide at some point or other and the variety was as worrying as the fact the tally added up to 16. It was almost twice the number racked up against Laois so it remains to be seen if this was an off-day or a continuation of an issue that has long haunted them.
Their profligacy was best summed up by Daniel Flynn. The former AFL player scored 1-4 from play, the goal coming from a palmed finish three minutes from time, but it was counterbalanced by a frustrating tendency to surrender possession.
There’s no doubt but that they will get better.
Meath dominated them for the third quarter, as they had to, given they trailed by nine points at the interval, but O’Neill does have more attacking quality to return given Paul Cribbin and Ben McCormack were absent here and Neil Flynn returned to the bench after his own injury.
The absence of Cribbin allowed Paddy Brophy the opportunity to make a first start since his recent return from West Coast Eagles and he managed a pair of points and a decent workload before being summoned to the sideline with 20 minutes to go.
He’ll be the better for this. Will Kildare?
Meath 0-13 Kildare 2-1
Scorers for Meath:
D Lenihan (0-5, 2f); R O Coilean (0-3); B Menton (0-2); S McEntee, J Toher and M Burke (all 0-1).
Scorers for Kildare:
D Flynn (1-4); C McNally (1-3): K Felly (0-5, 4f): P Brophy (0-2); E Callaghan (0-1); N Flynn (0-1f)
P O’Rourke;C McGill, D Keogan, D Tobin; P Harnan, M Burke, S McEntee; B Menton, R Jones; J Toher, C O’Sullivan, E Wallace; G Reilly, B McMahon, D Lenihan. Subs: J McEntee for Toher (28); R O Coilean for Wallace (HT); B Conlon for Jones (47); T O’Reilly for McMahon (51); S Tobin for Reilly (57); A Douglas for O’Sullivan (69).
M Donnellan; M O’Grady, O Lyons, D Hyland; K Cribbin, E Doyle, J Byrne; K Feely, T Moolick; F Conway, N Kelly, D Slattery; C McNally, D Flynn, P Brophy. Subs: E Callaghan for Brophy (50); F Dowling for Moolick (59); C Healy for McNally (61); P Kelly for Hyland (65); N Flynn for Byrne and E Bolton for Doyle (both 70).
J McQuillan (Cavan).
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