Kildare planning for Leinster road but Carlow plan ambush

It is more than 11 months now since Kildare managed a competitive win.

After overcoming Meath in the Leinster semi-final on June 17 of last year, nobody realistically expected them to better Dublin in the subsequent provincial decider.

By the same token, nobody expected that almost a year on, the Kildare footballers would still be searching for their next win.

The Lilywhites kept Dublin honest in the Leinster final, but couldn’t muster a similar effort two weeks later against Armagh and became yet another beaten provincial finalist to fall in the fourth round of qualifiers.

Since then, Cian O’Neill’s charges have added seven league games to their losing streak. Relegation to Division 2 followed and consequently, there’s a considerable amount of pressure on players and management ahead of their Leinster opener against Carlow on Sunday.

Only Louth — their last win, in either league or championship, was on May 21 of last year — are waiting longer for a positive result.

“It hasn’t been easy,” Kildare midfielder Kevin Feely admits.

“It’s never easy coming off a league campaign like that, but there were a lot of positives, as well, in terms of our performances over the first few games.

“The break with the clubs was really effective for us. It gave us a chance to get back and get some confidence again and just play our own natural game.

“It gave us a chance to refresh everything and we had plenty of training sessions in between to put right the wrongs from the league. After that block of training and playing with the clubs, we are in a much better place.”

Feely emerged as an injury doubt when hurting his calf during Athy’s championship win over Maynooth on the May Bank Holiday weekend, but is available for selection for Sunday’s outing to Tullamore.

“It’s going well, probably ahead of schedule. It’s two weeks now since the injury and there has been no setbacks. It is feeling great at the moment.”

Where Kildare are desperately lacking in momentum, Carlow’s graph continues to rise under Turlough O’Brien.

The quality of Division 4 may be somewhat below what Kildare had to put up with in the top tier, but the Barrowsiders spent so many years floundering towards the bottom of the table — they finished 8th in Division 4 in 2014 — to appreciate the value of their league promotion.

This was backed up with a 2-17 to 0-12 Leinster championship trouncing of Louth. The frequency of defeat for the men in green, red and yellow has considerably lessened. In 2018, only Laois, twice, have beaten them.

“What we will be hanging our hat on going into this weekend is that we have a serious amount of momentum behind us after a very good league campaign,” said Carlow full-back Shane Redmond.

“There is a great team spirit and buy-in. I think we would be one of the best teams in Ireland to buy into our gameplan.”

Manager Turlough O’Brien is somewhat more bullish for what will be the first Leinster SFC meeting of the counties since 2001. Kildare emerged victorious on that occasion and, indeed, you’d have to go back to 1953 for the last time Carlow scored a championship win over the Lilywhites.

“We are not intimidated by them,” said O’Brien. “We are looking forward to see how we measure up. They might not see us as a threat, but it is a derby nonetheless and a lot of people are looking forward to it.”


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