All-Ireland SFC Round 4
Monaghan v Kildare, today 3pm (Croke Park)
KILDARE are expecting a titanic tussle against Monaghan to reach the All-Ireland quarter-finals for a third successive season but according to Eamonn Callaghan, the ambitions are greater than that.
The Lilywhites are well aware of the task they face against the beaten Ulster finalists, who have been transformed since former Kildare coach and selector Paul Grimley joined the Farney set-up.
Nobody within the camp sees Monaghan’s performance in their provincial decider as being truly reflective of their ability.
For that reason, Callaghan and co. are braced for a furious backlash but such is their own bolstered confidence after an 11-point defeat of Derry in Celtic Park last Saturday, Kildare just don’t fear anyone.
Kieran McGeeney has always set high targets for this squad of players, which he has frequently labelled “as good as any in the country”. Having taken a savage body blow when blitzed by Louth, they are aiming high again.
“I reckon we’re a top eight team at least,” says Callaghan. “It’s just a case of getting back to where we were last year and drive on again. Hopefully we’ll get to the quarter-finals and then push on to the semis and finals ‘cos that’s where we want to be.”
Qualifier victories over Antrim (after a replay and an incredibly emotional drawn game when Dermot Earley played on the same day as his father, Dermot snr was buried), Leitrim and Derry mean that Kildare are the only team that participated in the first round still standing.
And the versatile Naas man is flourishing. A man who has played in almost every position for Kildare apart from goalkeeper and midfield, he has relished being handed a play-making role around the middle, winning breaks and distributing brilliantly.
He was the best man on the field in the defeat of Leitrim and followed that up seven days later when named the official man of the match in Derry.
On that occasion he showed boundless energy, supplementing his industry with a scoring tally of 1-4.
“It’s not about me, it’s not about man of the matches” he reflects. “We’d 15 lads starting and a few lads who came on that played very well.
“Once you’re winning games you get confidence. Since Kieran came in we’ve had a great run in the qualifiers. We haven’t lost one yet so hopefully we’ll get back to the quarter-finals where we belong.”
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