“There is a great deal of excitement around the club” said Stephen Finn, the new club’s busy general manager, “we’ve made a good start and the feed-back from the fans is totally positive. I know we are outsiders, but this match against UCD is another big step for us.”
Kildare beat Limerick 2-0 in their opening match in the League Cup and their draw last week against Cobh Ramblers was another welcome result. They will notice a big step up in standard against UCD who looked very good when losing unluckily 2-3 to Cork City last week-end. Cork’s manager Liam Murphy paid UCD this tribute: “I have nothing but praise for UCD, what they have done by remaining in the premier division is wonderful. They play in a certain way and they do it very well as I know even from the days when I played against them.
“They make it a physical game, they are fit lads and they work very hard. Our lads found it hard to play against them because we could not get the ball and their direct style meant you never had any room or time on the ball.
“They have done brilliantly to stay up and any team wanting to take anything from them must first of all compete hard. They are a big, physical team and you are going to struggle if you stand off them.”
Kildare have been helped enormously, of course, in making a successful start by the influence of their experienced manager, Dermot Keely. Likewise the presence of such as Gavin Dykes, the former Sligo Rovers, Finn Harps and Longford player, Shay Zellor, Keith O’Connor means the newcomers have no reason to be overawed by any opposition.
What is good about Kildare is to see locals in the team and keeper Tadhg Murphy is one who has made a very positive start. He was nominated as back-up for Gareth Byrne, who played in the 1996 Cup final for St. Pats, and stepped into the team to play excellently when Byrne was kept out with injury.
Still UCD should win with Robbie Doyle in good form for them at centre-forward alongside the hard-working Robbie Martin. Alan McNally and Sean Finn are effective players in midfield for them and, with goalkeeper Barry Ryan on top of his game, Kildare will find goals difficult to find.
Cork City’s optimism is rising on the promise being shown by their strike force of John O’Flynn and George O’Callaghan but the problems they were presented with by UCD suggested they are still far from the finished product.
Manager Liam Murphy is finding more options presenting themselves every week, however, with Conor O’Grady available after suspension for tonight’s match against Glenmore Dundrum at Turner’s Cross (7.45) and Billy Woods continuing to make good progress after an ankle injury. Alan Reynolds made a good impression when he was introduced as substitute during last week’s game and Murphy will have important decisions to make to finalise his team selection.
He said: “In recent years we scored many of our goals from set pieces and the like because we had a big strong team with players strong in the air. We have a different set of players now so we play in a different way but, even though UCD had a lot of the ball, I do not recall too many chances falling their way.
“I know the goal-scorers have received a lot of praise after our two wins but that is what they are paid to do and our winning start reflects well on all the players. I know UCD played well against us but I don’t think the penalty that gave them their second goal was a penalty and, had it not counted, then we would have won 3-1. It was a good win for us.”