Kildare Found Out by Royal Pedigree

Posted: July 3, 2012 in GAA
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AS AN old wise Chinese man once said, “An ounce of breeding is better than a ton of feeding”.  Well maybe he wasn’t Chinese but in Irish agricultural circles this translates to, you can feed a bad animal all you like but it’ll never be as good as one with a bit of pedigree.

Maybe it’s the west of Ireland blood that flows through some of their veins (we have to try to claim some of the credit) but Meath have grade A football pedigree. On Sunday they showed Kildare that when it comes to football, natural instinct and skill still has a place in this game.

The reality is though, Kildare have beaten no – one. They have the look of a team who are completely over awed by the unwarranted expectation that’s been placed on them.  The fact that some commentators had them placed as the fourth team in the country and the one to challenge  the trio of Dublin, Cork and Kerry was laughable, considering counties such as Donegal and Mayo have actually challenged and beaten members of the supposed ‘Big 3’  in the last year.

Last year they had Donegal and Dublin on the ropes, only to let them slip away. In retrospect, Down in the 2010 semi – final was probably their biggest opportunity. An inexperienced Down team on the same upward curve as Kildare at the time scraped through to the final. As has been the case over the last number of years that loss was blamed on a bad square ball decision. This time excuses are thin on the ground.

A lot of the expectation on Kildare comes from McGeeney’s involvement. On Sunday it seems he hit a psychological wall with his players.  He is a winner and notoriously serious competitor from his time as a player. But instead of inspiring, such a legendary figure within the game has had the opposite effect on his players. They seem to be over awed by his presence and the expectation that he brings.

The perception seems to be that McGeeney will emerge from this job, reputation untarnished regardless of what happens over the rest of the summer. The focus being on the Kildare player’s inability to fully embrace McGeeney’s and their lack of mental toughness approach rather than the manager’s game plan and inability to get the best out of his players.

There has been a lot made of the professionalism of the Kildare setup and the clearly noticeable focus on conditioning and physique. But to watch the two teams yesterday it wasn’t the physique that caught the attention but the heart warming freedom of the Meath play

As a Mayo man, the sight of a Meath jersey will forever pain me but you can’t but admire their football mentality. Completely written off, you always know that if the mood takes them, Meath expect and think they can beat anyone. They are Royal men, who remember homecomings and Sam visiting school. To them Kildare are simply a county with footballing notions above their station.

That’s the way Conor Gillespie, Damian Carroll and the rest of the younger members of the team played on Sunday. In total opposite to Kildare’s rigidness and obvious fear of any attempt at spontaneity or possible detour from the game plan, Meath’s forwards played had an openness and off the cuff nature that few teams now play with. Joe Sheridan epitomises this. The GAA should be glad he reconsidered his sojourn to the States. A player who plays the game on instinct, his point in the first half was a thing of beauty.

Go to 5.00 to see Sheridan Meath in full flow…oh and 6.45 for one of the most bizarre refereeing decisions you’ll ever see.

Credit must go to Seamus McEneany for all this. A GAA warrior, he deserves to lap up all the praise that comes his way after the indecent way he was treated only a few months ago. Back then it was the Meath county board who were accused of bringing the game into disrepute. This mantle has now been passed on to their neighbours.

No matter the right and wrongs of the situation and your opinion on the matter, the Seanie Johnston transfer has damaged the county’s and Johnston’s reputation. There was something very uncomfortable about his brief appearance for the Coill Dubh hurlers on Saturday evening. A feeling that the ‘Community Centred’ ethos of the GAA had been terribly compromised by a cynical act that placed County firmly ahead of Club.

So when the draw took place yesterday morning on the spiritual home of GAA coverage, Ireland Am… there was only one possible draw. If Seanie was watching in his semi-d in Staplestown it must have been a tough moment. There’s no way he wants to face his native county. You would have to feel sympathy for Johnston; the whole saga has escalated further than he ever could have imagined.

The way Kildare react to the media circus that will inevitably surround the encounter in two weeks’ time will tell a lot about how much further they will go in this year’s championship. A quarter-final could be the height of their expectations.

As for Meath, let’s hope this was no once off and the mood will strike them again against the old enemy. Meath v Dublin in a Leinster Final, there’s something very reassuring about that.


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