All-Ireland Qualifiers: No rest for Derry with Kildare lying in wait
If nothing succeeds like success then failure can bring its own particular burdens.
When Derry lost to Donegal last Sunday they not only spurned the chance of landing a first provincial title in 13 years but entered the equivalent of a sporting pressure cooker.
Tomorrow, just six days after their Ulster heartbreak, John Brennan’s men must confront Kieran McGeeney’s upbeat Kildare side in round four of the All- Ireland Qualifiers at Croke Park (4.00).
It’s a far from ideal situation and straight-talking Brennan has already made his strong views known on the matter.
“Every other team except us is benefiting from a 13-day turnaround. I am only a manager — I do not make the rules and regulations. It’s very unsatisfactory,” blasted Brennan.
His ire is understandable. Cork, Roscommon and Wexford lost in the Munster, Connacht and Leinster finals respectively but they will benefit from two weeks respite — in Cork’s case three — in which to catch their breath before resuming action in the qualifiers.
Derry enjoy no such luxury and Brennan acknowledges they now face a tough test against McGeeney’s side who were singularly unfortunate to lose to Dublin by a point in the Leinster semi-final and have since beaten Laois and Meath in the qualifiers.
Last year, it was a convincing |2-17 to 1-9 qualifier win by Kildare at Celtic Park that spelled the end of Damian Cassidy’s tenure as Derry manager and Brennan is anxious to avoid any repetition of such a setback.
His team under-performed against Donegal, especially in the second half when Jim McGuinness’s side took control after Michael Murphy’s penalty goal just after the interval.
The Derry attack was virtually imprisoned by the Donegal rearguard — James Kielt was their only forward to score from play — and Brennan will want to see a much better return tomorrow from players like Conleith Gilligan, Enda Muldoon, Caolan O’Boyle and Mark Lynch in particular.
Kildare in contrast produced a powerful finishing burst against Meath last Saturday with wing-back Emmet Bolton scoring 1-2 and substitutes Ronan Sweeney and James Kavanagh both making a big impression. Darryl Flynn, too, has returned to top form while Andrew McLaughlin and Mick Foley have been very impressive lately in defence.
Kildare’s energy and confidence are such that they could bring the curtain down on Brennan’s first year in charge tomorrow.