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Kildare players unite in backing old boss McGeeney

By John Campbell

Kieran McGeeney last night received a ringing endorsement from the entire Kildare senior playing squad but whether this proves enough to trigger a change of heart on the part of the county board in relation to his managerial future remains to be seen.

Confirmation that the board had decided to terminate McGeeney's term in charge by 29 votes to 28 sent shock waves not only through Kildare but throughout the GAA as a whole.

Within 12 hours of the announcement that the former Armagh All-Ireland winning captain had been axed, arrangements had already been finalised for last night's special meeting of the players.

In addition, chairman John McMahon came out with a very public expression of support for McGeeney while rank and file supporters expressed their disappointment at the manner of his exit.

The anger vented by the players and particularly the more established personnel clearly discomfited executive members.

Indeed, the feeling in Kildare is that the executive was split on whether McGeeney's services should be retained or not, something that is regarded as a significant factor that contributed to his departure.

The tone adopted by many of the players, too, in expressing their anger suggests that Tuesday night's controversial although nonetheless democratic vote is far from the last we will hear on this issue.

Long-serving forward John Doyle described yesterday as "a dark day for Kildare"; current captain Eamonn Callaghan declared he is "ashamed to be a Kildare player; combative half-back Emmet Bolton opined that McGeeney has been treated "in a disgraceful manner" and utility forward Alan Smith certainly did not mince his words when he alluded to the county board as "brainless fools."

In his six years in charge McGeeney has taken Kildare to the quarter-finals of the All Ireland championship in five of those seasons and into the semi-finals on one occasion.

Tellingly, he took the Kildare U21 side into the All-Ireland final this year in which they were beaten by Galway having earlier garnered a rare Leinster crown at this level.

Chairman McMahon believes that McGeeney has already laid the groundwork for a new generation of Kildare players to emerge and is adamant that he should have been given the chance to continue "the excellent work" he has started in this connection.

"There is new talent coming through in Kildare. It is not going to be the case for Kieran to bring that talent on to achieve success," declared a clearly crestfallen McMahon.

The sense of unity and the passionate feelings expressed at last night's meeting could potentially precipitate a re-think with the players now almost certain to return to their clubs and forcibly voice their feelings.

Invariably, there is already considerable speculation as to just where McGeeney's future might lie with his name already being linked with his native Armagh with perhaps Justin McNulty joining him to form a triumvirate along with present incumbent there Paul Grimley.

But Grimley has already been given the green light for another term, he has his backroom team in place and is zealously committed to driving the county forward. A bloodless coup therefore appears unlikely.

Even before Paddy O'Rourke, Grimley's predecessor, was appointed there was a clamour for McGeeney's services on the part of supporters but by then he had his feet well under the Kildare table. He may have had to remove them from there but watch this space.

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