Kildare have not won the All Ireland football title since 1928 and the raging hunger that has enveloped the current side to end this protracted barren spell could see them scale new heights tomorrow.
That’s the view of Down manager James McCartan (pictured right) who has admitted that the Lily Whites’ CV during the Championship to date has been impressive apart from their blip against Louth in the Leinster series.
“You just know there is a great yearning within Kildare as a county to see the Sam Maguire Cup brought back there,” McCartan said. “I mean, they have gone 82 years without getting their hands on the trophy. But then Derry, Donegal, Tyrone and Armagh all had to wait for over 100 years for their first All Ireland titles you must remember.
“They are capable of achieving a new peak against us and we have to be prepared for this. The fact that they have named an unchanged side underlines their settled approach.”
Earlier this year the Kildare defence looked vulnerable when the side was trounced by Down, 1-16 to 0-8, in the National League at Newbridge, a match in which the home side lost Gary White and Daryl Flynn to red cards.
But manager McCartan stresses that Kildare boss Kieran McGeeney absorbed what proved to be valuable lessons from that game — lessons that could prove vital in the context of tomorrow’s game.
“I think Kildare’s momentum has been building to such an extent that their confidence has increased appreciably and they now appear to have the belief they can end their All Ireland title famine,” adds McCartan.
In a re-vamped Kildare defence, Peter Kelly has become one of the best corner backs in the country, Henry McGrillan is now up among the elite full-backs and even though he is listed at centre-half-back Emmet Bolton is permitted more freedom to move forward.
The Lily Whites’ man-marking skills will be put to the test tomorrow because of Down’s pace and versatility but McCartan acknowledges that McGeeney has effectively modified his rearguard.
“Kieran has not been afraid to make changes that he thought necessary and results of late have fully vindicated these decisions,” says McCartan, who along with his backroom team of Paddy Tally, Brian McIver and Jerome Johnston has already digested the Kildare line-up.
“Peter Kelly was unknown at the start of the Championship but now he’s one of the best corner backs there is — that tells you something about Kieran’s vision.
“And while McCartan is conscious of the Lily Whites’ defensive resources, he is equally aware that up front veteran John Doyle has scored 1-43 in the Championship to date and that James Kavanagh has recorded a personal haul of |2-13.
“These two players have been hitting big scores but Kildare have others who are also very accurate. I think we know what to expect from the Kildare forward line as a unit,” the Mourne manager added.