Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney left reeling by Benny Coulter’s controversial goal
Kildare manager Kieran McGeeney made no attempt to hide his bitter disappointment after his side crashed out of the All Ireland Championship to Down in Croke Park yesterday.
Referring to Down’s hotly disputed first-half goal by Benny Coulter, Armagh’s 2002 All Ireland winning skipper said: “We have spent the last two weeks being told that (assistant manager) Aidan O'Rourke crossed the line 22 times or 23 times (O'Rourke spent the match in the stands banned from the sideline).
“You are on about margin calls — whether the ball was in play or whether it wasn't.
“We have a fella who watches that. And they can't tell whether a ball is over the bar, or they can't tell if it was a square ball,” he said before muttering an unprintable description of their work under his breath.
“That's administration. It's a shame because you're taking away from people like Benny Coulter who shows great courage going for those type of balls and from the work rate of Danny Hughes and Kalum King. Down were outstanding today. You can't take it away from them.”
For McGeeney these players rank right up there with the Armagh team of the last decade on which he was such a protagonist as a player.
Kildare should take that as quite a compliment.
“I played on, in my eyes if not everyone else's eyes, one of the great teams who played gaelic football though we mightn't have showed it with our cups — but they were a great bunch of lads. I would have to say that this bunch are right up here with their dedication and their commitment.”
He added: “It’s tough when you lose out so narrowly. My heart goes out to our players who have given so much, not just this year, but over a number of years.
“They showed great heart in coming back after being seven points in arrears.”
The nature of Down’s goal will be discussed for days and weeks to come. Coulter appeared to be in the square long before the ball, but referee Pat McEnaney (pictured right) allowed it to stand after consulting both umpires.
“It’s a fine balance between winning and losing. If we had got a goal at the end it would have been a different scenario, but that’s sport,” said McGeeney.
Kildare midfielder Dermot Earley failed a last minute fitness test and didn’t play any part in the game and in his absence Down midfield pair Peter Fitzpatrick and Kalum King really prospered.
Kildare’s problems in this area were exacerbated by an injury to Daryl Flynn which eventually saw him replaced.
“We didn’t win but I was very proud of the whole squad. You are going to lose games at some stage, but you have to work harder and bounce back again,” said McGeeney.
“Sometimes you learn more about yourself in defeat than you do in victory. I know what those players are going through, but it’s all part of life and there’s nothing to be gained from feeling sorry for yourself. Down are an excellent side and could possibly end up winning an All Ireland.
“We failed but it wasn’t down to lack of effort”
McGeeney refused to give details of what the future might hold for him. “It’s been a learning curve for us these last few years and now isn’t time for making decisions,” he said. “We’ve a young side and we’re making progress and there’s room for further improvement.”