Leinster Championship: McGeeney hopes to take final step with Kildare
Former Armagh All-Ireland winning captain Kieran McGeeney faces one of the biggest tests of his sporting career tomorrow.
The Kildare manager is hoping to wreck Dublin’s hopes of reclaiming the Leinster title when the sides meet in a hugely attractive Croke Park semi-final.
The Lily Whites have been hovering on the brink of All-Ireland glory and now they are primed for a big push to get their hands on the Sam Maguire Cup. But getting over the Dubs is the only challenge on McGeeney’s radar just now.
“This is a major match for both teams. It will really let us see just where we are at,” insists McGeeney.
Kildare’s levels of fitness and stamina have stood them in good stead to date. But with Dublin having taken part in dawn training sessions since January they are unlikely to be found wanting in these respects either.
McGeeney will be looking to his more experienced players such as John Doyle, Eamon Callaghan, James Kavanagh, Emmet Bolton, Andrew MacLochlainn and Gary White to set the tone for what he hopes will prove a fruitful display.
When the sides last met in 2009 Dublin, despite having Ger Brennan sent off after 19 minutes, won by 2-15 to 0-18. It was Dublin’s fifth successive Leinster title win and now they are aiming to reach another final, having missed out last year when Meath triumphed in controversial circumstances against Louth.
Manager Pat Gilroy will place his faith in players like Stephen Cluxton, Bryan Cullen, Alan Brogan, Diarmuid Connolly, Michael Darragh McAuley Bernard Brogan to shoot down McGeeney’s men.
But victory over Gilroy’s side would not only help to shorten the odds on Kildare’s ability to land ‘Sam’ but would also see McGeeney’s personal stock soar.
Kildare have beaten Wicklow and Meath in the Leinster series to date while Dublin overcame Justin McNulty’s Laois side in the quarter-finals.
Last year both Kildare and Dublin reached the All-Ireland semi-finals. Kildare were pipped by Down (1-16 to 1-14) while the Dubs lost out to eventual champions Cork who won by 1-15 to 1-14.
Dublin: S Cluxton; P Conlon, R O’Carroll, M Fitzsimmons; J McCarthy, G Brennan, K Noland; D Bastick, M D McAuley; P Flynn, A Brogan, B Cullen; D Connolly, E O’Gara, B Brogan.
Kildare: S Connolly; A MacLochlainn, M Foley, H McGrillan; G White, B Flanagan, E Bolton; J Doyle, H Lynch; M O’Flaherty, E O’Flaherty, E Callaghan; A Smith, T O’Connor, J Kavanagh.