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McGeeney hoping luck will be on Kildare’s side

By John Campbell

Kieran McGeeney is aware of the huge level of expectation that surrounds his Kildare side as they prepare for Sunday’s Allianz Football League Division Two final against Tyrone at Croke Park.

The 2002 Armagh All Ireland winning captain is in his fifth year in charge of the Lily Whites during which period silverware has proved frustratingly elusive even though he has taken the side into the last eight of the race to the Sam Maguire Cup in each of the past four years.

And as Kildare’s anxiety in relation to their on-field record becomes more pronounced, their well-documented financial pressures, which saw the GAA hand the county a €300,000 (£245,000) ‘loan’ last week, are proving a distraction in the build-up to the confrontation with Mickey Harte’s unbeaten team.

But McGeeney and his fellow Armagh man John Rafferty, who joined him as his No 2 towards the end of last year, nonetheless believe that the rub of the green which could be said to have deserted their side over the past 12 months might come their way this time round.

“Ultimately, though, we have to make our own luck. Tyrone are unbeaten, they will take great confidence from their playing record to date and they will certainly relish playing in Croke Park,” said McGeeney.

It’s at Headquarters, however, where McGeeney’s men have endured considerable heartbreak. Last year a dubious free awarded to Dublin in the closing moments of a keenly-contested Leinster semi saw Bernard Brogan steer over the winning point and then in a mesmeric All Ireland quarter-final Donegal’s Kevin Cassidy whipped over an improbable winning point deep into extra-time.

This too after Kildare had been disallowed what appeared to have been a perfectly legitimate 40th minute goal from Tomas O’Connor. Yet, while meaningful success has proved beyond his side, the players’ loyalty and commitment to boss McGeeney remains steadfast.

“We would like to win this Division Two title for Kieran. He has been an inspiration to us and this is an opportunity for us to deliver,” said skipper John Doyle.

It is no secret that many Armagh followers covet McGeeney as the next manager of their team – indeed, this line of speculation is almost endemic in the Orchard County psyche right now.

It’s an issue though that McGeeney does not even discuss preferring instead to talk up his Kildare players although he has delivered the odd rocket to them over the course of the league to date, especially in relation to their finishing.

“We are creating chances but we’re not taking enough of them,” said McGeeney pointedly.

The performance of his team will be closely monitored not just in the context of Sunday’s clash but in terms of their possible progress in the provincial and All Ireland championships.

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