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Ronan O'Gara now recruited to Kildare cause

By John Campbell

Donegal will have an extra opponent to outwit when they confront Kildare in tonight's All-Ireland football quarter-final at Croke Park (6.00pm).

In an effort to secure even more accuracy from his free-takers Johnny Doyle and Eoghan O'Flaherty, Kildare boss Kieran McGeeney - Armagh's Sam Maguire-winning skipper in 2002 - has enlisted the aid of Ireland rugby international Ronan O'Gara.

The Lions out-half, one of the most renowned figures in world rugby, spent a lengthy session with the two players at Carton House, Maynooth.

Doyle has been Kildare's main source of scores ever since he started playing for the team over a decade ago but is still as anxious as ever to polish up his striking skills while O'Flaherty has emerged as a key free-taker from the left side of the field.

The duo, who have played major roles in taking Kildare into the quarter-finals, were given tips on technique by O'Gara whose goal-kicking exploits have been central to much of Ireland's recent rugby success.

The Ireland rugby kicking coach Mark Tainton was also on hand to give advice and it is expected that the fruits of their labours will be seen at Croke Park today.

Doyle was on the scoresheet for the 50th consecutive match last weekend when the Lily Whites accounted for Derry in round four of the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Now they are going in against another Ulster side in Donegal who will be bringing their familiar defensive strategy to Headquarters for the second time this year having already beaten Laois there in the National League Division Two final.

And Doyle, Kildare's most experienced player, is expecting a tough, uncompromising encounter.

Manager McGeeney took exception to some of the treatment to which Doyle was subjected in the win over Derry but the player himself accepts this as part of the game.

"You go out to mark a man and it's a personal battle," he says.

"It's you or him and you have to respect that. I want to get the better of my man and he wants to get the better of me.

"I am in there to do my job and do that to the best of my ability," states Doyle.

It remains to be seen if he actually lines out at midfield tonight since Rob Kelly gave a very competent performance when he was switched there against Derry after Joe Diver and Michael Friel had threatened to take control.

But what is certain is that Andrew McLaughlin, Henry McGrillen and Mick Foley will prop up the Kildare defence while Tómas O'Connor, James Kavanagh and Eamon Callaghan will be central figures in attack.

Donegal will look to their experienced brigade including Neil McGee, Karl Lacey, Kevin Cassidy, Neil Gallagher, Michael Hegarty and Colm McFadden along with skipper Michael Murphy for inspiration while at the same time hoping that the defensive security which has served them so well to date will remain intact.

Donegal: P Durcan; F McGlynn, N McGee, P McGrath; A Thompson, K Lacey, K Cassidy; M McElhinney, N Gallagher; M McHugh, M Hegarty, R Bradley; P McBrearty, M Murphy, C McFadden.

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