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Cavanagh throws down the gauntlet to the Lilywhites

 

By John Campbell

Former Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh feels that Kildare will be under huge pressure to step up to the mark when they meet Mayo in tomorrow's All-Ireland Round Three qualifier at St Conleth's Park, Newbridge.

While much has been made of the fact Kildare were initially to be deprived of home advantage and ordered to play the match at Croke Park, since GAA chiefs relented on this stance and confirmed home advantage for Cian O'Neill's side the focus has now switched onto the Lilywhites' ability deliver a performance.

For most counties, playing on home soil invariably represents a psychological advantage of sorts, but for Kildare the words 'home advantage' tend to be something of a contradiction.

They did not win a single league game in their own back yard this year and their overall track record in Newbridge spanning this past two seasons makes grim reading.

Cavanagh pulls no punches in delivering his assessment of a Kildare side that will go into the tie under massive pressure.

"If you look back, I don't think that players who came into the squad were utilised properly," states Cavanagh.

"Then you look at their league campaign and take into account that Leinster Championship defeat to Carlow and that's not just good enough for Kildare football right now.

"We don't want to take away from Carlow's performance on the day - it was their day in the sun - but Kildare people felt very sore after that particular result."

Since then, Kildare have overcome Derry and Longford in the qualifiers, but even a somewhat understrength Mayo side will post a huge challenge to O'Neill's men tomorrow.

Kildare's defensive record is a cause for concern and even in winning those two qualifier ties, they still leaked more scores than they should have done.

Now O'Neill is firing his side up ahead of their mission against a team that has been knocking on the door of an All-Ireland for the past six years.

"The players are the guys that fought tooth and nail to get us back into this Championship. Now we're back on track and they are here to play football," raps O'Neill.

And in reference to the fact that only 8,200 fans will get to the see the game, he added curtly: "This is a football competition, not a financial report."

Given what has occurred over the course of this past few days, there is now no doubt that the Kildare versus Mayo match has already stolen the limelight from what is an attractive meeting between Tyrone and Cavan at Brewster Park, Enniskillen.

This match had initially been fixed for Croke Park at 5.00pm tomorrow but instead it will take place in Fermanagh.

Cavan have already beaten Wicklow and Down in the qualifiers, while Kildare have triumphed over Derry and Longford, but for both teams tomorrow will represent the acid test particularly as they will find themselves very much in the national spotlight.

Belfast Telegraph

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