More Questions Than Answers? – Offaly v Kildare

Kildare man-of-the-match Morgan O'Flaherty
Kildare man-of-the-match Morgan O’Flaherty

This was pretty turgid fare on offer at O’Connor Park as Kildare and Offaly rounded off their O’Byrne Cup campaigns with a game to forget. Neither team seemed to have the gumption to take the game by the scruff of the neck and a draw might have been a fairer result.
For Cian O’Neill it was really about performances and surveying the options available to him. Kildare have been in five O’Byrne Cup finals in a row and where has it got them when the pressure was turned on in summer?
The new boss must be scratching his head somewhat after three games in a week. While this was a better effort than the horror of Hawkfield on Wednesday night, the inconsistency of many of the players today was disappointing.
A prime example is Adam Tyrell. Majestic last week against DIT, the talented Moorefield youngster was dealing with a bar of soap it seemed today and was unable to make any impact on the game.Indeed he was more pre-occupied with Offaly’s marauding wing-backs than making headway at the right end of the pitch. One free, albeit superbly converted, was the sole return for 47 minutes of endeavour.
Alongside him in a mis-firing attack, Éanna O’Connor and Matty Byrne each flitted in and out of the game and O’Neill must decide if they did enough to force their way into the squad of 34 he intends to work with for the League. Kerryman O’Connor, along with Tyrell and Ray Cahill, adds more free-taking capability to the mix, but also delivered a few decent kick passes into the full forward line that must have pleased his manager.
Cahill is another who clearly has talent but whether he can deliver enough from open play at inter-county level is open to question. He has scored 10 points this week with 8 of those from frees.
Cathal McNally was the most influential of the Kildare forwards. He managed two points for the third game in succession, and was “out in front” most of the time from a relatively unfamiliar corner forward berth.He did however spurn a goal chance in the first minute when he twice failed to beat keeper Alan Mulhall from close range and was wayward again in the second half. Kildare have tellingly gone 4 games without scoring a goal dating back to Niall Kelly’s against Cork in Thurles.
In a late change from the listed team, Padraig O’Neill lined out at full forward and while the St.Laurence’s man played there earlier in his career, it was not a success on this occasion as he failed to make any impression. Sad to see him so peripheral and you have to think any impact he makes this year will be further out the pitch. Who fills the no.14 shirt will be a key question occupying the manager’s mind in the weeks ahead.
In the back-line Kildare were tenacious, particularly in the second half, and they had possibly the game’s outstanding performer in Morgan O’Flaherty. Returning after a two year sabbatical, the Carbury man reminded us in particular of his superior game-reading skills with some classy interceptions throughout the match.
On the opposite wing and at the other end of the age spectrum, Cian O’Donoghue from Clane always looks a thoroughly modern, pacey attacking wing back, and O’Neill will be pleased with his showing here. He should have done enough to secure a squad berth.
The full back line mixed the good with the bad again. Too many silly frees (although Kildare seem to get the most picky of referees), but some good interceptions particularly late in the game as Offaly threatened to steal victory. Behind them Shane Connolly was as solid as a rock in his shot-stopping and ball-handling and had one of his better days on kick-outs.
In midfield, Daniel Flynn gave another powerful display alongside his namesake Daryl. The younger Flynn used his pace and strength to punch numerous holes in the Offaly defence with the midlanders generally having to resort to fouling to stop the Johnstownbridge man. Daryl meanwhile covered a lot of ground and did plenty of solid “dirty work”.
What of Offaly? The midlanders probably had more first team candidates available and that must be a worry on this performance. They showed some good attacking movement from the wing back positions in particular but invariably wayward shooting let them down when they had momentum to take a grip on the game in the first half.
You just never got the sense they believed they could win and that’s becoming a worrying trend when they come up against Kildare at senior level. What a contrast with the Offaly teams of old who always thought they were a cut above the lily-livered Short Grass men and generally proved it on the big day.
Line-Up, Scorers and Ratings*
1. Shane Connolly – St. Laurence’s – 7
2. Ollie Lyons – Celbridge – 6
3. Ciaran Fitzpatrick – Kilcock – 6
4. Liam Healy – Moorefield – 5
5. Morgan O’Flaherty – Carbury – 8
6. Jonathan Byrne – Allenwood – 6
7. Cian O’Donoghue – Clane – 7
8. Daniel Flynn – JTB – 7
9. Daryl Flynn– Moorefield – 6
10. Matty Byrne – Sarsfields – 6 (0-1)
11. Eanna O’Connor – Moorefield – 6 (0-3, 1 free, 1’45)
12. Adam Tyrell – Moorefield – 5 (0-1, free)
13. Cathal McNally – JTB – 7 (0-2)
14. Padraig O’Neill – St. Laurence’s – 5
15. Ray Cahill – Sarsfields – 6 (0-5, 4 frees)
Seamus Hanafin – 6 – Ballyteague (for O’Neill 44m) (0-1); Eddie Heavey – 6 – Moorefield (for Tyrell 47m); James Eaton – 5 – Athy (for Cahill 50m); David Whyte – 6 – Moorefield (for Daryl Flynn 54m), Mikey Conway – 6 – Nurney (for O’Connor 56m); Gavin Farrell – Castledermot (for Daniel Flynn 63m).
*Ratings are out of 10 and one fan’s opinion with 5 being Below Average, 6 Average 7 Good 8 Excellent 9 Superb and 10 Outstanding