With four home games in Division One and now a tailor-made Leinster Championship draw, the path is clear for Cian O’Neill’s men to take further ground in their quest to become one of the country’s top teams over the next couple of years.
Certainly their destiny is now within their own hands by and large. No excuses if they fail to make the step up.
O’Neill could hardly have scripted it better. Kildare’s side of the draw has one newly-promoted Division 2 team, two who made the step up from Division 4 to Division 3 and two more who will ply their trade in the basement division next season.
Kildare will meet the winners of Carlow and Louth for a place in the semi-final where they would then face the winners of Laois, Wexford and Westmeath. If the attitude is right and with a seven-game Division One campaign behind them, there should be no reason for Kildare not to emerge from the “weaker” side of the draw to (inevitably) face Dublin in the Leinster Final.
From there the Super 8’s would only be one more win away, even if we do lose the Leinster Final (and it would be a huge upset if we didn’t let’s face it).
And of course one benefit of being in with the Blue Machine in the provincial series is that we would avoid them in the Super 8’s if we make it that far. The Super 8’s Groups are as follows:
Leinster and Ulster Winners are in with Connacht and Munster runners-up (or their Rd 4 conquerors).
Connacht and Munster Winners are in with Leinster and Ulster runners-up (or their Rd 4 conquerors).
For arguments sake the last 8 could read:
Dublin, Tyrone, Roscommon, Cork
Mayo, Kerry, Kildare, Donegal
As Martin O’Neill might say “you’d take that”.
A few notes of caution though:
- On all known form and ability Kildare should comfortably see off Louth or Carlow in their first game. While Carlow are on an upward curve under Turlough O’Brien and did a good containment job on the Dubs last summer, let’s assume Louth come through. Now under the experienced Pete McGrath, they are a team who should cause a flutter or two in any Kildare heart. Four times out of eight in the last 26 years we’ve come unstuck against the Wee County: 1991, 1995, 2007 and 2010. Underdogs on each occasion, Louth had too much heart, spirit and no little skill against us. Realistically though they are coming from a low base despite their promotion to Division Two. They shipped 0-27 in a nine-point hammering by the same Meath team who were the same distance adrift of Kildare in their next game last summer. That’s a big swing to make up.
- Westmeath will not be over-awed if they face us in the semi-final. I’m not sure that’s the likeliest outcome as Laois or Wexford might fancy themselves against the Lake County with a first round game under their belt. But if it is Westmeath, and particularly if it is in Croke Park (I expect it won’t be), then they will draw on the memories of the 2016 semi-final and will be optimistic. We think Kildare are a different beast now (don’t we?).
- Armagh: it’s hard to put our most recent outing behind us on kildaregaa365.com. As time moves on the doubts that surfaced that day about O’Neill’s “project” are not fading. It’s all very well saying we have an easy draw to the last 8 but that was also the case in 2017. We fluffed our lines badly. The overall standard of performance by O’Neill’s panel in the club championship since that Croke Park no-show haven’t lightened the mood either.
2018 is a chance to step up. No excuses now.
Leinster senior football championship draw:
Laois v Wexford
Louth v Carlow
Offaly v Wicklow
Laois/Wexford v Westmeath
Louth/Carlow v Kildare
Offaly/Wicklow v Dublin
Longford v Meath
Laois/Wexford/Westmeath v Louth/Carlow/Kildare
Offaly/Wicklow/Dublin v Longford/Meath