Inconsistency has been the biggest blight on Lilywhites, admits O’Neill


Inconsistency has been the biggest blight on Lilywhites, admits O’Neill


Kildare manager Cian O’Neill at the Leinster Championship launch in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnell. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Kildare manager Cian O’Neill at the Leinster Championship launch in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnell. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Over the winter there was plenty of introspection for Cian O’Neill.

The third year of a three-season term had been completed and a fourth was on the horizon. But the Lilies had just put down the sort of rollercoaster summer that Kildare fans have become accustomed to.

They suffered relegation from Division 1 having not registered a single point, while they also went down to Carlow in the championship for the first time since 1953. In the same campaign, they knocked out one of football’s major powers, Mayo, on their way to a ‘Super 8s’ appearance.

For O’Neill, they were wrestling with an all-too-familiar problem that he believes goes back to the turn of the millennium.

“I think the biggest blight on Kildare over the last, I suppose you could go back 19 years to 2000 really, has been the inconsistency of performances,” he said.

“In the late noughties there when there was serial (All-Ireland) quarter-final appearances. There were defeats to Wicklow and Louth in the first round of Leinster and they bounced back to have great back door series.

“In Jason Ryan’s time, they beat Cork in Thurles but the next week they are beaten by seven goals by Kerry. In my own time we put in a decent performance against Dublin and two weeks later underperform in a last-12 match. It’s that inconsistency that has been a killer.

“And last year was probably the best example to lose the way we did early on and then bounce back. Is it psychological? There’s obviously a part of that no question. Is there a belief issue? That’s something we are constantly trying to work on.

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“Belief in its most pure form can only really be developed by consistent success and performance and if that isn’t there then that has an impact on belief. I never think it’s just one thing, it’s a combination of things. The psychology of it, the belief aspect is a huge part.”

Even when he did decide to roll the dice again, there was plenty of movement in the Kildare set-up.


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O’Neill himself had been linked with a move to a role with Munster. Work commitments meant selectors Enda Murphy and Ronan Sweeney moved on and were replaced by Tom Cribbin and Karl O’Dwyer.

The dressing room lost key forward Daniel Flynn too but despite all the change, their inconsistency remained.

Three wins, three defeats and a draw from their league campaign in Division 2 had a neat symmetry to it but it wasn’t enough to gain promotion to the top flight.

Once again they had fallen short of expectations.

“I think that’s a good point. If you look back at those defeats we talked about, a lot of them are matches that you are expected to win. And some of the big coups are matches where you are underdogs so that’s a fair point, yeah.

“I suppose a lot of it you can trace it back to are we getting the translation from – and it’s only recent years where there has been success at underage – but is the translation of the systems and beliefs from underage level transferring to senior?

“Because they are totally different games. Maybe there is a transition thing we need to look at as well, about the expectation of how you did here against young men of your own age. Because it’s very different than what’s expected at senior.

“I think that’s something that can be looked at and now is a very ripe time for that because we have so many guys from last year’s (All-Ireland-winning) 20s coming in.”

But whatever happened on the pitch in 2018, O’Neill insists it wasn’t an unhappy set-up off the field despite perceptions.

“My wife who studies psychotherapy has often said what other people think is none of your business. So you have to take that on board as a coach or player.

“So of course there was (a perception that it was an unsettled dressing room) from our own supporters but I think it’s complex a league or championship campaign. You have to look at all the different things that are involved in that.

“The consistency of team selection is a crucial part of any team’s success, make no mistake about that. You’d like to be going into every match with 11 or 12 positions nailed down and there are always three positions where some players are playing well and some aren’t.”

With last year in mind, they go to Netwatch Cullen Park tomorrow with a healthy amount of respect for John Evans’ Wicklow. Kildare’s ability to swim with the sharks one week and struggle in the shallows the next demands it.

“After the start to our championship last year, we really can’t have any aspirations without getting past game one,” he said, when asked about their aims for the summer.

“Of course when you are in the ‘Super 8s’ the year before you would see that as the standard you want to set the next year; otherwise you have regressed. I think that’s a fair assumption.

“But if you start looking that far forward you can lose sight of the step in front of you. I can tell you we definitely didn’t look too far last year. It was just one of those things that happened.

“We got caught on the day for a variety of reasons so we are not going to let them same thing happen us this year in terms of our performance on the day.

“All our preparations were spot on last year we just didn’t perform,” O’Neill added.

“This year we need to get our preparations right and perform and that’s the challenge for any team going into the championship.”  

Irish Independent


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