By John Harrington
Kildare manager Cian O’Neill was gracious in defeat after this afternoon’s Leinster SFC Final defeat to Dublin.
He admitted the better side had won, but hopes his young team will learn lots of valuable lessons from the experience.
“There was no doubt that Dublin were far superior to us today,” said O’Neill.
“I think the scoreboard reflects that. But I think in those periods where they really hurt us, that five or six minute period in the first half and the first ten of the second-half, it just showed that when they really pushed on to another we were chasing our tails a small bit for those periods.
“You know, not only are they a great team, they’ve great experience. Even the players they bring off the bench, they have all that in their locker.
“We’re still a young team, we’re still learning. We learned a lot in Division Two this year. We certainly learned a lot today and I guess coming back in 13 days time to see have we had enough time to learn the lessons and improve from them.”
Kildare bravely tried to take Dublin on at their own game and at times played some good football, but overall they were outclassed by a side who were faster, stronger, and more clinical.
“The plan was to come here and to try to play the type of football we’ve been playing all year in terms of getting that balance between a strong defence and a strong counter-attacking game,” said O’Neill.
“For periods of the game we did both, but unfortunately in the periods where we didn’t we really got punished. In terms of the source of that, we’d be very disappointed with the amount of turnovers we had. There’s no better team in the country that Dublin to really punish you with a counter-attack.
“We knew that coming in, that turn-overs are their oxygen where they can really hurt us. Unfortunately I think they scored 1-5 directly off turnovers today. That’s just not something on a scoreboard, it’s a psychological hit there as well because you had the ball, you were controlling the game.
“I think that was probably the biggest thing. Their execution was just ruthless. It was the high standard you would expect of champions. Ours was well below par
When Dublin put their foot on the accelerator at the start of the second-half, they left Kildare choking in their dust.
Winning manager Jim Gavin agreed afterwards their power-play in the third quarter was the key to victory.
“Yeah, I think in that third quarter we might have tacked on ten points,” he said.
“I think overall to score 2-17 from play in the game was satisfying. But, certainly, after that good start, Kildare looked very impressive and came back strong at us. They got nine points in that second quarter to close it down to four at half-time.
“We knew going into the game what we’d seen of them in the National League and Championship so far in Leinster, they’ve been very impressive, very mobile and athletic. Technically very good, some fantastic fielders of the ball.
“We saw that if they got space they could do damage and they could have had a score in the second half but Stephen pulled off a fantastic save.
“If they had gotten that then it might have been three points in it and the last period of the game could have had a different complexion.
“Thankfully he saved it and we went on to close out the game comfortably.”
Dublin have made history by becoming the first ever team to win seven Leinster SFC titles in a row, and Gavin admitted it was a satisfying achievement.
“I think the guys will look back on their careers, and Pat Gilroy too who came before me and his group of players who are no longer with us, they’ll take some satisfaction from today as well.
“For the current team it’s about being present in 2017 and provincial titles mean a lot to us. We’ll certainly celebrate it tonight with our family and friends, that’s for sure, and then move on to the next challenge ahead.”