This is how you hand-pass at speed
For all the criticism the art of hand-passing received after Donegal’s victory over Antrim, Kildare showed that moving the ball through the hands need not slow the game down. Moving at speed, a notable skill for a team with no shortage of big men, Kildare created overlaps in attack by quickly hand-passing across the line. Rather than just taking a flat line approach to the play the Lilywhites were innovative, drawing defenders onto the attacking line before punching a pass 5 metres or so ahead to an onrushing team-mate to open up the field. The dry conditions certainly helped but this proved a most effective tactic at opening up the defence on an otherwise uninformative day.
Kildare might have an improved defence
Stopping opponents from scoring was a massive problem for Kildare last year. Against Louth and Down, Kildare put up solid tallies on the scoreboard but were let down but a sieve-like defence. Wicklow only scored 5 points on Sunday, including just 1 point in the second half and even that came deep in injury time. On the face of it that would sound like a massive improvement in defence but honestly it’s too hard to tell if Kildare have improved a bit at the back. Wicklow simply offered nothing up front. Heaven forbid they draw Antrim in the qualifiers, it could be a record low-scoring encounter such was the ineptitude of their forwards. Kildare didn’t have to press hard to deny Wicklow scoring opportunities and weren’t tested at any point. For the purposes of this column, that lack of invention made for a very uninformative game. Learning that Wicklow won’t hang around long this summer isn’t exactly shocking, although their regression since 2009 is disappointing. I had hoped they would at least force Kildare to show their hand defensively but that never materialised.
Kildare’s attacking dominance wasn’t clear on the scoreboard for much of the game and that was squarely down to their failure to convert pressure into points. Wicklow’s defence wasn’t as hapless as the Garden county’s forwards but Kildare still had little difficultly creating chances. This was the rare example where flat-out bad shooting was to blame. There were some low percentage chances that probably shouldn’t have been taken but too many efforts from positions where a forward should be scoring were missed. In a league game in March that’s forgiveable but by May those sorts of mistakes shouldn’t be occurring. The wind was particularly strong but that can’t be blamed for slack efforts.
Wicklow are, if anything, worse than advertised. Nobody expected them to deliver a stiff challenge to Kildare but this was a pathetic showing up front. This was particularly disappointing given they scored 15-115 in 8 league games, albeit in Division 4. As previously mentioned, the most unfortunate result of this is how little it means we can learn about Kildare. The Lilywhites’ build-up play was certainly a highlight and will prove difficult for Meath to cope with in the next round. Even a modestly more accurate day should result in a comfortable win although probably not in a manner as convincing as their All Ireland quarter final victory over the Royals last year.