TWELVE MONTHS AGO Cian O’Neill stood in O’Connor Park surveying the wreckage of Kildare’s Leinster campaign.

He wasn’t trying to process the pain of defeat after the final whistle yesterday in Tullamore, a rip-roaring encounter with Longford culminating in a draw after extra-time.

But there was still a sense of regret in the Kildare camp that they hadn’t closed out a game where they were in front by seven points during normal time and by three points during extra-time.

With a replay to plan for next Sunday, O’Neill’s message to Kildare fans was to keep the faith.

“No-one’s more disappointed than us. Stick with us. Last year, it would have been very easy to walk away and desert us after Carlow and look at the great journey we went on.

“It probably feels like a defeat, after Wicklow was the same thing. But the performances are very close to being significantly better. A few execution issues, a bit of decision-making, and you could see a totally different team but it’s up to us to make sure those changes are made coming into next week.

“A titanic battle. Both teams are going to be disappointed they didn’t come away with the win. They’re going to be disappointed and we had some really gilt-edged chances that we didn’t take, particularly in extra-time with two goal chances. Things to work on, things to improve upon but a titanic struggle.”

There was some relief for Kildare at the close of normal time as Longford pushed hard for a winner. They came close to achieving it as well but James McGivney’s long-range effort brushed against the upright and Kildare were able to clear with the full-time whistle then sounding.

James McGivney looks on as his late effort to win the game in normal time hits the post.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We were hoping it was swinging out, they were hoping it was swinging in. It hit the post and came out and look, I think it would have been very unfortunate for us because I think we dominated large portions of the match.

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“But we got what we deserved because we didn’t take advantage of it. You can’t afford to do that in championship. You saw that last night – Mayo had far more chances and didn’t execute them and got caught in a very tight game again.

“Something like that could have happened to us today. But we finished very strong and we were unlucky not to get out of it with a sneaky win.”

O’Neill revealed the reasoning behind the withdrawal of Kildare attackers Adam Tyrrell and Ben McCormack, who both had been motoring well up front.

“A couple of lads came off with knocks and bangs, Adam came off with an injury at the end, everyone else was just fatigue. Ben was a decision we didn’t want to make but we felt we had to, he was on a yellow and then got a tick just before half time. It was just too risky, it was danger territory.”

The focus will switch to next Sunday’s replay with the victors having an assignment with Dublin to prepare for the following weekend and the losers set for a qualifier clash. A hectic schedule awaits.

“It’s not ideal but what would be less ideal is being out of the Leinster Championship and that’s what you need to use as a positive going into next week,” said O’Neill.

“I don’t think either team would even consider thinking about the next weekend. We just have to get our act together and get through next week and see where that takes us.

“It’s going to be tough, definitely. We both used a lot of bodies there because we had to. That’s going to be a big part of it this week. Handling the turnaround and then putting in an equally big performance next Sunday.”

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