Kevin O’Brien reports from Croke Park

CIAN O’NEILL CONVEYED his annoyance at the way his comments were misinterpreted by some media outlets in the build-up to Kildare’s Leinster SFC semi-final defeat to Dublin.

Cian O’Neill looks on during Kildare’s Leinster SFC semi-final defeat to Dublin.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

O’Neill’s “we are going to win that match” remark following their quarter-final replay win against Longford was picked up by some as a bold prediction.

But the Kildare manager was responding to a question about whether they would accept a moral victory against All-Ireland champions.

One newspaper ran the headline: “‘We are going to win that match’ – Cian O’Neill predicts Kildare will beat Dublin” while another outlet claimed the manager “believes his side can upset the odds and beat All-Ireland champions Dublin.”

Speaking after their 0-26 to 0-11 loss to the Dubs, O’Neill called the coverage “sly” and “devious”.

“It was portrayed totally differently,” he said. “It’s moving away from the game here but I was very disappointed with that because I hear often time and time again about the media and how they struggle with access for managers or players.

“I think that’s a perfect example of why that access has been withdrawn and pulled back over the years.

“There was three or four of you who were maybe in that room and the question was, ‘Now that you’ve progressed to next week are you going to Croke Park to take the defeat and then get ready for the qualifiers or are you going to try and win the match?’

“And I said, ‘We’re going to beat Dublin. We’re going up to beat Dublin, we’re not going with any inferiority complex.’ But the question wasn’t referenced and obviously the rest of my answer wasn’t referenced. That’s disappointing.”

Cormac Costello takes on Mick O’Grady.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Moorefield club man continued: “It was sly, it was devious and I suppose there was an element of instant gratification to try and get a headline and I’m sure it did. But you know, what do you do?

“I try to be honest when I answer questions and really what I was saying was, ‘We are going up to win the match – we’re not going up to accept defeat – and then see where it takes us.’

“I think anyone who was in the room knows exactly how that was conducted, that interview. I’m disappointed but it didn’t affect our preparations. It probably gave people plenty to talk about during the week, but swings and roundabouts,” he added.

“Ye will have less people talking to ye, ‘ye’ obviously being a generic point there before I get rattled on that one as well, if that keeps on happening.”

After falling six points behind in the opening 13 minutes, Kildare responded well to go in just four behind at the break. The Lilywhites were denied by two good saves from Stephen Cluxton – one on Ben McCormack in the opening half and another from Keith Cribbin in the 50th minute.

McCormack flashed another green flag opportunity wide shortly after half-time and O’Neill bemoaned those missed chances afterwards.

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“If you’re going to beat Dublin, it’s very difficult to outscore them on points with the way they set up and how efficient and ruthless they are,” he said. “So I think you need to take every chance you can get.

“I think if you remember two years ago in the Leinster final, we had a critical one on one chance and that would have brought it back to three in the second half. And then they kicked on towards the end.

“Today, we created three chances, probably four, but three gilt-edged chances. But didn’t get anything of any of them. Sometimes you might get a point off them and there’s a bit of positivity.

“But when we had them, we didn’t take them. It’s great that we were creating them – because we weren’t earlier in the year – but you need to take them. And I thought it would have made the game more competitive.

Stephen Cluxton saves a shot from Keith Cribbin.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

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“Because we were 12-7 down when we had the second chance. And all of the sudden that would have been 0-12 to 1-7. And all of a sudden it’s, ‘Jesus, we have a real match on here.”

Adam Tyrrell was Kildare’s best forward on show while McCormack had Mick Fitzsimons on the ropes at stages, but they struggled to create scoring chances outside of that pair.  

They’ll be in today’s round 2 qualifier draw and require two victories in the backdoor system to replicate last year’s run to the Super 8s.

“You probably can’t understand how there can be positives from a 15-point defeat but there actually were in my mind,” O’Neil said.

“In the 11th and 12th minute, we were 7-1 down. The way we battled back to four at half time – and that was with that goal chance. Full credit to the players. Because this is a truly outstanding Dublin team playing at home,

“And they’re so familiar with the environment. That was a really good thing, I thought we kicked some really good individual scores, I thought some players really caused Dublin players problems. And that’s a really positive thing because they’re good going both ways.

“And it just goes to show you when you play as a team…that was our downfall in the second half, we went a little bit individual. We lost our discipline and our game plan.

“But when we did play as a team, I thought we worked the ball quite well. But we were exposed a small bit and ultimately that’s where they hurt us.”

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