‘NEWBRIDGE or nowhere’ may have been the standout soundbite of the summer last season and it probably aptly sums up the immediate future for the loser of this Saturday’s spicy All-Ireland Qualifier meeting between hosts Kildare and Tyrone at St Conleth’s Park.
Either the Lilywhites or the Red Hands will face into a bleak six months without inter-county action if they come out on the wrong end of the result of this weekend’s Round Three Qualifier in the compact Leinster ground.
And Tyrone boss Mickey Harte is acutely aware of Kildare’s impressive track record when traversing the scenic route over the years, which marks them out as a dangerous backdoor specialist. He says though it’s a tag which could also be applied to his own team who themselves are all too familiar with this road back into the main Championship draw.
“They seem to be a good Qualifier team.
“If you look back at their period under Kieran McGeeney before, their record was always very strong.
“A bit like ourselves when they get knocked out of the provincial Championships, they are able to regroup and pick things up in the Qualifiers. So it will be a huge challenge for us.”
Tyrone safely overcame a potentially tricky hurdle last Saturday when accounting for Longford at Pearse Park, two early goals from Cathal McShane providing a healthy cushion which the battling hosts never looked like reeling in.
Harte was pleased with the outcome but knows that Kildare represent a significant step up in terms of quality and intensity.
“In status terms you’d always like your first game to be one you’d believe you can win without having to be at full tilt.
“It doesn’t always happen like that and you can draw out a tough team straight away.
I suppose a game against Longford was one we were expected to win but we also had to give them great respect because of the record they have in Qualifiers too. They had beaten serious teams in the past like Derry, Monaghan, Down so we had to be wary of them and we had to play well to beat them.
“ This now will be another step up again when we play Kildare. But you expect things to get harder as you progress. If we do come through this game at the weekend we are only going to face a harder test again still. So it will be an upward trend in terms of the quality of the opposition if we want to work out way through the Qualifiers.”
FULL STORY IN THURSDAY’S PAPER