Gráinne McElwain: Kildare find their confidence and fortitude when it matters most

Lilywhites bring Championship intensity to early spring encounter to bounce back from League woes

Gráinne McElwain

Gráinne McElwain

Grainne is a columnist with The Irish News. She is a sports broadcaster with experience working with Sky Sports, TG4, RTÉ, BBC and Eir Sport.

Jack Sargent of Kildare celebrates after scoring a late point to win the game as Gavin Fogarty of Wicklow reacts during the Leinster GAA Football Senior Championship quarter-final
Jack Sargent of Kildare celebrates after scoring a late point to win the game as Gavin Fogarty of Wicklow reacts during the Leinster Senior Football Championship quarter-final (Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE)

What is confidence? There are thousands of articles online explaining what this is.

An overlap exists as to what the concepts of self-confidence, self-efficacy and self-esteem represent.

The psychologist Albert Bandura in 1977 defined self-efficacy “as an individual’s beliefs about their capacity to influence the events in their own lives”.

Bénabou & Tirole in 2002 described self-confidence “as simply believing in oneself” while Nathaniel Branden feels self-esteem is made up of two distinct components: self-efficacy or the confidence we have in our ability to cope with life’s challenges, and self-respect, the belief that we are deserving of happiness, love, and success (1969).

I’m not sure what Bandura, Branden, Bénabou and Tirole would have made of Kildare and their take on confidence. Laois Hire O’Moore Park was my destination last Sunday for my first day out with GAAGO this season.

It did not feel like the Championship and the weather helped make the mood more like the start of the league, than that of a knock out Leinster match.

I was there to present a double header, first up was Wicklow and Kildare and then Louth and Wexford.

They were two very enjoyable games, particularly Kildare and Wicklow as with more composure and experience, Wicklow could have, perhaps should have, beaten Kildare.

Kildare lost all their games in Division Two and were relegated to Division Three in the Allianz league.

They had problems with their kickouts, their defence and their scoring efficiency during the League, only managing four goals and conceding seven.

Nine players had left the panel from the team that ran Dublin close in the Leinster semi-final last year, either through injury or taking time off. The question everyone was asking pre-match was what had Kildare learnt in the last three weeks and what change would we see from them?

The consensus at half-time was very little. They lost midfielder Kevin Flynn to a straight red card, Daniel Flynn and Mick O’Grady went off injured and despite having wind advantage in the first half, they decided to use a slow laborious build up rather than kicking the ball long and direct into their forwards.

Kerry great Marc Ó Sé and seven-time Dublin All-Ireland winner Paddy Andrews were with me on the sideline and at half-time they were very critical of what we had witnessed from the Lilywhites. Marc spoke of the lack of leadership from Kildare and that players on the team were “hiding out there.”

I’m not sure if Glenn Ryan has ever referenced the former First Lady of the White House, Michelle Obama’s quote “Your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude” but Kildare did change in the second half and that leadership that had been missing, suddenly appeared.

Niall Kelly and Kevin Feely were immense but old habits die hard and with five minutes of added injury time remaining, and Kildare winning by three points, it looked like they had thrown it all away.

The way Kildare’s luck had run, it seemed like an inevitable way for them to exit the Sam Maguire competition. Giving away possession at a crucial time by Eoin Doyle resulted in a black card for him and a goal from a penalty by Wicklow substitute Oscar McGraynor.

Matt Nolan’s effort to the open goal was commendable but composure was needed here and unfortunately for the Garden county they didn’t execute this.

We have been critical about Kildare fading out in the last quarter of games but this time, there was a different ending.

Kildare didn’t fall apart. They showed leadership and composure at the correct time with Jack Sargent making the right decision to fist the ball over the bar and with it secure their place in the Leinster semi-final against Louth in two weeks.

You could see the relief on Glenn Ryan’s face and in interviews with the players at the end of the game.

Darragh Kirwan, the Kildare full-forward, spoke about how the criticism of the team has been “brutal and it hits you on all angles, media, your local town, college, lads in work. It has been very tough but we’ve stuck together, management and players so hopefully this is the kick start of some sort of progression we believe is in the group”.

There is lots for them to improve. They will know that. In terms of attack, defence and their scoring efficiency, it left a lot to be desired at times but they got a much needed win.

It remains to be seen what way this win will affect their confidence and if it helps to unite their self-esteem, self-confidence and self- efficacy going forward.

Perhaps, they would do well to look within and remind themselves what their eight-year-old self would tell them. My eight-year-old tells me all the time that he is the best at everything in his class and no one is better than him.

Instead of listening to the outside noise, maybe it’s time to channel that eight-year-old voice within.