Bryan Sheehan says comparisons between David Clifford and Con O’Callaghan are unfair and inaccurate, and hopes Kerry supporters will give their young players the time to develop at their own pace.
With Dublin pressing hard to equal their four-in-a-row of All-Ireland titles achieved in 1981, patience may not be a virtue much in evidence in the Kingdom this summer.
However, Sheehan believes Clifford, Sean O’Shea and Micheal Burns are faced with a very different situation to Dublin’s Young Footballer of the Year Con O’Callaghan.
“It could well happen but whereas O’Callaghan had the benefit of experience players around him with Dublin, Kerry have brought all these young fellas in together at the one time. Con was one of these fellas surrounded by Dean Rock and all these seasoned campaigners around him.
“In the League, there was a lot of new fellas in the (Kerry) team and if you could slot them in alongside the senior fellas, it’d be a great campaign and I believe that’s where we’ll see the best of David Clifford. I don’t think there will be pressure on them to perform.
“It’s a big year for David, but people need to be patient too and give this fella time,” said the five-time All-Ireland winner.
“I thought he was progressing all the time in the league, and with all the talk about him Sean O’Shea was able to get on with things under the radar. I think he will be a big player for Kerry as well, and Micheal Burns impressed me in the league too.”
Sheehan, who retired in November after 14 years as a senior inter-county footballer, admits playing with Clifford “would have been nice”, but he doesn’t have too many regrets with five All-Ireland titles, nine Munsters and three league crowns secured in a decorated career.
He could have played on for one more year, but his 32-year-old body was beginning to tell him otherwise.
“It’s always a difficult decision, but I tore my hamstring four times last year and played very little football. My body was beginning to talk to me.
“It’s gone to such a level of fitness now and I have a lot of years on the clock, so the prognosis was if you go back you have one more year – but you’d have to spend three, four months in the gym alone just to get yourself right.
“I weighed all that up, and probably I wasn’t getting as much game time as I’d have liked.
“If you’re putting in all that commitment and sacrifice just to get back to that level and maybe not getting the game-time you want, I felt the contribution I had given was there.”
With a son born in February, there hasn’t been much time for Sheehan to missed it so far but knows it will be different when the championship swings around.
“Going to Croke Park, that’s when it will get tough because you’ll be thinking ‘I know where they are now, what they’re doing, what they’re talking about’.
“So, I think that will be difficult, but I have made my decision and I’m happy with it.”
* Bryan Sheehan and Owen Mulligan will be on hand to give their thoughts and tackle all the big issues of the 2018 GAA Football Championship with their exclusive columns on Paddy Power News.