The National League final defeat could be the best thing that ever happened to this Kerry team. The lads will have learned more from that than they would have if they won and I mean that in a good way.
You have players coming through for the last couple of years that played minor for three, four, five years and they’re only used to going to winning at Croke Park. That bit of hurt they got from losing to Mayo final will only push them on further.
I remember when I started myself in the set-up and the difference from minor to senior is frightening, it’s a massive step up and in Kerry you don’t get much time if you’re not producing.
The League has been a great learning curve for this young team. They performed very well for most of the games. You certainly didn’t look at any of the team saying: ‘Jesus, he’s not up to that level’.
In the Dublin game, it was really great to see youth coming in there and cutting their teeth in a Championship environment with 12,000 people packing out Tralee. They stood up to the Dubs as well, so even better!
Defensively, Kerry had a great structure and we saw in the League games. They set up their teams depending on who they were playing, which is really clever. If you asked Peter Keane at the start of the year if he wanted to be in the League final, I reckon he’d have said “no”. He would have wanted to stay in Division 1 and try out new players.
From Peter’s side, he has a connection from the minors as well and that means he knows the calibre of player that he needs to be successful.
Dublin may be derailed by five-in-a-row talk
If you’re going to go toe to toe with Dublin in an All-Ireland final, you need legs. Our young panel definitely have that. Everything is going to be about the Dubs this year – the whole thing.
Any game they play, the microscope is going to be on them. That’s a great thing for Kerry.
The pressure is on, but Jim Gavin knows that he has a panel of 26 or 27 players and if someone isn’t going well, there’s plenty to replace them with.
Plus, you add in that Rory O’Carroll back now and I presume Diarmuid Connolly will be back as well -they’re two massive additions.
The gap has closed though, teams are realising that you need to set out your stall at the start of the year and go man for man with Dublin.
You’re probably looking at Kerry, Mayo, Galway, Tyrone and Donegal as challengers.
People keep saying it gets harder every year for them and they might take their eye off it a bit. They won’t though because there is always someone else that’ll take their jersey straightaway.
Kerry want the real Rebels
We need Cork to be really testing Kerry in Munster Championship to see what we have in the tank.
We need them to be the Cork of old, where you never got anything easy and it was always a 50/50 game.
You grow up in Kerry you look at Munster finals (I’ve won 10), Cork v Kerry was just amazing and they take on a life of their own. We crave those battles again.
You must be tested in the provincial championship before you go into the Super 8s, because if you look at the lads in the North or in Connacht, they’ll definitely have one or two big games before they come into the last eight.
Hopefully, the Cork lads will be sick of hearing they’re not good enough. A lot of eyes are going to be on the Munster final to see what Cork team turn up (if they get there). So hopefully, they might prove us all wrong.
They are the nearest thing to giving Kerry a game in the Munster Championship.