Paul Geaney has given a thumbs-up to GAA director general Páraic Duffy’s football championship reform, insisting Kerry are not afraid of playing more games.
Duffy has proposed the All-Ireland quarter-finals be replaced by three round robin games, which would include a home game for each of the last-eight teams.
Cork have questioned the recommendation but Kerry have wholeheartedly endorsed it and Geaney maintains the county have nothing to fear from extra games.
“There’s a home game and an away game and a game in between as well so that’s interesting. I’d love to play a big home game in Killarney. We have Munster championships there but there’s always a cushion that if you do lose you have another shot but it would be great to have something like a knock-out game (there) at some stage or a final group game as such where things really matter.
“It would be great to see some sort of a change in the format because as it is we had four games in the championship this year and spent eight months preparing for the four of those.
“It can be frustrating when it’s four games of serious football and that’s it in a nutshell. Your whole year is down to four games and they’re gone like that. It would be great to get a few more games.”
Having faced Clare twice and Tipperary once this past season, Kerry were deemed to have had an easy ride in this year’s championship. All-Star Geaney is of the mind they can only play who’s put in front of them but he’s a critic of the current format. He maintains it does Kerry little favour.
“I don’t think it does. I feel as a Kerry player I’d be confident going into every game to beat opposition and maybe in Ulster there’s a lot more slogging to get through to a final and then a (All-Ireland) quarter-final and semi-final because of the nature of the hits and the nature of the training and the games. But if you get through Ulster without injury you’re in a great place because you’ve had all the tough battles and mentally you could only be in a great place having got through that. I think we’re at a disadvantage in that sense. Mentally, you can’t really feel totally satisfied unless you’re winning tight games by a point or two so it’s a disadvantage from that point.”
It would have been the hope for many in Geaney’s native Dingle to see him and Mark O’Connor line out together in the green and gold. It may still happen but as of now O’Connor is a Geelong player in the AFL. Geaney can only wish him the best.
“As club men, we’re delighted for him because it’s what he’s had on his mind the last couple of years. He’s an extremely talented guy, he’s hard working. He’s had a knee injury the last couple of years and every single day he’s been in the gym rehabbing it and it was heartbreaking to see him get the setbacks after he was doing everything right. In one sense, it’s a huge loss for our club and we would have expected him to go on and play for Kerry but you never know how things are going to pan out. You can never guarantee a minor will go on and play senior football. Many guys have gone before and been brilliant minors and some of the best minors around and not gone on to play senior level.
“Hopefully, he’ll go out to Australia, get his knee sorted and make it. If he doesn’t, hopefully he’ll come back to us, he’ll have a healthy body and physically more mature and know everything about his body. If it doesn’t work out, he’ll be back in two years, at 21. If it does work out for him, it will be great for him and hopefully that’s the way it pans out.”
At the same time, Geaney accepts Declan Quill’s argument that clubs deserve compensation. He despairs at the thought Tommy Walsh was away for so long – “he was gone for five years and probably five of his best years... it was just too long.” As Kerry’s brightest youth are being plucked, he says: “The college bursaries might help. I suppose there are nearly 10 or 15 college bursaries given out to guys. They’re handy – I got one, they’re between €500-€1,000 – but they’re not what keeps a guy in college. It’s handy pocket money but if you put that money together and gave it to four of the better guys, four of the best guys that possibly would be leaving you, it might incentivise them to stay. If you gave maybe €5,000 to the top two or three, it might help to keep them around.
“The main thing, I suppose, for Kerry people in themselves is that it makes it such a carrot that players don’t want to leave. Maybe past players getting involved in coaching in Kerry in their clubs, maybe just getting more of a tie between the younger guys with Kerry and with the club scene so that it’s harder for them to actually leave. Maybe that’s the way but on the other side of it I don’t think we can do anything about it with the Australian clubs coming in, really.
“They can go to England as well and take a guy from a soccer club but it’s just our game is closely related so it’s easier to transition.”
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