The Kerry minor footballers have been viewed through a slightly skewed lens, says selector Tommy Griffin.
Instead of the constant focus on David Clifford and the three remaining survivors from the 2016 class, due credit should be given to those enrolled for the 2017 season.
The Galway minor hurlers were generally written off at the outset of the championship, largely because they had only one player from the 2016 team still involved. The figure is higher for Kerry and while Griffin knows full well the importance of Clifford, Michael Potts, Diarmuid O’Connor, and Brian Friel having been involved in last year’s final, he’s not the least bit worried about the 11 others who’ll start their first All-Ireland this weekend. The latter group, he stresses, have brought a “freshness and energy” to the set-up.
Niall Donohue, a livewire wing-back on the St Brendan’s team which successfully defended their Hogan Cup title in the spring, has seamlessly slotted into the Kerry defence, Barry Mahony has been excellent at midfield, while Fiachra Clifford (0-8), Donal O’Sullivan (3-20), and his namesake Donnchadh (1-7) have held their own in the David Clifford led-attack.
“The first question a lot of people ask of an underage GAA team is, ‘how many have you from last year’, and judgments are often made from there,” said Griffin.
“That isn’t always the greatest thing to judge a side on because new players in a set-up can improve things with the freshness and energy they bring. The new players this year have contributed, have led from the front and it’s good to see a lot of the players who were on the extended panel last year making the step up this year so well.”
The Kingdom chase a record fourth consecutive All-Ireland minor crown this weekend. Tom O’Sullivan and Brian Begley, from the 2014 minor winning side, have already made their senior championship debuts. The 2014 minor goalkeeper and 2016 captain Sean O’Shea, meanwhile, were on the bench against Mayo during the recent All-Ireland semi-final. The production line is strong, but Griffin is keen to stress that minor success far from guarantees senior silverware.
“People are overhyping the minor success in terms of having an instant impact on senior level,” he said.
“Winning All-Irelands at minor are a great accomplishment, but there is still night and day between both the standard of minor and senior level. With regard to the minor success we have had in recent years, I think the standard of training is higher now at all levels, including college and club. Lots of things have been put in place with the development squads and it’s all turning out to be of benefit to everyone.”
Meanwhile, All-Ireland minor hurling champions Galway dominate the team of the year, with six young Tribesmen selected, including Sean Bleahane and Jack Canning. Cork sharpshooter Brian Turnbull is one of five Cork players listed.
Electric Ireland Minor Star hurling team of the year:
D Fahy (Galway); C Killeen (Galway), S O’Leary Hayes (Cork), D Morrissey (Galway); A McCarthy (Clare), J Keating (Cork), L Gannon (Dublin); D Connery (Cork), C Fahey (Galway); B Roche (Cork), S Currie (Dublin), A Mullen (Kilkenny); S Bleahane (Galway), J Canning (Galway), B Turnbull (Cork).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved