KERRY boss Jack O’Connor batted away questions about the future of some of his veteran players in the aftermath of Saturday’s soul-destroying All-Ireland SFC quarter-final defeat to Down.
The loss has cast a shadow over the future of a Kerry team which has brought glory to the county over the past decade. But O’Connor wasn’t in the mood to contemplate big decisions.
"Today isn’t the day to be talking about decisions. We’re just very disappointed. You need to let these things thaw a bit – it’s a bit raw at the moment," he said. "Let it thaw a bit and settle. Fellows can make up their minds then."
There is an expectation that Kerry will now enter a team-building phase, which may see stars in danger of losing their places, and this could precipitate a number of retirements.
Even O’Connor’s own future might be under a cloud – it’s his second time around as Kerry manager and he may not have the enthusiasm for the rebuilding operation.
Despite the pain of the defeat, O’Connor was able to acknowledge the "vibrancy" of Down’s performance, and was adamant his team knew they would be in for a major test from the Ulster side.
"They were coming into this game with good form, good forwards, and plenty of energy," he said. "They were really going to test us, and we needed things to go right for us. In many ways, it’s not a surprising result.
"We were coming into battle without our full army for starters, which wasn’t a help.
"There were a few factors – the fact that Down were coming into the game in a nice position.
"They had three or four games in the last month and the break didn’t suit us. They obviously got a fast start but the (disallowed Kerry) goal was a critical call. There must have been 20 of those handpasses in the game, and to call it – I prophesied at the start of the year when that rule was brought in that it would cost a team a big game.
"I think that was a crucial call. I’m not saying it cost us the game, but it would have been very interesting because we had fought our way back after a bad start."
The losses of suspended duo Tomás O Sé and Paul Galvin had clearly hurt Kerry badly.
"We were trying to put a brave face on it, but you’re talking about a current Player of the Year and a former Player of the year," said O’Connor. Any team is going to miss them, aren’t they?