On the basis that former manager Pat O’Shea and Laois boss John Sugrue are unavailable or not interested and potential candidates for the future like Declan O’Sullivan and Seamus Moynihan aren’t ready, the shortlist to be the next Kerry football manager is just that — short.
Peter Keane (Listry, 7/4)
Pros: On the basis of the county board’s own succession planning, is the candidate being groomed for the step-up. Has coached the last two Kerry All-Ireland MFC winning sides — albeit with a strong hand — and right back to 2010/11 guided his native St Mary’s in Caherciveen to county and All-Ireland Club junior titles.
Impressively, took Legion to a first county SFC final in 69 years in 2015. Has handled many of the young starlets Kerry are hanging their future on. Already has Tommy Griffin as part of his minor management.
Cons: A first foray into senior inter-county management. Keane won’t need telling that a dressing room of teenagers is a night-versus-day difference in vibe and approach to a senior set-up.
Would require a proven coaching sidekick like Donie Buckley as part of the ticket.
Jack O’Connor (Dromid, 2/1)
Pros: Been there, done that. Twice. Like Keane, has also dealt with a number of Kerry’s new green wave as minor and U21 manager and remains arguably the best manager in the county to prep a team and set it up for a specific opponent or game.
It’s also a completely different dressing room now from his last campaign in charge in 2012.
Cons: Don’t go back, they say. Those looking to pick holes in his suitability for a third term will point to the manner of the U21/20 losses in the last two All-Ireland semi-finals to Galway and Kildare.
Maurice Fitzgerald (St Mary’s, 10/3)
Pros: Legendary status within the county, and brought that sprinkle of stardust from inside the white line to outside it by coaching his St Mary’s side to an All-Ireland Club IFC title two years ago.
A selector under Éamonn Fitzmaurice this season.
Cons: Would he really want to go from selector to banisteoir? Perhaps. Workwise, has just been appointed principal of Coláiste na Sceilge in Caherciveen.
Diarmuid Murphy (Dingle, 5/1)
Pros: Shrewd tactically, and an astute sideline reader of the game in real time.
Vast experience from six seasons as a selector under Jack O’Connor and Éamonn Fitzmaurice, who said in 2016: “I fully expect him to be wearing a bainisteoir bib before long.”
Has been working with members of Kerry’s extended panel this season.
Cons: Hasn’t been the front-of-house manager yet. Again, would need to hitch his wagon to a proven coach.
May not be box office like Moynihan, Fitzgerald, or O’Sullivan, but four Celtic Crosses is hardly something to be sniffing at either.
Liam Kearns (ex-Austin Stacks, 6/1)
Pros: Has had progressive terms with limited resources in Limerick (U21 and senior) and Tipperary, leading the latter to a first All-Ireland semi-final in over 80 years in 2016. Has done the club circuit too, including a brief though unsuccessful spell in charge of Rathmore in Kerry.
Cons: Has been out of Kerry football, in the main, since his playing days with Austin Stacks. Whether he retains the gravitas at home to beat off the other candidates is doubtful.
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