Seán O’Shea may only be 20 but he’s clued in enough to know what’s expected of Kerry this year irrespective of them losing so many veterans.
The retirements of Kieran Donaghy, Anthony Maher, Darran O’Sullivan and Donnchadh Walsh removed 13 All-Ireland medals from the set-up.
Consider Fionn Fitzgerald and Barry John Keane are also no longer part of the panel and only 17 Celtic Crosses remain in the group — between them Killian Young (four) and David Moran (two) have six of them while Tommy Walsh has his from 2009.
O’Shea knows how it looks but he can tell you how it feels too — a new beginning under a new regime.
“New management coming in and stuff, fellas are kinda back to square one.
“Kieran, Anthony, Donnchadh, Darran all kinda going within a month or two of each other, it’s a lot of experience to be losing but it gives a chance for younger fellas and those who are 26, 27, 28 to step up and take the leadership of it. It’s very unfortunate to lose those fellas, especially around the dressing room, but other fellas are pushing on and they’ll assume those roles.”
The goal remains the same, though, even if the age profile has dropped considerably — Young, Moran, Walsh, Shane Enright are the thirtysomethings — and Dublin are Dublin.
Kerry, says O’Shea, are still Kerry too. “For our supporters and players alike, if you don’t have an All-Ireland at the end of the year it’s not a successful year no matter whether you win, the league or a Munster championship. That’s the benchmark, that’s the gauge for Kerry football and it has been forever really and it probably won’t change either.”
Even if it was truncated by Kerry standards, O’Shea’s senior debut season was a promising one as he demonstrated how comfortable he was given free-taking responsibilities. Having Maurice Fitzgerald mentoring him for another season will provide more assurance.
“I’ve been taking frees all the way up along with all the teams I was playing with since I was a young age, so it’s probably something I’m used to, just comes from practice and repetition at home.”
The Kenmare man recognises strength and conditioning as his biggest challenge although the appointment of Jason McGahan should provide benefits.
“That would probably be the biggest step up from minor and U21 to senior, the physicality of it. Fellas are obviously a lot stronger, fitter. One of the main things I found was that you have less time on the ball to make your decision. Fellas are closing you down quicker, and with more tactical awareness as well the time on the ball and physicality would be the main things.”