Even though he has always been a faithful servant to the divisional cause, Jack Sherwood owes a debt of gratitude to East Kerry.
The 28-year old was at centre-back during the division’s run to last year’s county semi-final, their involvement in the latter stages of the championship putting him back into the shop window at exactly the same time as the new Kerry management were beginning to draw up a panel for 2019.
Sherwood admits he had made peace with the belief that his inter-county days being behind him. When Peter Keane took the reins last October, it had been nearly two and a half years since he’d been cut from the Kerry camp. It was even further back to the last bit of game-time he saw in green and gold, that being a 10-minute cameo at the end of the drawn 2015 Munster final.
He was neither expecting nor holding out for a second spin on the Kingdom carousel.
“No, I’d written all that off, to be honest. I’d no interest, I thought it was done,” said Sherwood of his inter-county career.
“I was happy enough to be playing with East Kerry and the club football with Firies. It was grand, a different lease of life. You could go and play, take training as it comes, and then go off and enjoy yourself as well.
And unlike his time under Éamonn Fitzmaurice, Sherwood was anything but a bit-part player for Kerry this summer. He started both of their Munster Championship outings and featured in all bar one game thereafter. Moreover, he exerted significant influence — alongside another comeback kid, Tommy Walsh — when sprung from the bench at half time during their semi-final struggle against Tyrone.
“For the older players, the county championship is definitely important in terms of getting a second chance,” he said.
“Tommy [Walsh] had a great year last year, as well. I’m close enough to him, we used to live together, so we were happy enough to go back in and get involved again with Kerry.
“Hopefully a few more fellas can make good opportunity of the county championship given the way it’s run off. If you’re on a roll of playing well, you’ll keep playing well. The back-to-back games really make fellas shine because their performances are coming together and at the right time given [that] Kerry selectors are looking on.”
Having been stationed at centre-back and midfield for Kerry this summer, Sherwood finds himself even further back the field for East Kerry. He’s had no option but to adapt to life at number three.
“I played the first game at centre-back, but we subsequently came up against a few big men in Kieran Donaghy (Austin Stacks) and Tommy Walsh (Kerins O’Rahilly’s), and then we rolled onto Paul Geaney (Dingle), so we needed somebody back there with more size and presence than probably being used to the position.
“It was no problem. I’m just doing my job and happy enough inside there. We seem to have solidified a lot, at the back, in the last two games.”
No doubt but his full-back education has been helped by having the opportunity to test himself against one David Clifford every Tuesday and Friday evening at East Kerry training.
“He makes a fool out of everyone and there’s nothing you can do. He’s playing very well and he amazes you at training sometimes. It’s great to be around him. Dara Roche is a tricky-enough customer, too.”
Clifford and plenty more in Jerry O’Sullivan’s panel have won county minor and U21 championship medals in the East Kerry jersey in recent years. For Sherwood, his pockets hang empty.
“Zero — I’ve won nothing with East Kerry. They’ve everything, I’ve nothing. The Bishop Moynihan Cup, everybody wants it. But it’s hard to come by. East Kerry don’t have that many so it’d be great to try and get it over the line.
“I thought after losing the Kilcummin players for this year, there were five on last year’s starting team, that [we might struggle] as that is a huge void to fill, but the younger lads have come in and really stepped up.”