Kerry manager Peter Keane believes his young players thrived on taking on football’s ‘top dogs’ in Tralee Saturday night.
The Kingdom edged a classic National League encounter by a point at a packed Austin Stack Park to make it three wins out of three. And while Keane is learning more and more about his young tyros over the past number of weeks, he recognised that his players were extra keen to judge their progress tonight against the All Ireland champions.
“The priority for us is to learn. But you are still talking about a team going for five in a row in the championship which has also won five of the last six Leagues. Everyone wants to test yourself against whoever is the top dog. And our lads want to test themselves.”
Keane described the atmosphere in Tralee as “electric” and said the players and management could feel the energy of the crowd. Kerry are joint top with six Division 1 points after the win but Keane insisted: “I said I wasn’t that concerned about the league, that it wasn’t a big issue for me. The thing was to put a bit of structure in place and find out about fellas.
"But fellas have been given an opportunity to put up their hand and some of them have certainly taken that.”
He didn’t subscribe to the view that defeating Dublin was especially significant though: “We beat Tyrone and you could have said the same thing. But then they got a dressing from Mayo and you wonder did that take the gloss off that victory?”
Dublin boss Jim Gavin – who scoffed at reports that Jason Sherlock had ever left the management set-up – also described the Tralee thriller as a “great game to be involved in.
“To be five points down, and a man down, we finished really strong, which is very pleasing. Our trajectories are very different, we are only four weeks back and Kerry have a lot of work done. The fitness levels would be very different. We could have come away with a point, the desire that was there, and their drive was great to see. We’ve faced challenges like this before and responded to them.”