The All-Ireland finalists make their competitive debut of 2006 against UL on Saturday in the McGrath Cup and it seems Jack O’Connor will have a full squad to pick from.
Several regulars have high mileage up on the clock with Dara Ó Cinnéide, Seamus Moynihan, Darragh Ó Sé and Liam Hassett all in the veterans category. Ó Cinnéide in particular has been troubled by a back/hip injury in the past and, privately, he had hoped to take an extended winter break last season.
But the nature of an intensely-competitive Kerry panel ensured that he was back earlier than expected for the National League.
Defender Moynihan, midfielder Darragh Ó Sé and the hard-running Hassett are similarly facing into their 13th, 11th and 10th years of Kingdom championship football.
Walsh said he was unaware of what the trio’s future plans are, though Ó Cinnéide for one was a notable inclusion in the New York party.
“That’s an issue that wasn’t discussed on the team holiday and won’t be discussed until a player brings it up himself,” said Walsh.
“Players make up their own minds on these things and, as things stand, I don’t know what the plans of those lads are.
“Certainly, we all had a good holiday away and it was the last thing that we were thinking about.”
Walsh said O’Connor is likely to use much of his panel this weekend if Kerry overcome Limerick as expected to set up two games in 24 hours.
Meanwhile University of Limerick expressed annoyance over the unavailability of some inter-county players for the tie in Moyvane.
Barry Moran (Mayo) and Padraig McMahon (Laois) have been instructed to line out with their counties in the Connacht FBD league and O’Byrne Cup respectively, something that has upset UL football officer Colm O’Flaherty.
“I was led to believe when the third level colleges were invited into taking part in the various cup competitions, we had first call on our players.
“It makes a mockery of us taking part if we are not able to field full teams.
“We must now travel to take on Kerry next Saturday without two inter-county footballers.
“They were Munster and All-Ireland champions in 2004 and whatever chance we had of beating them with a full squad, we have none without Moran and McMahon. We are trying to promote football in the college but this isn’t helping us.”
It’s going to be a very busy weekend for the winners as they must travel to Dungarvan the following day to take on Waterford in round two.
“That will pose no problem for us if by chance we are successful on Saturday. With a big panel of players to choose from, it will afford us the opportunity to try out players,” says O’Flaherty.
“It’s ideal preparation for next month’s Sigerson Cup, but I would be far happier if we had a full panel to pick from for the Kerry game.”
With new manager Mikey Ned O’Sullivan not back from South Africa until today, Limerick have delayed naming their team to play Waterford IT in the opening round of the McGrath Cup until later in the week.
However, football board PRO Collette O’Grady confirmed last night that Stephen Kelly, Muiris Gavin and Owen Keating were non-starters because of long-standing injuries.
Also ruled out are dual players Conor Fitzgerald, Mike O’Brien and Mark O’Riordan, who have given their commitment to hurling boss Joe McKenna, while Stephen Lucey, yet to return to training, has not declared his intentions for the coming year.
John Quane, who gave 14 years service to the football team, has retired but the good news for Limerick is that Conor Mullane is back on the panel. It had been suggested he was anxious for a break from the county scene.
Meanwhile Tipperary will be without two key players for Sunday’s McGrath Cup quarter-final clash with Cork (Páirc Uí Rinn, 2pm).
Andrew Morrissey will be away on a pre-arranged holiday while Aidan Fitzgerald, brother of goalkeeper Paul, will be in the US attending a wedding. Team manager Seamus McCarthy is hopeful of having Niall Curran back. He missed last Sunday’s narrow win over Cork IT through illness but is expected to make a full recovery.
Kevin McMahon and Nicholas Murphy, both of whom were injured during Cork’s emphatic victory over Tralee IT on Monday night, are expected to be available for Sunday’s Tipperary clash.
“Kevin injured a finger while Nicholas complained of a hamstring strain, and we took them off as a precaution,” said team coach Billy Morgan.
“Noel O’Leary continues to make steady progress from a knee problem and is expected back in a week’s time. Anthony Lynch is currently taking a break from the game, but he too is expected to rejoin the panel shortly.”