Meyler optimistic on Kingdom return

EIGHTEEN years after his first incarnation as Kerry hurling supremo, John Meyler returns to familiar ground this weekend.

Meyler helped Kerry pen their own chapter during the hurling revolution of the 1990s, the high point being their seismic Munster championship success against Waterford in 1993. Since then Kerry have languished in the doldrums, but Meyler has still returned to fill the role of hurling evangelist once more. Sunday’s Waterford Crystal Cup tie against UL in Austin Stack Park marks the start of his second coming.

“Sunday’s the start of it for our hurling this year as we’ve only been able to do basic indoor and weights work so far. I was asked to get involved with the Kerry U21s last year and I’m now on board with the seniors again. I saw young players last year who were enthusiastic and committed. So I felt if I could marry them with the more senior players like Liam Boyle, Shane Brick and Tom Murnane, you could blend a team together.”

He’s been operating in Cork and Wexford since stepping down as Kerry manager in 1997, but Meyler never lost touch with the Kingdom hurling scene in the interim years, guiding Kilmoyley to a four-in-a-row of county titles between 2001 and 2004.

“I would know the Kerry club scene from day one since 1992 and I always felt there were hurlers there. Back in 92 we were in Division 2 and spent a season in Division 1 after. We were used to be beating the likes of Dublin and competing with teams. But in the last few years Kerry have dropped down which was very disappointing.”

Despite Kerry’s descent, there have been shoots of optimism in the last few seasons with progress at underage and colleges level. But Meyler believes the hurling structures in the county need refinement for sustained development.

“There have certainly been positives at underage level in recent years, but the problem is what happens to young fellas in Kerry after minor. Where is the structure to go on and play at a higher level? It was a good sign that a Kerry team competed in the Cork minor hurling leagues last season and that stood to them. The more teams you play and the more hard, competitive games you the better.”

Despite having a blueprint for the future, Meyler is mindful that senior improvements need to be more immediate. His prime 2010 target is that Kerry escape from the snare of Division 3 of the NHL.

“Getting out of Division 3 is our main objective. Kerry need to get to Division 2 where they can compete no problem. But it comes down to commitment which is the big challenge.

“It’s going to be a challenge but I’ve great time for the hurling people in Kerry.

“I often say they’re God-fearing people and they probably like their hurling more than many other counties in that pocket in North Kerry. The club is the main thing, the rivalry is so intense that it reminds me of what Cork was like in the 1980s with Glen Rovers, Blackrock, St Finbarr’s and Midleton. The challenge is to get all these guys into the county dressing-room and have them singing off the same hymn sheet. I’m looking forward to it.”

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