Ballyduff hoping to reap reward of Kingdom revival

WHEN Ballyduff take to the field this Sunday in the Munster IHC final they will be rounding off a memorable year for hurling fans in the Kingdom.

After Kerry clinched their first Christy Ring title, as well as a remarkable hat-trick of All-Ireland B U21 titles, many of the plaudits went to manager John Meyler. The Wexford native had previously and somewhat successfully worked with Kerry in the 1990s and registered notable wins over Waterford and Clare. After spells managing Wexford and Kilmoyley he returned to coach the Kerry U21s to All-Ireland B victory against Roscommon in 2009.

Meyler was given full command of the senior set-up in 2010 and introduced a youthful panel.

“When I came in first they were in Division 3, Kerry hurling is much better than that. It had slipped over the past few years, it was just getting the team back to where it deserved to be,” he said.

“The main thing has been the players, and their attitude has changed over the last year or two. All I have done is facilitate the training. We have a younger type of player that has come in and they’re hungry for success.”

Kerry are undoubtedly blessed with a side that has time on its side, one of the reasons why Meyler has decided to postpone his team’s entry to the Munster SHC.

Shane Nolan, the current Christy Ring player of the year, is 21, Darragh O’Connell is 20 while Padraig Boyle is still only 17. At the back Paud Costello has shown class and maturity beyond his 22 years as Jason Bowler, Brian Murphy and Jason Leahy have also proved they can perform at senior level despite their tender years.

They are joined by an experienced mix of players, including the mercurial Boyle brothers, Mikey and Liam, Tom Murnane, John Griffin and John Egan to round off a team brimming with skill and strength.

And now Ballyduff, whose run in Munster has no doubt come from the player’s inter-county experience over the past two years, can reap further benefits.

“Ballyduff always had the capability to play in the Munster club championship. They have changed their attitude as well. They always had the players it was just a matter of getting the best out of them. I hope they go as far as they can and keep the lads hurling for as long as possible,” Meyler said.

“The standard of the county final this year between Ballyduff and Crotta moved on another gear. I think Ballyduff have brought it on another level, now it’s up to other clubs to move it on again and work hard to improve the standard in Kerry. If you want to win you’re going to have to work hard.”

Meyler has pinpointed where Kerry can improve for that 2012 season. “To win Division 2A, retain the Christy Ring and win the U21 B again and to also introduce another three or four players to the squad.

“We’ve set realistic targets this year, it’s going to be tough with Carlow, Westmeath, Down, Wicklow and Derry in Division 2A, but we have no business in the Munster championship if we can’t beat those teams. It’s vital that we have a really good league campaign and retain the Christy Ring.”

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