Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side had little or no difficulty in brushing aside Tipperary in their summer opener and they now face a side that finished two places below Tipp — and 24 below Kerry — in the spring’s rankings.
“Very simple when you have got James Walsh, Bryan Sheehan and David Moran breathing down your neck,” said the midfielder from Duagh. “The fellas with the jerseys at the moment are fighting to keep them and you had the likes of Darran [O’Sullivan] and Bryan coming.
“We seem to have a very strong panel. Every guy who has a shirt between 1-15 will be doing his utmost to keep that jersey so I don’t think Eamonn will have to say much to keep any of us motivated.”
Quantifying the merit of their 17-point win isn’t easy. Kerry led from pillar to post with just the margin of victory up for debate after a smooth passage through the first quarter against Peter Creedon’s side.
It may be that the benefits gained were intangibles. Maher spoke about the relief in getting back to competitive action after the lull post-league and of putting into practice the tactics drawn up in training’s phoney wars.
“Regardless of who you are playing in early stages of the championship, it is about things like forwards and midfielders and defenders finding out about who they are. Like Eamonn said before the game, we’ve been training since January but we haven’t been training to train well, we’ve been training for championship.”
A commensurate performance in the middle of the park against Tipp amounted to a clarion call of his own for the months ahead but then so too did the manner in which Kerry chose to play the game. Though Maher and Johnny Buckley claimed their share of high balls, it was striking to see how often Brendan Kealy delivered the ball short to his defenders from kickouts, varying his length throughout.
“I suppose it is a new facet of the game. You see the Dublins who are very good at it and even Donegal last year were very good on the short kick-outs. It is the way the game is going. It is always about maintaining possession and if that means having to go short, then so be it.”