Tomorrow they face hot favourites Carlow in a game that’s custom-made for his attributes at the venue made for any hurler of any ambition. Unfortunately for John, however, injury has intervened.
“It happened on March 1,” he said. “We were playing with Tralee IT in the Ryan Cup in Belfast against Trinity. It was the first few minutes, I broke a bone in my arm, a six-week injury so this comes a week too soon.
“You’d love to be involved and in Thurles especially, but that’s the way it goes. I actually got to play there once, 10 years ago in the last Division 2 final we were in, against Dublin, they beat us by four points. It’s a fabulous field, the home of hurling. Watching Tipp and Cork last week that’s where you want to play.”
Despite having already beaten tomorrow’s opponents in the regular league Kerry are up against it, eight players from the powerful county and Leinster club senior champions Mount Leinster Rangers are back in the Carlow fold. And they also have former Kerry manager John Meyler at the helm.
“Yeah, we had John three years ago. He was very good for us, got us through to two Christy Ring finals, won one and lost one. He knows us inside out. He’s here with Kilmoyley this year as well so he’s up to date.
“They’re going to be a different outfit to the team we beat in Tralee. We know that, a much stronger team. We’re rank outsiders, going there with no pressure but we’ve been improving in every game, gaining in confidence.”
Looking forward to the trip too and John himself will be on the bus, driving on his team-mates.
“The younger players are coming in and they’re the new breed. The new style of player, very conscious of being super fit, great trainers, want to improve all the time. It’s really going to suit us, we’re a running team, like to keep it open and find each other.
“Carlow are bigger, stronger men, more physical. We spoke during the week about putting in a big performance, ask questions of them all game. A massive workrate, that’s what we’re looking for, then see how we get on.”
Even if they upset the odds tomorrow and keep their 100% league record intact, that still won’t be enough to secure promotion for the Kingdom. This year the GAA introduced a new twist to the promotion/relegation situation between Division 1B and 2A, an extra play-off game. Yesterday John Meyler criticised it, today John adds his voice.
“At the start of the year no-one wanted the Kerry job but Eamonn Kelly and Brian Horgan came on board [manager and coach respectively] and have done a fantastic job in a short space of time,” he said.
“We’re a Christy Ring team but we’ve beaten three MacCarthy teams in the division, finished on top. But if we win this, and please God we will, we’ll have Offaly afterwards. It’s really disappointing that whoever wins still has to play that game, it’s going to be very hard for any of us to ever get out of 2A now. Offaly or whoever will have the benefit of playing all those games at a higher level, which puts the Division 2A winner at a disadvantage.
“It doesn’t make sense. Where’s the prize for winning all your games? Where’s the prize for winning the division? If we got to 1B that would be great preparation for us to get back to the Munster championship but that’s a massive high level.
“You couldn’t go there without a couple of years of 1B under your belt. Imagine if we had Wexford in Tralee, or Limerick, the interest that would create. That’s how you get young fellas in Kerry interested in hurling, to bring those players that they see on TV down here.