The Kingdom legend, who reiterated his desire to become the county’s U21 manager, doesn’t see the county bridging the gap to their last success in 2009 any time soon.
He bemoans the lack of “warriors” in the team now that Tomás Ó Sé and Paul Galvin have retired and says it’s quite possible another barren patch like 1986 to 1997 is upon the county.
“It is very possible because bear in mind that this is definitely Marc Ó Sé’s last year, Aidan O’Mahony’s last year. We are one of the very few inter-county panels, if maybe the only inter-county panel, that doesn’t have an U21. That tells you.
“We have some really good minors coming along, really good minors coming through. What I like about the minors under Jack O’Connor is that they are playing Kerry-style football, skilful forwards but moving the ball quickly. I think there are a couple of bad years ahead. There is no All-Ireland there.
“We have had no U21 success, no minor success. I think we are paying the price. We are only now catching up with the development squads and we’re only now catching up with strength and conditioning and producing a stronger type of footballer.
“We sort of got lost for a few years. We were producing dancers, lovely light skilful forwards, particularly who are fine when things are going well, but when things go badly they are not the fellas you need in battle.
“I just don’t think we had enough strong fellas, not enough guys who can win the independent, the 50/50 ball. So we’ve caught up now. And also one of the problems with the development squads was that there was no continuity, there was no Kerry style of play.
“One management team had one game plan based around a defensive game, another crowd had a hand-passing game, depending on who was the coach. So we weren’t bringing through youngsters in the Kerry style of football. And the Kerry style of football is one where you can catch, kick and score. It’s still a winning formula. We lost that for a while so it could be five years.”
Speaking at the launch of the RTÉ GAA Championship, Spillane took great delight in seeing Kerry last week qualify for a minor provincial final against Cork, particularly the performance of his nephew Killian, son of former inter-county defender Tom.
The Templenoe man’s pride is immense. “I would be biased but I would say [Killian’s] the best minor footballer in Ireland. I think he is that good. This guy is, honestly, he’s brilliant. If I was U21 manager I would have him playing U21 this year.
“If I was [Eamonn] Fitzmaurice I would be using him with the seniors next year. We’re slow in Kerry. We don’t bring through...the Cormac Costellos and the [Ciarán] Kilkennys, they bring them through in Dublin, they even bring them through in Cork.
“We brought them through in the past. I was brought through and Ogie [Moran] and all those. But Killian is...I told him and he’s a good level-headed guy...he’s Kerry material next year.”
Spillane has thrown his hat in the ring again for the U21 managerial position despite being snubbed for it in 2012. Darragh Ó Sé was tasked with the role but he could make way after a second successive Munster championship defeat to Cork.
“The U21s had another desperate campaign. I would love to be the U21 manager. Have I one ambition left in life? I would love to manage the Kerry U21s.
“I just feel that I have something to give and I would really love to get involved. I think there is potential but they need to be better managed, better coached.”
Spillane felt the Kerry seniors “overachieved” last year and feels supporters have changed from optimists to realists as they cope without the retired pair of Ó Sé and Galvin, as well as the enormity of Colm Cooper’s absence through injury.
He expects Cork to beat them in a Munster final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh but reckons they can still have a major say in the championship if they get on top in midfield.
“If Kerry could win midfield, they will put it up to anyone. If you analyse the games where Kerry played well, the second half against Tyrone, all the good parts of Kerry, any time they played well during the league was when they were dominating midfield and they got the ball into James O’Donoghue.
“You get first-time ball into James O’Donoghue and these boys and they still won’t be stopped. But we’re clutching at straws!” he smiled.
Monaghan All Star Conor McManus is facing a season-ending operation on his damaged ankle unless it shows significant healing by next week.
Although initial reports on the knee and ankle injuries McManus sustained in a club match indicated a six to eight-week lay-off, the player received further bad news from his surgeon in Santry a few days ago.
“I have torn lateral ligaments in the knee, which is not too severe, but the ankle is not in good shape,” he admitted.
“The ligament between the fibula and tibia has been torn and I may need an operation. I don’t want to hear about that because it’s a 10-week thing then, which kills your summer.”
nNeil Gallagher is in a race against the clock to be fit for Donegal’s Ulster championship quarter-final against Derry on Sunday week.
The Glenswilly midfielder picked up an ankle injury at Friday night’s training and is a cause for concern for manager Jim McGuinness, who must already plan without the suspended Rory Kavanagh for the Celtic Park clash.
Kavanagh was dismissed in the 1-16 to 1-10 Allianz League Division 2 final loss against Monaghan last month.
“The fitness of the panel is generally good apart from Neil Gallagher who went over on his ankle in a tackling drill,” McGuinness said.
“He’s in a race against time, which is disappointing with Rory Kavanagh getting sent off the last day.