Glen Rovers’ 2015 season finished on the second Sunday of November. It was wet and miserable on the afternoon of their Munster semi-final clash away to Waterford champions Ballygunner.
Even more miserable was their second-half showing – the visitors to Walsh Park were outscored by 0-16 to 1-1.
The defeat, in the larger picture of a season where a 26-year wait for county honours had been ended, represented a small blot on an otherwise clean copy page.
Kelleher, realising as much, let his troops go for all of winter, and even a bit of February, before calling them back into the paddock.
He wanted them to enjoy what they’d achieved and was also hopeful that such a lengthy lay-off would enable the hunger return for back-to-back assaults.
“We had our dinner dance at the end of January and we came back then in the middle of February. I thought the players would be happy with their lot and I’d have accepted that,” he revealed.
“They had been in three county finals and had won the last one. The celebrations were huge.”
He needn’t have worried.
“When we came back, two players weren’t committed. From 30 players, we had an issue with two of them. Now, that wasn’t bad.
“We had a chat with the two lads and these two fellas played in the county final. It took them a while to buy into it. They were living in past glories. It was a case of looking forward. We got them back in check and they played in the county final. The commitment from the whole squad has been unbelievable.
“You are not going anywhere if lads aren’t behind this 100%. Lads might think they’re committed, but if you throw your hat at a game with 10 minutes to go, that is not commitment.
Sounds a rather basic principle upon which to build a second successive county championship campaign. Kelleher, a reliable and honest sort of fella, though, insists that their approach was kept simple for a reason.
“This is a club with not a huge amount of money so there were no bonding camps or training weekends away. I don’t want to take from this club, I don’t want to bleed the club. I want the players to give back. I’d be very strong on that. You give, don’t take. And that’s what they have done all year.”
Is the commitment there for a concerted assault on Munster? It didn’t seem so 12 months ago.
“Definitely. We might never get back to this stage again so we’d be foolish not to go for it.
“We’ve approached Munster differently this year given what we did last year didn’t work. We let the lads off for almost two weeks after the final and played no challenge match, whereas last year we played an exceptionally strong Defence Forces team in Togher 10 days before the Ballygunner game.
“It is just about keeping them fresh. If you’re pushing them all the time, you won’t be able to go to the well as often as you’d like. We let them go and we seem to be an awful lot fresher this year by comparison with where we were last year. I’d be hopeful enough.”
The outfit they must navigate to end Cork’s six-year Munster drought is Patrickswell, a team boasting such household names as Cian Lynch and Barry Foley, and who won the Limerick championship with 19-points to spare.
“You don’t be competitive in your own county without good players. We know their county players and they know ours. It is the good club player that I wouldn’t know about. Any club team in Cork, I’d know who they have and what they’d do. But when you go outside the county, all you know is their stars. It is the good solid player like our Brian Moylan or Paddy Cunningham. They’re the lads you don’t know about and they could perform on the day.”
They do know Declan Fitzgerald, a man Kelleher served alongside on the Glen Rovers management ticket in 2006.
“Deccie is a great guy, a really intelligent coach and it’s nice to think that at least one of us will go forward to Munster final day.”