The club stalwart, and current selector, never doubted the ability of a Kilmoyley hurler to stand toe-to-toe with Munster’s finest, rather his attitude was born out of several frustrating afternoons he endured in the green and gold once the county title had been safely stored away for another winter.
Gentleman, along with fellow selector Ollie Diggin, was a prominent figure on the Kilmoyley team which won four consecutive Kerry SHC titles between 2001 and 2004. Each consequent sojourn into Munster was brief. They fell to Blackrock in 2001 and ’02, hammered by Kilruane MacDonaghs (4-16 to 1-6) when dropping down to intermediate in ’03, and similarly annihilated by Toomevara (5-19 to 1-11) in ’04. The 2002 quarter-final defeat to the Rockies at Páirc Uí Chaoimh is the one that was let slip, a four-point defeat that continues to torment.
“We left that game after us, no question,” says Gentleman. “We were the better team but we just couldn’t go ahead of them.”
Shane Brick, who called time on his Kilmoyley career following the recent county final replay victory over Ballyduff, hit 1-10 of their 1-12 against a Wayne Sherlock-inspired Blackrock and, had his first-half goal not been disallowed, Gentleman reckons they’d have snuck the verdict.
“The referee called the play back and said the handpass Shane had got was a throw. He gave us the free, though, and to this day we can’t understand why. The free should have been going the other way if it was a throw.”
Gentleman believes the sole difference between that team and the current crop is confidence; the latter made history with their semi-final win over Monaleen in progressing the club to a first Munster decider at the ninth attempt. “They’re only a young team, but they have confidence. If we had their confidence, we’d have Blackrock beaten. That’s why they are where they are.”
Fergie O’Loughlin, brother of Clare legend Ger, is the latest in a growing line of Banner men to oversee the North Kerry club, with three locals in the backroom team. Gentleman, Diggin, and Brendan McElligott, at the outset of the current campaign, impressed upon O’Loughlin the importance of giving youth its chance. A couple years ago, McElligott got involved with the U16s and quickly realised their potential. He stayed with them at minor level and they were unlucky not to take last year’s U21 title, losing the final to Causeway a week after the seniors had been dumped out of Munster.
“Corner-forward Maurice O’Connor is only 17. He is the Joe Deane of Kilmoyley,” says Gentleman.
“Paudie, his brother and midfielder, is 22 and has probably been the best club hurler in Kerry this year. Colman Savage and Robert Collins in the full-back line are no more than 21. Jordan Brick at full-forward is 19.”
Lismore, for whom the Shanahan brothers and Ray Barry are leading figures, are raging hot favourites to take Sunday’s Munster intermediate title, a crown no Kerry club has ever worn.
“A bit like the county team playing in Division 1B and Leinster, to learn from the best you have to be playing the best. Why Kerry hurling is on the move is because every club has an outside manager from counties who have won All-Irelands. We had John Meyler, Anthony Daly, Tom Howard, and now we have Fergie. The outside referee has a lot to do with it as well. They seem to leave a lot go and that is making the game faster.
“It’s all contributed to a change in attitude towards hurling in Kerry. Jimmy Barry-Murphy is a good friend of mine through the dogs and when you get him asking, ‘how is it going with Kilmoyley’, you know you’re making people sit up and take notice. It makes a change from them asking about Kerry football.”