Both Louth and Cavan opted for a defensive mentality when attempting to live with Kerry during the All-Ireland quarter- and semi-finals. Neither had much luck in doing so and Keane can’t envisage Derry following suit.
The Oak Leaf youngsters have been posting tallies that even free-scoring Kerry would be proud of, running up 0-17 against Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final, 1-22 in the Ulster final, 3-17 in the Ulster semi, and 0-18 in the Ulster quarter-final. To deviate from the approach which swept them into September simply wouldn’t make sense.
“Derry have had stern challenges and they have put up big scores,” said Keane.
“What I have seen of Derry, they are very good. They have colleges experience and a share of them were involved last year. They are very physically big. They have Padraig McGrogan who is very strong, Conor McCluskey at full-back, they have the McWilliams twins, Oisin and Lorcan, two very good players, and Patrick Quigg who was very good against us last year.
“Derry are a fine side and if you talk about storing things up, they were beaten by Kerry in an All-Ireland quarter-final (2016) and semi-final (2015) and now they are meeting us in the final. They will be a huge test for us.”
Outscoring Kerry, it goes without saying, will be the most difficult challenge Derry have faced in 2017. Keane’s four-in-a-row chasing charges are averaging 2-19 per game, with captain David Clifford helping himself to 4-37 along the way. Indeed, such has been the Fossa forward’s imperious form that the smallest tally he ran up this summer was the six points from open play kicked on the afternoon of the Munster final.
“He is a fantastic player, no question about that,” said Keane. “He has a great temperament and is a great leader for the players. As well as being a very good player, he is an exceptionally good team player which may be sometimes lost in translation.”
Should he expect to come in for special treatment? “That is something for Derry to decide. So far, different teams have done different things. All we can do is prepare the best we can to get the most out of our team, not necessarily out of one individual, but out of the whole team. So we will try and deal with that in whatever way it comes.”
Clifford is one of four players on the Kerry starting team from the 2016 Kingdom class which overcame Galway in the decider. Keane knows that experience has to count for something come 1.15pm on Sunday. “It is at the latter stages of the championship when you are around Croke Park that you are hoping the experience will stand to them.
“You are hoping the experience lads took from being around the panel last year and from having played in the Hogan Cup final this year and last will also be a help. Even for the other lads, the experience of playing Cavan in the All-Ireland semi-final will bring them on. That said, you’re always worried about minors because their environment is more fickle so various things can happen, more so than a senior player.”
They certainly held their nerve when making history in the semi-final, their win over Cavan meaning Kerry are the first county to compete in four consecutive All-Ireland finals. Further history can be made this Sunday. The Kingdom manager says his group is not concerned by record books or the roll of honour.
“Deividas Uosis, Fiachra Clifford, and Sean O’Leary have no All-Ireland minor medal and they want one badly. So however many went before them is absolutely irrelevant. They were 13 or 14 when the first All-Ireland was won back in 2014. You know 13 and 14-year-olds are not thinking of an 18-year-old or what he has done or what has happened in the last three years. Those young fellows want to deliver for themselves.”