You’ll see the four letters appear in most WhatsApp conversations when nights out, weekends away or the annual pilgrimage to Stradbally for Electric Picnic is being planned. FOMO, more often than not, is what gets the undecided down off the fence.
In the case of Dr Crokes’ captain Daithí Casey, it is applicable to the 2014 and 2015 county finals. In 2014, Rathmore put the first nail in their coffin before crosstown rivals, Legion, ended the club’s bid for a fifth consecutive Kerry title. The year following, Rathmore marked their card at the quarter-final juncture.
From four-in-a-row champions and five consecutive county final appearances, not alone had their stranglehold on the Bishop Moynihan Cup been loosened but they’d been sent back into the pack. Being absent on county final afternoon stuck in the craw of Casey. It was, he admits, pretty unbearable. Indeed, on both occasions, the Crokes forward went looking for distractions to avoid tuning in.
“It absolutely sickened me to see other teams playing in county finals,” says the 27-year old.
Moreover, it led Casey to question if they’d even appreciated the four wins between 2010 and ‘13.
“Did we even celebrate them enough at the time? Did we really appreciate what we had done? I don’t think we understood, at the time, what an achievement the four-in-a-row was. When we weren’t winning, then, it really made you think that you’ll do whatever it takes to get back to where we were. The two years where we weren’t challenging, that really focused fellas.”
That focus has paid off in spades. Dr Crokes haven’t been defeated in the county championship since the 2015 quarter-final exit at the hands of Rathmore. This campaign alone, no team has come closer than five points. They’ve played four games, three of which ended with double-digit victories. Their average winning margin stands at 13 points.
“Winning is the buzz for these players,” Casey continues. “Lifting trophies, there’s just something to be got from it. You either have that empty feeling of losing, as we did in three All-Ireland club semi-finals, and finding it very hard to come up training in March and April or else you can come back like we did in March of this year where we were absolutely buzzing to go again.”
The other factor driving them further and further clear of the chasing group is the internal competition for places. And this can’t be stressed enough. Tony Brosnan saw game-time for the Kerry seniors the summer of 2016, but couldn’t break onto Pat O’Shea’s team when the Killarney men swept to county, Munster and All-Ireland glory.
He was selected at corner-forward for their semi-final a fortnight ago, but this had more to do with Kieran O’Leary’s injury-enforced absence. One of these men won’t make the cut tomorrow.
Jordan Kiely, a minor All-Ireland medal-winner with Kerry, who has since gone on to line out for the Kerry U21s and play Sigerson under Billy Morgan at UCC, is another perched in the stand for the opening 45 minutes of most games. Micheál Burns was there too until forcing his way into the starting XV earlier this summer.
Casey sees this as an essential element of the Lewis Road education. “Jordan, Tony, and Micheál have all the talent in the world, but they had a bit to learn when they came in first in terms of what it takes to nail down a starting berth. They understand now.
“You only need look around the dressing-room to see how much talent we have. When Pat [O’Shea] and Harry [O’Neill] came in for 2016, their plan was that we would have a very strong 25. There’s big pressure now on the lads starting.
"That is why fellas might be playing so well. You might not play again if you don’t play well. I don’t think I’ll realise how lucky I am to play with these lads until I finish my career.”
Plotting their downfall is William Harmon. Back in January of 2015, Harmon was attending the GAA’s annual coaching conference in Croke Park when John Sugrue tapped him on the shoulder.
The latter wanted a word but the conference got in the way and so it wasn’t until the following day that Sugrue phoned the Miltown/Castlemaine club man and asked if he’d be part of his South Kerry management ticket.
“I felt it was a fantastic opportunity to get involved and winning the county championship was amazing, especially considering so few people thought we would win it at the start of the campaign,” recalls Harmon, who assumed the main bib after Sugrue stepped away upon delivering the division a 10th Bishop Moynihan success.
He handed the captaincy to Denis Daly of St Mary’s for 2017. The Cahercivceen man, though, won’t march behind the band at Austin Stack Park, a ruptured ankle ligament keeping him out of both their quarter and semi-final victories. There are mutterings he’ll tog, but the most you could expect from Daly is a five or 10-minute cameo at the death.
“When you are captain, you want to be togging out,” says Daly. “I’ve probably gotten far too used to carrying water onto the pitch for my liking over the last two years with the injuries I’ve had.
“At the same time, Conor O’Shea (a fellow St Mary’s man) is doing a great job in the role. He’s a good friend and I want to see him doing well with it.”