Peter Keane has no interest in discussing the statistics listed elsewhere on this page.
In his view, they are totally irrelevant to what his team must do to overcome Galway tomorrow afternoon. That as it may be, we’re not going to gloss over the fact that Kerry haven’t so much dominated as owned the minor football championship for the past five years.
Victory over Donal Ó Fátharta’s Galway would deliver Kerry an unprecedented fifth consecutive All-Ireland minor crown.
Not alone would it be a first for the Kingdom, it would be a first for any county, in either code, at minor level.
1,854 days have passed since Kerry last came off second best in a minor championship fixture. Crucial to Tyrone
edging out the Kingdom in the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final was Lee Brennan, the contributor of four points. The Trillick forward is on the bench for the Tyrone seniors tomorrow. Kerry, meanwhile, are still winning minor matches.
In the five years and one month since that fixture, the county has contested — and won — 29 championship fixtures.
Over the past five seasons, only one county has come within a single point of Kerry. Back in May of 2015, Spa’s Mike Foley split the posts in the last minute of extra-time at Tralee to hand the home outfit a 0-16 to 1-12 win over Cork in a breathless Munster semi-final.
This May, another fascinating Munster semi-final between the counties played out at Austin Stack Park, sub Jack O’Connor’s injury-time point maintaining the hosts’ unbeaten run.
Their average winning margin in 2018 stands at nine points, the same as it was in 2014 and 2015. In 2017, the
10-point defeats of Cork and Louth in the Munster semi-final and All-Ireland quarter-final represented the sternest examinations Kerry were subjected to.
Each one of their winning margins last summer was in double-digit territory, ranging from 10 to 24. The above mentioned 2015 Munster semi-final was the last occasion a Kerry minor team failed to score a goal. They’ve bagged 40 in their subsequent 21 outings.
Earlier this week Kerry minor coach Tommy Griffin expressed his view the minor game had become more “innocent” and “unpredictable” as a result of lowering the age of eligibility.
And yet Keane is in no way concerned that the 16 and 17-year olds in his squad will be swept up by the ‘drive for five’ talk.
I don’t think it’s a big issue for them. It hasn’t been an issue, thus far, so I don’t see it being a big issue, largely because it is not a big issue for any of us,” the Kerry minor manager insisted.
“[Five-in-a-row] wouldn’t be something you are thinking about. It is a new team every year. It is different to Dublin’s run at senior level. That’s all the same team. This is different every year. You can’t even look at that.
“These lads had never played in Croke Park before the semi-final. All they want to do is achieve a medal. Whatever some other fella had or the talk, that’s purely irrelevant. They know nothing about it. When that started, these lads were 11 and 12 years of age.”
Where Keane will entertain comparisons to recent years is the manner in which the 2018 class had to scrap and scrape to book their place in the decider.
The Kingdom, down to 14 men, trailed Monaghan by the minimum as the clock spilled into second-half stoppages.
It took two Paul Walsh frees and a point from sub Jack Kennelly to see them safely through. The scare was in stark contrast to the two previous All-Ireland semi-finals during Keane’s tenure, where Cavan and Kildare were dismissed by 12 and 22-points respectively.
Yes, [our latest semi-final was more beneficial], but you can’t help that. You can only play what’s in front of you and motor on as best you can.
“We were tested and we were put to the pin of our collar. From that perspective, we were delighted to get out of there with a win.
“The Cork game was quite similar so the character and resilience the lads showed against Monaghan, we would have seen a lot of those characteristics in the Munster semi-final
“But they definitely met something new in the Monaghan game and you go to the 55th minute of that game where the crowd are in full voice, the whole stadium was shouting for Monaghan at that stage. The boys stood up. It didn’t worry them. They stayed at it.”
Keane concluded: “Galway, no more than Monaghan, have a lot about them. We played Meath earlier on in the year.
“We marked them out as being very big and very physical, a team that, down the line, if we were still alive, they would be somewhere on the horizon. Galway gave them a fair bit of a dressing, by the end. Galway won the second half by 3-7 to 0-5.”