Kerry county board chairman Tim Murphy has defended the length of time taken by his selection committee to appoint the new Kerry senior football management team.
Sixty-six days passed between Éamonn Fitzmaurice stepping down as Kerry manager on Saturday, August 4, and Peter Keane being ratified as his successor at Monday’s county board meeting. This was slightly more than the 54 days Tipperary were without a hurling manager and almost double the five weeks in Mayo between Stephen Rochford exiting and James Horan returning for a second spell at the helm.
Murphy didn’t appreciate the “media frenzy” which surrounded the selection process in recent weeks. He commended his colleagues on the appointing committee — county secretary Peter Twiss, development officer Éamonn Whelan and coaching officer Terence Houlihan — for not being influenced or distracted by “external pressures”.
“Is [66 days] too long? It is too long for the media. It certainly wasn’t too long for us,” said Murphy. “If we paid attention to the speculation and narrative that was being created by the media, we certainly wouldn’t have arrived at any result. As a group, we put our heads down and focused on the task at hand.
If you take Michael Ryan in Tipperary: He stepped away the same time as Éamonn Fitzmaurice. Their new manager was ratified two weeks ago.
“The All-Ireland U21 hurling final, involving Tipperary, was one week before our minor final. If you are doing a like-for-like comparison with the two counties, there was a week in the difference. There was no real media frenzy about the length of time it was taking in Tipperary.
“We can’t be influenced by outside factors, just because somebody said it should be shorter. To get to the stage we got to took a bit of effort. An effort all worthwhile. That is down to the calibre of people — Peter Twiss, Terence Houlihan, and Eamonn Whelan — who were there along with myself. They didn’t deviate at all, notwithstanding the external pressures.”
Murphy said the “skillset” brought to the table by Keane was a significant factor in the three-in-a-row All-Ireland minor winning boss being chosen from a field which contained “at least” five candidates. Murphy did not go into detail on who else was interviewed for the post.
With Kieran Donaghy, Donnchadh Walsh and Anthony Maher retiring in recent weeks, the county chairman said Keane faces a “challenge” to bring more young players into the fold and get them up to a level which positions Kerry to challenge for Sam Maguire.
Fitzmaurice handed championship debutants to seven players this summer and there’s likely to be a couple of more newcomers in 2019; Brian Ó Seanacháin, Cormac Coffey, Killian Spillane and Matthew Flaherty are among the younger group who played league this year, but were not used in the championship.
“There needs to be a degree of patience for the new management,” said Murphy. “There is an integration from minor to U20 to senior. It is not as easy as it might appear. Huge strides have been made in the past 12 months and it is up to the new management to develop that and integrate even more players than is already the case. It will be a challenge. With the spate of retirements we have had over the last month, it underpins and underlines the gap that has now developed between the older players that have moved on and the spate of younger players that we do have.
Nonetheless, I’d be very confident the new management team have the capacity and capability of getting them to the top level very quickly.
A key individual in progressing those younger players will be new coach Donie Buckley. Having spent five years with Mayo, Buckley’s chief focus will be improving a Kerry defence which conceded more goals than any other county in Division 1 of this year’s league.
“Donie Buckley’s credentials are unquestioned. He brings a level of expertise that very few people in the country would have.
“I would be very confident we have a seriously strong management team, collectively. It is a very positive statement and a very positive future for Kerry. Peter knows it is the sum of the parts. It is more than one person who will get results.”
Elsewhere, 2018 Tipperary hurling manager Michael Ryan was “pleasantly surprised” to see Liam Sheedy coming back for a second term. Ryan was a selector under Sheedy when Tipperary achieved All-Ireland glory in 2010 and Ryan felt that management should have continued on for at least another year.
“I really felt [us stepping down at the end of 2010] was premature, that we should have stayed around for a year or two. Circumstances overtake you. I just felt there was more to give. Liam is back for a second stint and there’s a sense of excitement around Tipperary already,” Ryan told Tipp FM.