There were some eyebrows raised when Maurice Fitzgerald was touted as a selector alongside the man most believed to be his primary rival for the position of Kerry manager. We knew Keane and Fitzgerald were Caherciveen men and St Mary’s stalwarts. We didn’t know Keane’s best man for his wedding was the said same Kingdom legend.
“Maurice was a no-brainer,” Keane explained about his continuing role in the new set-up. “We are friends from way back. Having him involved is a link to last season’s management. I didn’t want this management coming in new and cold to the dressing room. The three of us (Keane, Tommy Griffin and James Foley), coming from where we were with the minors, we haven’t been in Ballybofey, Clones or Omagh or any of those places. We need some fella to show us where the field is.”
If one was to believe the chattering classes, coach Donie Buckley was foisted upon the new manager. Not so, says Keane. “I am very cognisant most of us have not been involved at senior inter-county level. I know Donie Buckley a long time. He is a top class coach, ever before he went to Mayo. He is very experienced and expressed his willingness to come on board when I met him the week after the All-Ireland minor final. It was the first of many subsequent chats that we had. We gelled well together.”
If the new manager revealed her age, that is. Peter is son to the late Tom Keane, owner of the Ringside Rest Hotel in Caherciveen, a favoured pit stop for any GAA team returning from the depths of South Kerry. He’d have been a proud man this week.
“There’s no question of doubt about it, but he’d be out of his mind with happiness,” his 47 year-old-son said yesterday. “He’d be like a balloon ready to burst. It’s a pity he wasn’t around for it, or even for the last three years with the minors. I was talking to my mother the other day and she said: ‘Wouldn’t he be in his element up and down the town at the moment?’ Caherciveen wouldn’t be big enough for him. He’d have to go further. He was a lunatic GAA man. I could picture him saying ‘there’s no point getting the ball if you can’t do something with it.’”
It was something that both annoyed, and drove, Jack O’Connor. The suspicion that some of his medalled compatriots felt he mightn’t have been a Kerry blueblood without a haul of Celtic Crosses to his name. Keane played under age with the county.
“I don’t see that as an issue, that is something that goes on in somebody’s head. It’s not an issue for me,” he replied. What would he say to the experienced hands in the dressing room? “I’d say ‘how are ye doing?’”
“I remember being involved with a team once and some fellas asked me what way are you going to play? I said ‘how would I know, til I see what I have’. I might want to play a big full-forward and the biggest fella you might have would be 5’ 2”. I like football and I like seeing football played, an attacking way of playing. We will try to play football. Does that mean I will be allowed to do that at this level? Probably not.”