A recommendation that the selection of Kerry football captain be taken away from the county senior championship-winning club and put in the hands of Kerry management was met with strong opposition at Monday’s county convention.
Kerry is one of the few remaining counties, along with Kilkenny in hurling, who allow their club champions the honour of nominating the captaincy.
Of course, this has, on occasion, resulted in less experienced members of the panel wearing the armband and with the nomination again falling to Dr Crokes for the 2019 season, the captaincy is likely to be given to either goalkeeper Shane Murphy, half-back Gavin White or half-forward Micheál Burns, all three of whom made their championship debuts only this summer. Even before he had played a championship game for Kerry, Burns found himself wearing the title of captain as the player nominated by Dr Crokes for 2018, Fionn Fitzgerald, was not named on the panel for the county’s league game against Galway back in late February. And when Fitzgerald was omitted from the match-day 26 for their Munster final against Cork, goalkeeper Murphy, in just his second championship start, led the team out.
Ger Carmody of Churchill put forward the argument at Monday’s convention that it is unfair to “burden” young players with the captaincy when their sole focus should be “to hold onto the jersey they have and to make a name for themselves in that jersey”.
“I spoke with an inter-county player a couple of weeks ago, who, at a very young age, was tapped on the shoulder of a Tuesday evening before a game in Croke Park and told, because his fellow clubman had failed a fitness test, you are captain on Sunday,” said Carmody.
“It was a fantastic honour for him and his family, but he would say with experience and hindsight, that his preparations for that match and subsequent performance were below his standards. He would say the pressure put on him and not being used to it was the reason for that.”
The Churchill delegate asked was winning a county championship not sufficient honour enough for clubs and divisions. Although the process will remain unchanged for next year, Carmody pointed out that should Dr Crokes reach the All-Ireland final, the footballer from the Lewis Road club who will captain Kerry come championship will be absent for the opening six rounds of the league.
“The individual who captains the Kerry team should be all about the leadership qualities they display and not the club for whom they play.”
Micheál Burns and Kieran Donaghy have, in recent times, expressed a desire for Kerry to move away from the current nomination process, but this would appear to be a sentiment not shared by club delegates as Dr Crokes’ Matt O’Neill received a hefty round of applause when speaking in favour of maintaining the status quo.
“I have heard several times about Stephen Cluxton (Dublin captain for the past six seasons) with regard to this idea of [management] selecting a captain and how he is a great mentor. We are not Dublin, nor does Kerry ever want to be a Dublin,” O’Neill stressed.
“Let Dublin do what they want to do with their captaincy and let us be Kerry and let us keep our traditions. Once you throw tradition away, it is very hard to get it back.”
Delegates from An Ghaeltacht and Gneeveguilla also spoke in favour of continuing to allow the club champions pick the captain.
“I would be very much for keeping the old system and giving back a bit of democracy to the clubs,” said Seán Ó Catháin of An Ghaeltacht.
Chairman Tim Murphy said this debate will be revisited in the New Year if there is sufficient appetite for change.