Kerry minor football manager James Costello believes “there are another couple of gears” in his team and that the wide, open spaces of Croke Park will suit them.
Kerry are the last remaining unbeaten team in this year’s minor championship, with semi-final opponents Galway, as well as Cork and Mayo, all having lost twice en-route to the last four.
The Kerry class of 2019 are bidding to secure the county’s sixth consecutive All-Ireland minor final appearance and, in the process, stretch to 35 games the county’s winning run at this grade.
From the side which overcame Tyrone last time out, only Alan Dineen, Ronan Collins, Dylan Geaney, and Jack O’Connor have previous experience of lining out at Croke Park and yet Costello is optimistic his young charges will flourish at GAA HQ this weekend.
“We’ve gone to Cork, twice, and gone up to Tullamore, tough places to go. The lads have earned their place in the semis. I feel there is another 20-30% in them. I feel there is another couple of gears in them. I think the open spaces of Croke Park will suit them and we’re really looking forward to it,” said Costello of tomorrow’s clash with beaten Connacht finalists Galway.
Costello is confident his players can take it all in their stride:
They are a very level-headed, driven bunch of lads. The gun was put to their head going into injury-time in the Munster final when the sides were level. We were under the cosh at half-time in Tullamore, having scored one point from play in the first-half, and yet they found a way.
"You bank that in the back of the mind and hope that when the game comes down the stretch, as it inevitably does, that the lads will have it inside in them to find a way to win. Going into big games, you’d like the lads to have experienced a number of different situations. We’ve experienced those.
“The lads will use them as reference points. You can talk all you want but when they’ve been through that and found a way out of it, it is an invaluable experience.”
Costello added: “Galway are probably closing in on 10 games (seven). All the other provinces are playing round-robins, that is giving them a chance to explore players and find a game-plan that works. In an ideal world, I’d like to have played more games, but the format has worked okay for us so far. Getting to the All-Ireland final is the carrot. It is off in the distance dangling in front of the lads but you still take them through the steps as to what they must do to get there. And that starts with hard work.”