Peter Keane has a habit of invoking family parables when addressing early-season questions about Dublin.
Last year, it was the story of his father rebuking Peter the learner driver for asking questions about the road two miles away: “We’ll worry about that when we get there.”
Keane, younger again in the latest tale from his childhood, reprised the role of questioner, this time to the exasperation of his grandmother.
“My grandmother, when I was a young lad, a long time ago ... she lived ’til she was 101-and-a-half, and the half was very important, but she used to have a great way of saying things. One of the things she used often say when I was asking her questions as a young lad was: ‘We’ll milk our cows and they can milk their cows’. It’s very apt in this situation. I’ll worry about Kerry and they can worry about Dublin.”
As for the man with the L-plates on his Dublin bainisteoir’s bib, Keane turns to a horse-racing analogy to reject any comparison between him starting out behind the wheel this time last year and Dessie Farrell’s journey.
“He’s a lot further down the road than I was,” interjects Keane. “He’s getting up on a horse that has won five All-Irelands in a row.”
As for this farmer, Keane says his year’s experience doesn’t give him a major advantage when the winds of change can sweep in and spoil the harvest.
“You’re right in that it’s not new, but I suppose everything is new,” he says, paradoxically. “It’s no different to every game, even though you play the same teams, every game is different — different players, different conditions. So equally, this is different.
We’ve obviously started much later this year. We’ve a lot less done than we would have had at this stage last year. So there are changes, there are things that are different.
Something that doesn’t change is the challenge of managing players away with their club or college, a scenario which this year leaves Keane with a shortage of midfield players entering this evening’s league trip to Dublin.
The Na Gaeil duo of Jack Barry and Diarmuid O’Connor will be in action in the first game of the triple-header, the All-Ireland Junior Club final, while David Moran will be eased into action later this spring (“We mightn’t see a whole pile of David Moran during the league”).
They might have been further shorthanded but for Templenoe’s shock intermediate semi-final defeat, which means Adrian Spillane and co have returned to training.
“The reality is somebody is gonna have to play with a jersey with eight and nine on their back,” said Keane.
“You had a similar situation last year. We had David very little for the league and other fellas stepped in. It gives fellas an opportunity to play.
Do you want your strongest team out? You do. But if you’re only playing with 15 all the time, you’ll never learn about anybody else.
As for the precise identity of those likely to be blooded, Keane is slow to offer names.
Paudie Clifford and Tony Brosnan are “tipping around this year”, although the former has been carrying an injury. Michael Potts is back after playing with the U20s last year and Cormac Coffey is getting his chance too.
David Shaw made his comeback from a hamstring injury with UCC in last Sunday’s Sigerson loss, scoring three points from play as a second-half sub.
“There’s lots of fellas we’re looking at. It’s a fairly fluid situation all the time. You’re always looking and you have a fella in and it just mightn’t work,” he said.
Meanwhile, Peter Crowley is facing another couple of months out as he continues to rehab his cruciate injury, while Dara Moynihan is “not fully there” as he makes his way back from injury.
With those fit and available just back from their team holiday to Thailand, Keane laughs as he admits “we’ve nothing done” in terms of training.
“We were there [in the Championship] ‘til mid-September after the replay, so we’re only back and then there was a two-week break in the middle of it, so we’ve nothing done.”
That means they haven’t had the chance to do any fieldwork on the new rules, although players are familiar with them from last year’s trials. He cites the quality of last year’s All-Ireland finals, however, as reasons against their inclusion.
“By and large, I’m a traditionalist. I don’t see why we should be changing things all the time. There’s times when teams are dominant and different things happen, and you work against that and try to solve it.
“If you look at the two All-Ireland finals last year, was there much wrong with the football in that? Did you need to change things?”
Here’s to more of the same, starting tonight.