Bryan Sheehan feels it may take two years for David Clifford to adapt fully to life as a senior inter-county player.
The young Fossa forward was unplayable with the county minors last year, topping off a superb summer by claiming 4-4 in the All-Ireland final against Derry and then climbing the Hogan Stand steps to lift the Tom Markham Cup.
Sheehan was impressed with the youngster’s efforts during the Allianz League when promoted to the senior ranks and believes that, at 6’ 2”, he has the physique and the ability to prosper at the elite level.
But the curve to come remains steep.
“David has a fantastic career ahead of him. People need to be very realistic about it. This fella only turned 19 in January. He’s not going to come in and set the world on fire. I hope he does, it would be fantastic if he did, but we need to be patient and give this fella time.
“The step up is so high, it’s going to be very hard for him. You might see the best of David maybe in two years’ time, when he really finds his feet with the pace of the game and gets used to the physicality of it. He’s going to be a massive, massive player for Kerry.”
Sheehan is optimistic about the role he can play in the months to come as well and believes the likely presence of veterans such as Kieran Donaghy, Paul Geaney, James O’Donoghue and even David Moran and Johnny Buckley further back the field will help.
And not just Clifford.
Éamonn Fitzmaurice blooded a host of new talent over the opening months of 2018 and it is the Kerry manager’s unenviable task now to find the balance between old and new that will take the Kingdom deep into the summer.
Patience for players is one thing, after all. The team is a different story.
“You do (need patience)”, Sheehan agreed. “But at the same time you have to be optimistic too. You can’t just be thinking to yourself that this is just a year of transition, that we’ll do our best and see how it goes.
“If they don’t win the All-Ireland it’s seen as a failure in Kerry. When you’re saying Kerry have to be patient: Yes, they’re building a team but they have to be going in the right direction towards that. They have to be competing to win an All-Ireland.”
Any impatience in Kerry isn’t just borne of the fact that they haven’t claimed the Sam Maguire since 2014. The fact Dublin are one more title away from emulating their great four-in-a-row teams of 1929-32 and ’78-’81 is an issue as well.
Sheehan, like Mickey Harte of late, was of a mind to wonder aloud if Dublin’s hunger for a fourth can be as strong as their appetite was for the hat-trick but the five-time All-Ireland winner is by no means playing down their ability to write more history.
“They have the capability of doing it. They’re going for four in a row. If they do that they’re up with the great Kerry team. People are always going to be comparing the great Kerry team of the ‘80s to the Dublin team at the moment and you’ve got to give credit to Dublin.
“You have to fear them because they’re that good. I wouldn’t say you’re going to be afraid of them, or that you’re going to be beaten before you play them, but there’s definitely respect there.”
Irish bookmakers Paddy Power have revealed former Kerry All-Star Bryan Sheehan and Tyrone football legend Owen Mulligan as their Paddy Power News GAA Ambassadors for 2018.
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