Bryan Sheehan was last to depart the Gaelic Grounds field on Sunday evening, an endless queue of excited youngsters wanting their photograph with the new Kerry captain.
As Sheehan himself readily admits, 2015 will be hard to top, what with county and Munster glory with the club as well as captaining South Kerry to senior championship success.
While the New Year is hardly four weeks old, already the St Mary’s player has plenty to smile about; assuming for the second time in his career the role of Kerry captain and a return to Croke Park on February 6 with the players, family and friends he grew up with.
With St Mary’s progression to the All-Ireland decider, Sheehan will miss Kerry’s opening league fixture away to Dublin on Saturday. His second-coming as Kingdom captain will have to wait.
“I’d love nothing more than to lead out Kerry in Croke Park against the reigning champions, but look, there is a massive honour coming on the club in 12 days time and that is the priority,” he said last night.
“I was captain in 2010, but there were a lot of leaders on that team who aren’t there now, Darragh Ó Sé, Declan O’Sullivan, Eoin Brosnan and a few more. I’m 30 years of age now and I see myself as being a bit more of a leader. I am 12 years on the panel and am comfortable now standing up in the dressing room and talking.
“I’ve captained Kerry at minor, U21 and senior level. I’ve been very lucky, really. It is a massive honour and privilege, and something that I’m not afraid of. I really think it will bring out the best of me. As captain, my expectations are going to go through the roof.”
Although not involved this weekend, Sheehan was keen to pour cold water on the suggestion that Dublin have now become their bogey team.
“The same was said of Tyrone. Do I fear them, no? Were we labelled their bogey team when they hadn’t beaten us for 34 years? It is three games. We threw away the 2011 All-Ireland. We were the better team. 2013 came down to a breaking ball which they won. 2015 they were hungrier than us.”
As for the club’s near-perfect semi-final performance on Sunday?
“Thank God this journey is still going,” he grins.
“We were there when we won the junior in 2011 and it is great to get back to Croke Park with these lads. They’re superb. From the off, we really got stuck into them. We outworked them and that was the key. We did very little wrong and there are just days like that when things go your way. I’m thrilled.”
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