Daithí Casey didn’t enjoy looking in at Legion or Austin Stacks carrying the Kerry flag in Munster in recent years.
Dr Crokes had ruled the provincial landscape with an iron fist between 2011 and 2013, but successive slip-ups on the domestic front meant the Killarney outfit were nowhere to be seen when the Munster club championship rolled into town for the past two winters.
Having reclaimed the local throne last month, Clare champions Kilmurry/Ibrickane were taken at Munster’s opening hurdle.
Tipperary representatives Loughmore-Castleiney were the visitors to Lewis Road on Sunday, with Crokes’ six-point victory propelling them into a fifth Munster final in seven years.
“It’s great to be back in a Munster final after a few years,” admitted Crokes centre-forward Casey.
“The last couple of years, we’ve been sat at home watching other teams playing in the later stages of competitions. It wasn’t nice. It was disappointing.
“We knuckled down last October with the ambition of winning back the Kerry championship and the big word I would use right now is that we have momentum. With each win, we are growing as a team. The graph has been going up for the last few weeks. We didn’t reach the heights on Sunday that we had been reaching, but we’ve two weeks to the Munster final to work on that.”
Casey and Colm Cooper were the only Crokes forwards not to be called ashore by Pat O’Shea during Sunday’s less than impressive victory.
And with Jordan Kiely, Tony Brosnan and Micheál Burns again showing well when sprung from the bench, Casey says the front six are under constant pressure to retain their starting berths.
“In the past, people would have said that we had only 15 or 16 players, but now there are places up for grabs in every training session and the boys who come on are doing great. The big thing is that every fella is buying into the fact everyone cannot play but everyone can make a difference.
“So if you are not starting, you could come on after 20 minutes and have a huge game or come on with 20 minutes to go and do the same. Tony Brosnan, Jordan Kiely and Micheál Burns all chipped in (at the weekend) and that is exactly what you want. We are the lucky ones who are starting, but at the end of the day, it’s about finishing the job.”
The Kerry champions are due to play Austin Stacks in this weekend’s county league final. Crokes selector Harry O’Neill is hoping the fixture will be postponed to allow them properly prepare for the meeting with The Nire on November 27.
“I would love for the lads to have a break,” he said, “so we could get a couple of training sessions done, rather than training once this week, playing a game at the weekend and then doing a recovery session after. We’ve played a match on every weekend for the past seven weeks. For us to represent Kerry, to get in three really good sessions before that Munster final would really benefit us.”
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