Darran O’Sullivan has confirmed that he’ll continue to play for Kerry in 2017 and believes he’ll be joined by almost all of this year’s panel.
Kieran Donaghy (33) seemed to bid farewell to Croke Park when he sat on the pitch with his daughter as the stadium emptied after their All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin.
Veteran duo Marc O Se and Aidan O’Mahony are also expected to consider their futures while Donnchadh Walsh, Colm Cooper and Bryan Sheehan are in their 30s too.
Speedy attacker O’Sullivan, who netted against Dublin, turns 31 next summer but said that he’ll definitely be back for another season and is confident about almost all of his colleagues.
He said there’s a chance that ‘one or two’ will quit but suggested there’ll be no ‘major changes’ and backed towering talisman Donaghy to stay on.
“Donaghy has an awful lot still to offer,” said O’Sullivan. “He’s in as good a shape as he has been in a long time. He was outstanding for Austin Stacks at the weekend, he was very good for Kerry at midfield, full forward. His fitness was actually frightening this year, probably better than it ever was.
“He was up at the top of all the mileage charts and all of that. If he keeps looking after the body and stays fresh, there’s no reason why he couldn’t come back playing.”
Asked if he got a sense generally that retirements are imminent, the former All-Ireland winning captain shook his head.
“I don’t, to be honest,” he said. “There is this talk every year that this fella is going and that fella is going. You’ll have the same fellas telling you that they are going for the last 10 years.
“But when you’ve seen them training every night and when you are getting phone calls to go to the gym you know they have more to offer. I don’t think there will be major changes. You might have one or two going, that’s it.”
A transition period may still be looming for Kerry though with boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice having the pick of two —and possibly three — All-Ireland winning minor sides in 2017.
“Obviously that will be up to Eamonn but a lot of them were already in training with us this year so that would have brought them on an awful lot,” said O’Sullivan. “They’ll be ready to go come February or whenever the league starts.”
Fitzmaurice confirmed publicly soon after the defeat to Dublin that he’d extended his management tenure by two years though O’Sullivan said the players already knew.
“We actually knew about it a good while before he announced it,” he said. “It was great for us knowing that after the Dublin game because despite what people were saying about this team or that the management would change, we knew it wasn’t going to change.
“He has a great relationship with all the players. We all get on with him. He’s straight, there’s no loose ends, he just says it straight out and tells you what it is. Bringing in Liam Hassett this year was a massive thing for us too, he’s brilliant around the place so that freshened it up a bit.”
O’Sullivan looked back on the narrow semi-final defeat to Dublin as ‘one that got away’ though refused to blame the defeat on the surprising decision not to award Kerry a late free for Kevin McManamon’s huge hit on Peter Crowley.
“It was a free but those decisions happen all the time,” he said.
O’Sullivan came on a decade ago when Kerry beat Mayo in the 2006 All-Ireland final, one of seven final defeats for Mayo since they last won one 65 years ago.
“Eventually they’re going to just have to let go of it whether it’s playing on their minds or not,” said O’Sullivan of Mayo’s terrible final record. “Eventually you just need your stronger characters, your bigger players just to drive it on for the rest of them and to make sure it’s not on everyone’s mind. Just go at it themselves, back themselves.”
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