Killian Young has been ambushed before. And the experienced defender insists Kerry will travel to Croke Park on Sunday on high alert for a Galway heist.
Seven years ago, Young started for the reigning All-Ireland champions when Down shocked football with a quarter-final dismantling of Jack O’Connor’s side.
And he recognises now that Kerry hadn’t adequately packed that day for worst case scenarios.
“Over the years we have been dumped out of the championship by the likes of Down. We were very disappointed by that. It was more like an ambush in one sense where we just weren’t prepared. We could have been prepared a lot differently. You just want to be very careful that way.”
Quarter-final time is fraught with danger. Serene provincial champions run into qualifier underdogs who have been buffeted and polished by a string of games and the emotional rollercoaster of reverse and redemption.
Galway arrive on Sunday buoyed by a four-goal rout of Donegal, their Connacht final collapse shelved for now. Young knows the pitfalls.
“Momentum could be with that side (in the quarter-final). It is all about playing games, we know that, everybody knows that. You can’t replicate it in training, game time and championship game time at that.
“We are well aware of that, but that, not so much puts you on edge, but it puts you on your toes and gives you focus going into a quarter-final because you know a team might have extra games. You need to focus on your own performance and how you prepare.
“It is just a matter of treating the opposition with respect, putting a lot of focus on that and even more so on ourselves. It is always about the next game for us. Like any sport if you try to get ahead of your opponent you are always going to get found out. That has come with experience. A lot of players in our panel learned the hard way.”
Just Young, Donnchadh Walsh, Kieran Donaghy, Darran O’Sullivan and Brian Sheehan remain on the Kerry panel from the 15 who started against Down seven years ago. And Young, himself creeping towards veteran status, believes Éamonn Fitzmaurice has managed the departure of so many Kerry stalwarts perfectly. The Kingdom lost three greats of the game in Colm Cooper, Aidan O’Mahony and Marc Ó Sé since the conclusion of last year’s championship. But Young is impressed with the way manager Fitzmaurice has organised the transition to younger blood.
“I think we have dealt with it well. I think a lot of players got a lot of experience in the last two years. So it wasn’t as if it just happened overnight where we were looking over our shoulder at what is next.
“Éamonn Fitzmaurice brought players in and got game time for them. I think anybody who has stepped in has very good experience already. He has used players early in the year during the league and championship.
“It has become such a squad game now. In the past, maybe five years plus, it would have been very difficult when players of that calibre would have left the panel because you would have been highly relying on the first 15. Now it is such a panel effort, a lot more players have that experience so it is a lot easier to transition into the first team. So I think that has been dealt with well. So far it has worked out.”
Now 10 years in the Kerry setup, the 30-year-old is beginning to countenance how it might feel the other side of that exit door. Though hopes he still has time to bolster his haul of four All-Ireland medals.
“Of course the game has changed a lot over time. It has got more professional and demanding, but for me, in general, the reason I’m there for so long is because I enjoy the game so much. I love it. There is a passion about it, to have that opportunity to play for Kerry is something I don’t take lightly as well. I just enjoy every moment of it, try to make the most of it.
“When you talk about guys retiring early you just don’t know when it is going to end. You never want it to end, but it is going to happen at some stage. You have to make the most of it while you are there. You want to make the most out of it and get the most from your time in a Kerry jersey.
“This year has been slightly frustrating for me with injury. That normally wouldn’t have happened throughout my career in the past, but I’m glad to be back now. It was good to get game time in the Munster final. It is a good time to be back for the real business end to it.”
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