Old guard playing like teenagers to lead Kerry charge

For 37 minutes on Sunday, seven of Kerry’s team were either over 30 or in Darran O’Sullivan’s case turning 30 this year.

In that same period, Roscommon were stung for two goals.

That their more seasoned men had a part to play in scoring both of them was hardly surprising considering they made up almost half the team.

Having scored the first, Colm Cooper (33 in June) then combined with Donnchadh Walsh (32 in July) for the second while Darran O’Sullivan (30 next month) had the anticipation, speed and composure to claim the third.

But it runs true with the assured excellence we’ve seen from Kerry’s elder guard since the end of February.

For 56 minutes, Marc Ó Sé (36 next week) and Aidan O’Mahony (36 in June) were part of a rearguard group that reduced Roscommon to two points from play as Kieran Donaghy, who turned 33 in March, was ruling the central roost with David Moran.

Another evergreen appeared in the form of Bryan Sheehan (31 in August) as a 19th minute substitute for the injured Johnny Buckley.

Age, so far this year, has proven to be only a number for Kerry’s stalwarts.

“They’re in great shape,” says their former team-mate Seamus Scanlon. “As the years get on, they know how to mind themselves better.

They also seem to be enjoying it more too because for the likes of Aidan and Marc they’re getting closer to the end. They’re savouring it.

“They’re taking such a professional approach to it. Everything is done like clockwork by the older fellas. They know how their bodies work and train accordingly. When you hit the 30-mark you’re minding your body more and more and they’ve that balance right between training and rest.”

Scanlon agrees the sweeper role in perfectly suited to O’Mahony’s style of play.

“He’s good on the ball but he’s also sharp at cutting out balls especially crossfield ones.”

O’Sullivan, Kerry’s best player in 2016 up to this point, has been like a breath of fresh air.

“I’ve seen Darran in a lot of league games this year and it’s like he’s had a new lease of life and he looks like he’s lost nothing from when he was last at the top of his game. When he’s injury-free, that man can take on any team. He’s always looking to be on the front foot.”

As for Cooper, Scanlon too sees early indications that he is returning to close to his best after a difficult first season back in 2015 from his kneecap and cruciate setbacks.

“He’s stepping up and he’s playing more like the old Gooch. He was coming back from a bad injury and he needed a little more time. He’s been really sharp so far this year.”

Given the battle for places to be even part of the match-day panel (Tommy Walsh and Paul Geaney were released back to their clubs for the Mayo and Roscommon games respectively), Scanlon says it goes without saying the older crew are being picked on merit alone.

“The squad is massive. You go through every player and it’s unbelievable just how much they’re fighting not just for positions in the team but the squad too. Brendan O’Sullivan has impressed me when he’s been coming on in games. He loves to run at teams and take them on.”

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