Paul Geaney has admitted that it felt like he was playing for the Kerry U23s at times earlier this year.
A mixture of injuries to key players, unavailability and pressure to blood former minor stars led to Kerry manager Eamon Fitzmaurice experimenting with 37 different players in Division 1, the most of any team.
That’s three more than champions Dublin, who played an extra game, and a full eight more than Galway who also got an extra game with the final.
Geaney started six of Kerry’s seven games despite a couple of injury issues and admitted the dressing room had a different, more youthful feel to it.
David Clifford, just out of the minor grade, and former underage stars Sean O’Shea, Jason Foley, Micheal Burns, Killian Spillane and Brian Ó Beaglaoich all featured prominently throughout spring.
“Looking around at training at the start of the year, there was a mass of fresh faces because there was a lengthy injury list, there were 16 or 17 of the older guys out and Kieran (Donaghy) was playing basketball and things like that,” said Geaney.
“When I came back in first, it was like an U23 squad but there was fierce energy there and enthusiasm and you could sense the start of something new for them and they were excited to finally be Kerry seniors.
“Some of them are hitting 21 now, prime age to be nailing down a senior spot so it should be an exciting summer ahead for them.”
Kerry lost more games than they won in Division 1 though former All-Star Geaney said there were plenty of positives from the campaign.
“When you look back at the number of guys we did blood, and the number of injuries we did have, staying in Division 1 and we got a couple of wins, got the experience for those younger guys, it was a good innings,” said Geaney.
“Fellas got six or seven inter-county games under their belts. A lot of them wouldn’t have had that, 10 or 15 minutes maybe, so that’s a good result.”
Kerry, as ever, have an array of attacking options and Geaney could yet form an intriguing full-forward line partnership with Clifford, one of the most exciting prospects in years.
“The Donegal game in the league was the first time I played with David, he’s a serious talent,” said Geaney.
“It’s a big transition and there is a lot of learning but David is capable of learning and performing at the same time I think.
“I expect him to play his part this summer. I’m not sure how big a part that will be but I’m sure he’ll play his part.”
As things stand, just two minors — Tom Leo O’Sullivan and Ó Beaglaoich — from the four All-Ireland winning teams between 2014 and 2017 have graduated to play in the senior Championship. That figure could treble, at least, this summer.
“Micheal Burns, wing-forward, he did well in the league and he started every game and played nearly every minute which is good for him,” said Geaney.
“He comes from a good club with plenty of pedigree. Jason Foley had a solid league. My own club mate Tom Sullivan missed some of the league with injury but is flying with the club now. It is exciting to have these guys all chomping at the bit.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved