The bar has been set pretty high for Peter Keane and his Kerry minor footballers.
Prior to Jack O’Connor assuming the role of Kerry minor manager in October of 2013, the Kingdom hadn’t won an All-Ireland minor title in 19 years. When O’Connor departed the position last September to move up to the U21 post, he brought with him back-to-back All-Ireland-winning squads.
The challenge, then, for Keane and his group is to maintain Kerry’s position atop the summit of minor football. Daunting?
“It is the furthest thing from our mind, to be honest,” replied Keane when quizzed on the pressure facing him and his players to replicate the successes of 2014 and 2015.
“Hopefully, we will have a long campaign. Success generally breeds success. At the same time, every group has to go out and write their own history.
“In a county like Kerry, there is always a hunger for success. All you can do, and I am not trying to talk in clichés here, is take it one game at a time because you can’t have any expectation other than we have a game below in Waterford and we have got to go and see how we get on there. It is our first game and we just have to find out where we are at.
“This is quite different from senior or U21 whereby you know what a team has been producing over the last number of years. At minor level, you don’t really know. Anything can happen. Waterford actually came down to Kerry in 2013 with a very good minor team and were very unlucky not to come away with a win.”
From last year’s all-conquering team, Kenmare’s Sean O’Shea, named at centre-forward for this evening’s trip to Dungarvan, is the sole survivor. Daniel O’Brien and Mike Breen, meanwhile, were both introduced off the bench in the decider against Tipperary last September.
Keane and his backroom team - which includes former Kerry footballer Tommy Griffin - been working off a fairly blank canvas.
“I wouldn’t have been hugely familiar with this group of footballers, but obviously, I would have been fairly familiar with the scene. We were keeping an eye on development squads and schools football.”
Schools football, in particular, was very good to Keane’s predecessor and could well be similarly kind to the Waterville native. From his starting team, four won Hogan Cup medals with St Brendan’s, Killarney in recent weeks. Three more are on the bench. Among the starting six forwards are Dara Moynihan and David Clifford, the pair kicking 2-9 between them to deliver the Sem a first All-Ireland since 1992.
“It was obviously a big plus that those young fellas, for their own development and football, won an All-Ireland, which is a big achievement. You hope, then, when they fall back into our group, which they now have, that they will have a spring in their step and have that confidence that comes with winning an All-Ireland.
“You must also remember that we have had effectively only one training session with them. It is not as if we have had them for the last four weeks. We had one training session and that went well.”
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