If Leicester City can do it, why not the Kerry hurlers, or so goes Ciarán Carey’s train of thought ahead of the county’s Division 1B opener this weekend.
The Kingdom hurlers are newcomers to the league’s second tier, having defied all odds when overcoming Westmeath and Antrim on successive weekends last spring to secure promotion to Division 1B.
So, instead of the familiar February and March sojourns to Mullingar, Aughrim and Carlow town, the Kerry hurlers are headed for Portlaoise, Ennis and St Brendan’s Park, Birr in the weeks ahead. As Carey puts it, the difference in class will be as clear as “night and day”.
His side are firm favourites for the drop, but the former Limerick hurler doesn’t see their relegation as a done deal.
Enter Leicester City. The Foxes have stunned the football world in charging to the head of the premiership table. No reason why Kerry can’t do likewise, he argues.
“Look, anything can happen in sport, no matter what the game is. If you take soccer, for example, few would have predicted at the start of the season that Leicester City would be top of the table right now.
“So once you have commitment, once you have a squad who want to do well and who prepare for the test ahead then anything is possible and you never know where it might take you,” said the Kerry boss.
A major boost in their bid for survival was a recent Croke Park decision to allow the county again call on the services of Clarecastle native Patrick Kelly who was to the fore in both their league and championship winning campaigns in 2015 — there had been concerns Kelly would be deemed ineligible to line out for his adopted county, under Rule 6.9, given Kerry now enjoy the same status as his native Clare.
“Patrick Kelly is a fine player. We are delighted to have him. I think Kerry only used three outside players last year and two of them are in England right now, so we’re unfortunate not to have three, but we’re delighted to have Patrick.”
Kelly aside, there was only one other member of the squad which lined out for their final Munster SHL fixture against Waterford from outside the hurling hotbed of North Kerry. Carey accepts the need for a culture change in the Kingdom if they are to become permanent residents in the upper echelons of both the league and championship.
“You have to start with the whole culture of Kerry hurling before you address anything else. On the big scale of things that will have to change first is how the hurlers are viewed in Kerry. If you can nibble away at that, you can nibble away at the squad then.
“The commitment of the players to the cause is a given, I wouldn’t have been here for the last three months if it wasn’t.
“But I do know that it’s like the difference between night and day where they are going this year and competing compared to where they were at this time last year.”
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