Tipperary legend Brendan Cummins claims Kerry could return to the Munster hurling championship within two years if their potential is properly harnessed.
But the Kingdom goalkeeping coach fears the progress currently being made “could be lost in the coming years if they don’t get an opportunity”.
The two-time All-Ireland medallist helped Kerry to win this year’s Division 2 league title and they gave Offaly a major scare in the play-off for promotion to Division 1B.
Eamonn Kelly’s side are also through to the last four of the Christy Ring Cup and, according to Cummins, are making the sort of progress that puts them in line for full Championship status. Kerry haven’t played in the Munster championship since losing heavily to Cork in 2004 though Cummins is adamant that they are onto something big right now.
“They are in a position now where if they got enough work into them over a sustained year or two with the management team that is place, they would certainly justify being in the Munster championship,” said Cummins. “I have no doubt about that. The likes of Shane Nolan and these lads, from watching them play, I tell you, you won’t see a better forward in the country.
“The scenes after Kerry won the Division 2 final, I haven’t seen anything like it in a long time. It was just amazing. The players had put in such an effort.
“Certainly, hurling with the bigger guys would help improve the structures that they have now. But I think that work could be lost in the coming years if they don’t get an opportunity.”
Cummins is facing his first summer since 1993 outside a Tipp senior set-up, having retired last year. He was appointed as Kingdom coach over winter by fellow county man Kelly and admitted it’s been an “education”.
“To see the amount of work those lads put in has been an education to me,” continued Cummins. “The Kerry lads, 25 or 30 of them, train away. It’s just as intense as what I’ve seen from Tipperary teams trying to win an All-Ireland.”
Cummins’ native Tipp will open their Munster championship account on Sunday week against Limerick, a day after Kerry play their Christy Ring Cup semi-final tie.
It will be a novel weekend for Cummins after two decades of playing action with Tipp. Cummins accepted that Tipp underachieved in his time and said they need to show greater mental resolve at key stages in big games.
“It’s a challenge all the time for us in Tipp, coming down the home straight, that we finish the job,” said Cummins, speaking at Croke Park at the launch of Damian Lawlor’s book Fields of Fire — The Inside Story of Hurling’s Great Renaissance. “We haven’t done it since 2010 in the All-Ireland final.
“It has been a criticism levelled at us and it’s justified because history books show we haven’t been going that well in games in the last 10 minutes. Eamon (O’Shea) would have spoken all the time about players playing with freedom and when they are in that 10 minutes, that they don’t tense up, that they attack the finish line.”
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