Forget the geography of it, because Kerry will be breaking new ground when they take on Carlow in the Leinster Championship round robin series qualifier on Sunday, where a win would be a significant step for the Kingdom towards a Leinster quarter-final against either Galway or Laois.
So, with a new wave of confidence and optimism sweeping through the Kerry hurling fraternity, can the Kingdom fashion two wins from three outings against Carlow (h), Westmeath (h) and Offaly (a) and reach the Holy Grail?
Happy as is with progress so far under his watch, Kerry boss Ciaran Carey is not getting carried away. He says they have tweaked their preparations because league and championship are two different animals.
“The preparation has changed slightly because your league preparation, the focus was on maintaining our status in Division 1B and we achieved that.
“Now we are going into a new phase of the championship, which is a round robin, and we’re going to deal with that right now and then whatever comes after that, we will deal with that then. Right now it’s a matter of pulling the handbrake because the boys are ready to rock and roll, really.”
The Patrickswell legend is aware that expectation is high in the Kingdom right now but he maintains Kerry still have some improving to do.
“Expectation will be slightly higher. I believe it will be like it was before our last league game here in Austin Stack Park against Laois. I think it was 57 years since we last beat Laois in the league and thankfully we beat them twice in the space of two months, so it’s a matter of staying on top of the lads mentality and keeping them grounded.
“If we drop our level, Carlow will be confident of winning, obviously, but if they maintain the standard that they set for themselves, then I think the scoreboard at that stage usually looks after itself.”
Would Carey rather see Kerry compete in Munster or is he happy to have a backdoor route into Leinster?
“We still have a bit to do to get up to the required levels in Munster. The way we approached it, we were looking for instant coffee so your preparation is going to be in regards to that type of mentality.
“But looking at the bigger picture, if the lads had about four years of the solid work that they have done this year, after four years I reckon they would be a serious force.
“It certainly wouldn’t be my call whether they would return to Munster then but having the lads ready for whatever province that they would be playing in... I would still think that they would need four years under their belt.
“There’s some good young hurlers coming through. Young Shane Conway is a lovely hurler and I think there are five or six minors out there who are promising hurlers. The U21 squad will be extremely strong this coming season — I think we probably have 10 or 11 on the senior squad. That is the way to go forward, especially with the modern game, but the lads are getting huge experience at a young age.
“Playing Clare in the league this year, and okay, Clare won the game pretty convincingly, but there was a part of me during a spell of that game where there was serious self-satisfaction. I remember looking out at Jason Diggins and saying that fella played Minor B last year and here he is, holding his own against Clare. That’s with five months’ work, so with four years, what could he achieve?
“I can’t comment on previous regimes, I can only comment on the players there currently. It’s up to the lads now where they want to go. All we can do is facilitate the players and give them the self-belief that they achieve what they want to achieve.”
Underdogs though Carlow will be, Carey is wary of their capacity to surprise in recent championships.
“Carlow have caused a shock or two over the past two years. Irrespective of the opposition we will be going out and dictating the way we are going to play, just as we did in the league, to the best of our ability.
“That is the way we will be looking at it and we will be concentrating on our own game and not the opposition. We will be going out the same way as we did against Laois because that is our template.
“But we are only as good as our last game and we will be trying to start our games much better, which we haven’t always been doing.
“We will also be trying to cut out mistakes we make in a game though you will never eliminate every error.”
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