Kerry captain Daniel Collins admits that county colleagues used to “hate” each other before a psychologist helped them get past club rivalries for the common good.
And the 22-year-old believes the Kingdom’s progress was stifled by an often poisonous atmosphere within their own dressing-room.
But the 2015 campaign was a landmark one for Kerry as they gained promotion to Allianz Hurling League Division 1B before winning the Christy Ring Cup.
And Kerry continued that good form this spring by retaining their 1B status, scoring landmark victories over Laois and Offaly along the way.
Collins agrees erry are marked men as they prepare for the start of the Leinster SHC on Sunday, with Carlow the visitors to Austin Stack Park in Tralee.
But Kerry, under Limerick legend Ciarán Carey’s management, are confident they can emerge from a four-team group to book a quarter-final with Laois or Galway.
And with a new sense of harmony in the group, Collins is confident Kerry can continue along their upward curve, as club enmities have finally been put aside.
The Kilmoyley man said: “We discussed this with our psychologist, in the last couple of years especially. It used to get in the way maybe and affect Kerry hurling because fellas used (to) hate this fella here because he played for the club next door and they wouldn’t pass the ball to him and all of this sort of carry-on.
“That’s completely shut down now. The club stuff doesn’t matter anymore when you’re in with Kerry. Everyone gets on with everyone. And when we go back to the clubs we take each other’s heads off, but that’s exactly how you want it and that’s how fellas like it.”
The close proximity of a core group of senior hurling clubs in North Kerry, separated by no more than a few miles, helped to fester the ill feeling.
And Collins explained: “Those eight clubs, and they’re all only four or five miles apart, would end up playing each other five or six times a year. It’s just crazy, even if the rivalry isn’t as bad as it once was. Before, fellas used to hold grudges off the field, but now that’s gone. The rivalry is there on the pitch and it’s hard and it’s tough, but as soon as we go off the pitch every fella more or less does get on.”
Tough-tackling half-back Collins also represented Kerry as a minor footballer, and won an All-Ireland Club Intermediate medal with Ardfert last year.
He’s also a former minor and U21 B All-Ireland medallist with the Kerry hurlers and a player fast becoming accustomed to success. And while Kerry may not be competing in their own province, Collins is relishing the prospect of senior championship hurling.
He insisted: “I don’t think it’s strange, it’s something we’re more excited about than anything else. We can’t wait to get going, we’re itching for Sunday. We’ve had a number over Westmeath and Carlow for the last couple of years so they will definitely be gunning for us.”
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