Newly appointed Kerry captain Johnny Buckley has belied their status as the game’s chief black card offenders by claiming there’s not a “cynical bone” in the Kingdom camp.
Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s panel has picked up more black cards, 25, than any other county across the four league campaigns since the introduction of the third card at the beginning of 2014.
They finished top of the pile this spring too, with Jonathan Lyne and Anthony Maher’s deliberate pull-downs during last month’s league final win over Dublin taking their total to nine – one more than Kildare who also played eight.
Jim Gavin recently pointed to Dublin’s black card record as proof they’re not a cynical team and while the figures aren’t as kind to Kerry, Buckley believes there isn’t an ounce of cynicism among the Kerry players.
“I’ve been on the sideline for a lot of games watching on and I can’t see anything extra in it this year,” said Buckley.
“I know it’s very difficult for the refs to watch a lot of the stuff that goes on, but, as a group, we in no way made a conscious decision to be more cynical or anything like that.
“Again, our focus is to go out on any day, win the match and play as hard as we can.
“But I wouldn’t say there’s a cynical bone in our bodies.” From the team which took to the field for the league final victory, Ronan Shanahan, Tadhg Morley, Jack Barry, Jack Savage and Kevin McCarthy had never before been part of a Kerry team to overcome this Dublin group.
And so from that point of view, according to Buckley, it was an important result.
“The day itself was great. It was great to beat the Dubs after the past couple of years and them having pipped us in the championship.
“We are looking at it for what it was; a national league. If we do come up against them [in the championship], it might be of a help to have that experience.
“For some of the younger fellas, it was their first time beating the Dubs.
“That will all be added to the pot. There is a long way to go to then.”
The 27-year old did not rejoin the squad after Dr Crokes’ All-Ireland Club final win on St Patrick’s Day owing to the knee injury which kept him out of the 2016 championship.
“I’ve had an issue with my knee over the last year or so. I got a job done on it last April; that kind of counted me out for the season.
“And with Crokes running through the new year and straight into March 17, it was a first chance I got to get a good block of rehab in. In fairness to Eamonn, we sat down and chatted about it. There was one league game left and the potential of a final ahead of us.
“He said ‘look, take a chance to get the rehab done and get the body right,’ which is what I’ve done.
“It’s in good shape now, thankfully. I didn’t get to play with Kerry last year and through the injury, I was kind of just chasing my tail all year. The hunger was there to come straight back into it after the club finished up, but I suppose coming back after the couple of weeks off can only do good for the body and mind.”
Buckley also revealed Crokes’ decision to nominate him for captain was made by the inter-county players from the Killarney club.
“It was between a couple of the lads that won the county championship so I sat down with Fionn [Fitzgerald] and Fionn had lifted Sam before. We had a chat with some of the younger lads and between the lot of us, we just decided that I would do it this year. But when you are going in with Kerry, it is not a huge thing, because there are a lot of captain figures around the dressing room anyway.”
He added: “Colm [Cooper] will definitely be missed. What it has done is give fellas who have been around for a few years the chance to step up to the plate and become that leader in the dressing room and that leader on the field, which is a very powerful and positive thing.”
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