FORMER Kerry goalkeeper Diarmuid Murphy has backed his under-fire successor, Brendan Kealy whose first summer between the posts has been marred by a handful of costly errors under the high ball.
A fine shot-stopper, the Kilcummin man has been criticised for conceding goals against Tipperary and Cork which emanated from high balls, while his short kick-out to Seamus Scanlon against Limerick was intercepted by John Galvin and ended in the net.
“I think Brendan has done very well so far,” said Murphy.
“It’s not easy to come in there. He wasn’t even on the panel last year and to come straight onto the first team is tough. All things considered, he has done very well.”
In many respects, it has been a thankless task for Kealy, who has replaced a three-time All-Star and four-time All-Ireland medallist. Still only 34, Murphy continues to line out for Dingle and looks as fit as ever.
In Dublin to promote the GAA’s new goalkeeping coaching DVD (available for download at the official website), the 6’ 3” Murphy was a man very much at peace with his decision to call time on his inter-county career six months ago.
“I had my mind made up during the course of last year that 2009 was going to be my last season so I was happy with my decision. Thanks be to God, it worked out great for us at the finish but I had my mind made up from a fair bit out.”
A nagging back strain was complicit in the decision to walk away and, while the losses of others such as Darragh Ó Sé, Tommy Walsh and Tadhg Kennelly made more headlines, Murphy’s exit was no less difficult to absorb.
Kealy may yet go on to enjoy a fine career in the role but it is interesting to note that Jack O’Connor made specific mention of Murphy’s ability to dominate his area and deal with high balls when eulogising his departing stopper.
Experience had more than a little to do with that and few in Kerry will need telling that such a commodity will be in short supply when the All-Ireland champions return to the field on the August Bank Holiday weekend.
With Paul Galvin and Tomás Ó Sé suspended, Kerry will be without at least half a dozen of the side that started last year’s All-Ireland final against Cork.
Murphy prefers to look at things from a different perspective.
“Tomás and Paul will be two of the most experienced players on the team and two of the better players as well. There is no point saying they aren’t going to be a big loss.
“The thing is that it is going to give somebody else the chance to come in and do their stuff and maybe hammer down their place if Kerry do win.
“Other fellas will get their chance and everyone just has to get on with it.”
Kerry are one of the few counties capable of juggling transition with an undimmed expectation of success and Murphy pointed to the precedent in 2006 when the county won an All-Ireland on the back of the retirements of Dara Ó Cinnéide, Liam Hassett and Willie Kirby. If anything, 2010 has actually been a marked improvement on the last two seasons.
Unlike 2008 and 2009, Kerry will not be on duty for this weekend’s round-four qualifiers thanks to their hard-won 73rd Munster title.
“They are in reasonably good shape,” said Murphy. “They are in the All-Ireland quarter-final and that is all you can ask for, really, whether you have got there by the front door, back door or whatever.
“Once you are in the final eight, that is when the real action starts.”
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