Kerry’s League of Ireland standard bearer Gary O’Neill has urged caution about the Kingdom’s impending national league senior team.
Kerry FC are in pole position to assume final place in next year’s ten-team First Division after their application was welcomed by the FAI.
Backed by American-based directors Steve Conway and Brian Ainscough and fronted on the ground by Director of Football Billy Dennehy, the club aims to complete a pathway to the senior circuit for local talent based out of Mounthawk Park in Tralee. Kerry currently competes in the U17 and U19 national leagues.
Shamrock Rovers midfielder O’Neill remains the only Kerry player plying their trade in the top professional league here. Martin Coughlan from Cobh Ramblers along with Treaty United duo Matt Keane and Shane Lowth are in the First Division.
He still feels that competition from GAA represents the major obstacle for the newest entrant to the League of Ireland to thrive.
“As great as it is for the county, I just think Kerry have to bring something to the League,” he confessed about the project.
“That’s hard for me to see right now because I know what goes on down there. Trying to get players is very difficult.
“Billy Dennehy speaks really well about the product they have but with the facilities and players needed it’s going to be very, very difficult. They have an uphill task.
“I’m looking forward to following it and going to matches but think it’s very tough to raise the First Division standard.” Gary’s Dad, Tony O’Neill, was a founding member of Kingdom Boys and he mentions one of his proteges to support his reservations.
“David Clifford played for Kerry at the (U14) Kennedy Cup under my Dad,” he outlines.
“David was a centre-back and English clubs were interested but it’s gone so well for him in GAA.
“He’s an example of someone you’d want to attract into the League but, being such a good GAA player, it’s hard to compete with it.
“The better soccer players are predominantly good at GAA. It’s difficult to entice them.
“I’m sounding like I’m totally against it but I’m not. I want it to do well because I'd love to see it for the county.
“A young Tralee Dynamos team went into the A Championship (from 2009 to 2011) and there was great excitement around. Maybe if people see a Kerry team competing in the national league, it could attract players because there’s nothing there after U19 level.”