Kerry manager Peter Keane has only been in the job for a single championship fixture but already it’s pretty clear that he isn’t one for rhetorical flourishes. Commenting after his side’s convincing victory against Clare on Saturday night, that secured their passage to the extremely familiar confines of the Munster Final, Keane asserted that “I don’t know if it was the conditions or what on the night but we did make a lot of basic mistakes and we won’t get away with that going forward. There’s lots to work on but at least we have something to work on.”
That came fresh off his comments prior to the game that his work with Kerry is very much a work in progress
“So there’s about as much point as me worrying about a Dublin or anyone else worrying about a Tyrone or a Mayo or someone else. We have Clare in the first round and we’ll see where go from there.So I’m certainly not focused on the Super-8s. Because all I can worry at this time is game by game. Every day is a learning day. It’s a cliché, but it’s true.“
The new Kingdom manager is correct to be circumspect, especially when you consider how their most recent championship season ended.
At some point during their opening quarter-final group game against Galway last July, the 2018 season fell apart for Kerry. Maybe it was the dark and wet conditions in Croke Park; or swathes of empty pale blue seats depriving the game of any kind of atmosphere; or maybe it was simply a game too far for a young Kerry team meeting a Galway outfit hitting stride. Whatever the reason, they limped out of HQ with their season all but over, despite a late rally the following weekend in Clones.
But don’t think for one second that any lingering question marks surrounding last year’s limp exit, or a slow-ish start against Clare, will prevent the footballing commentariat from bigging up the Kingdom in 2019, given half a chance.
Peter Canavan’s column in last Friday’s Irish Independent opened the bidding: “There was a general acceptance that Peter Keane would need time, but I think they showed enough in the league to make a case for them to develop much sooner and challenge the Dubs. They reached the league final effectively without their Dr Crokes players and in the process solved one of the most glaring problems Kerry had last year in terms of their defensive set-up. the biggest reason I fancy this Kerry team is because it takes class forwards to win an All-Ireland and they have that in spades. They can hurt you in so many ways.”
With such a young squad under his tutelage, you can see why Peter Keane is keen to dampen expectations, so perhaps he will be happy enough they didn’t set the world alight in Ennis. They destroyed Clare and Cork in Munster last year, then hit a cliff.
Saturday’s victory over Clare was achieved, in the main, thanks to a strong first half showing during which James O’Donoghue scored the game’s only goal. Kerry have such an embarrassment of attacking riches, they are bound to shine at some point during any given seventy-minute period, but their inability to drive towards a more comfortable victory will give Keane plenty of reason to keep his players on their toes. While Cork’s strong display against Limerick should quell any random bouts of complacency.
Kerry being Kerry, Keane’s tenure will be judged on how their Championship ends, not as it begins, but he has done a solid job so far in bringing some reality back to a Kingdom football scene that had veered into panic following a torrid Super 8s campaign in 2018 and he has bought himself some space to do things his own way.
As his understated demeanor suggests, the first-year Kerry boss will keep things very low-key within his squad, but as long as Kerry are moving in what appears to be the right direction, that approach will be tolerated by the restless natives.
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