The Kerry footballers will kick off their season with a McGrath cup game against IT Tralee very soon and while that game in itself won't set the hearts buzzing it will probably give some lads near enough the panel the opportunity to stake a claim for League places, which will kick off in early February. The McGrath Cup, of course, means very little this year with Tipperary, Limerick, Waterford and Clare metaphorically sticking two fingers up to the Munster Council for seeding Kerry and Cork in the Championship. And who can blame them. Since the open draw in football was introduced there's no doubt that those counties have made progress, and that is despite they being predominantly hurling counties.
It was interesting to note Roy Keane saying this week that hurling is the best game in the world. Well Roy, if the soccer lads won't forgive you for telling the truth in Saipan the GAA boys will love you for that. In fact, if the suits in Croke Park marketed the small ball game properly they would help to reduce the national debt because every television channel in the world would want a bit of it. Just like the Scots gave the world golf and the English gave soccer to the world, we Irish could give the world the best field game in the world. Roy Keane, you never really forgot your roots fair play to you, boy!
Back to the new season and I expect that a lot of the under-21 squad will be looked at in the run up to their Championship in March in the McGrath Cup. I know some players will have to play with their colleges against their own county and with the Dr Crokes contingent tied up until the Club Championship is over Eamonn Fitzmaurice and his management team will have a keen eye on those who they have invested time and effort in over the last few seasons.
Paddy Curran and young Conor Cox must step up and display the potential that some people think they posses. The Geaneys, Jack Sherwood and a few more must now start to push for places on the starting line up of a Kerry squad that has had a few retirements and has an ageing profile. It's time now for fellows like David Moran and Barry John Walsh and Barry John Keane to take the opportunity afforded them to do what young James O'Donoghue did and take the chance or exit stage left.
Certain players can't warm the bench forever. There are plenty of fellows who can occupy that role so it's time now for some of these established panelists to step up to the plate.
Of course the management and supporters must give these fellows and a few more there head they won't improve on the bench the hard call must now be made with some of the young players and some of the not so young ones this year is an important one for Kerry so no pretending some lads have served there time in the squad and its now time to play them and if they cant produce it cut them lose from the pack.
This year will be interesting too for Cork. New manager Brian Cuthbert will have shake up his midfield and back line but he will have a serious squad, and could, if he takes it serious and Kerry do likewise, set up the first instalment of a very interesting season for the old enemies. The primary school teacher from Bishopstown brings a reputation for realism to his management style. They tell me he has an eye for detail. It never ceases to amaze me how many teachers manage teams.
This year, too, we see Jason Ryan move to Kildare, Tomas O Flatharta to Laois, Jack Sheedy to Longford, Paul Bealin to Westmeath, Colm Collins to Clare, Pat Flanagan - no not that Pat Flanagan - to Sligo, Liam Bradly to Antrim, and a few new names to me - Sean Hagan to Leitrim and John Brudier to Limerick. Of course, I can't forget the return of Pete McGrath to Fermanagh. The former All Ireland winning manager with Down fits the bill that we all go through. It's a hard job to walk away from. It gets inside your blood and there is a much of a challenge for yourself as much as any opponents you will play.
They are all trying to wrestle the Sam Maguire away from Dublin's grasp and while Donegal are sending out signals again I'm not so sure that the Dubs will be dethroned. Certainly it is harder now to put back to back titles together but for me they are better equipped then most to do so. But the uncertainly of football is what keeps it interesting so we will see what pans out.
For me the main interest will be watching what vision our management team show in team selection. We must be bold as fortune favours the brave.
As another year draws to a close I would like to wish all those who conveyed to me their enjoyment of my words and views on the game in The Kerryman the joys of Christmas and good fortune for the new year. We will look forward to the year ahead and we all will, I'm certain, have plenty to comment on and to say in 2014.