The win over Cork sent the Kerry party off to Portugal in good spirits, and there's no doubt but the training will step up a gear while the squad are away and the warm weather will be welcome to the players. This is where the foundation for the season ahead will start and, of course, this Sunday's game against Tyrone will give a further progress report.
The Cork game gave us a little hope that we might have a full back in the making in Mark Griffin. He certainly caught the eye in Tralee and played with a lot of confidence and that was great to see. It is still early days and I don't want to be putting pressure on the young man but what I liked about this lad was that he attacks the ball, and was not sitting back and leaving his man get possession first and then going to tackle him. If this young Griffin lad could come up trumps that would be a huge boost to Eamonn Fitzmaurice's plans going forward.
Also, if David Moran can come good and Johnny Buckley keeps making progress that could give the management some options around the midfield sector and could mean a different role for Bryan Sheehan, which might include a place in a forward unit not exactly prolific in the scoring department right now.
Any few new players discovered and brought into the panel as real options for the team can only make a positive difference to management's way of thinking as the Championship closes in, so there is much to ponder between here at the meeting with Tipperary in late May.
Elsewhere, there has been a lot of talk about the introduction of the new 'black card' over the last few weeks. While I welcome anything that will try and improve the game I'm not sure that this is the real problem but we can only wait and see. I hope that this will not be all about the man in black and the black card. This could become the talk of the football season when I believe that the (over)use of the handpass is the main reason why our game of football has suffered.
Another thing that is troubling me at the moment is the transfer of players from small, rural clubs to big, urban clubs. I think that a step back from this practice should be considered at the present time, in particular when rural clubs are reporting a huge loss of players to emigration. We can't have officials talking out both sides of their mouth about rural depopulation while allowing some of these transfers to go through.
I remember times when I trained teams and having lads from teams in south Kerry, west Kerry and north Kerry train with us at the Legion, where we never had a problem in accommodating players at a training session. These lads might be working in Killarney or even living in the town but they stayed loyal to their home club. I do realise that if a player wants to transfer then he is free to do so but it should be looked at in the bigger context of the damage it can do to a club, or even to a competition which could hurt our structure of games going forward.
I have given some time this winter wondering as to the well being of our county team going forward, not only for this year but for the years to come. We should, of course, be looking at our county championship but we are not doing so and have no doubt but mthis is very much related to our county team. In my view we will we not act until it's too late. I admire and respect the vision of a Centre of Excellence but that will take time and money to fully develop, when one of the best ways for us to keep the county teams at the top would be to upgrade our county championship. The standard has dropped dramatically in recent years and if people don't want to admit that then they better be prepared to face the consequences for our county team.
At little further from home, but close enough at the same time, I think every fan of gaelic football will have been sad to hear that Cork forward Colm O'Neill tore his cruciate ligament and will be out of the game for upto a year. It's his third cruciate ligament injury but I hope he comes back to the game as right now gaelic football needs talented players like O'Neill.
It's amazing how many players fall victim to this injury. There are people working, for example, with FIFA looking at injury prevention programmes like proper warm-ups to develop balance, good hip strength and strong alignment. The later of these I have heard of insofar as some sports medical people have a theory that poor body alignment can be the problem and can be brought about by the overuse of a poor weights programme that can take the body alignment outside the balance of the hip and the knee and put added pressure on this area of the body thus leading to poor balance. We were lead to believe for a while that it was the footwear, and/or the introduction of all-weather pitches, but I would be inclined to go with this massive upper body strength some of our footballers carry.
You don't see this injury in a lot of other sports mainly because they run straight lines, which a lot of our players do not. Such is the type of game we have that some players are just unlucky but it's worth noting that we pick up a lot more injuries in gaelic football then we see in other sports.