Semi-final a realistic goal
SO having navigated the wildness of Division 2 football for three seasons William O'Sullivan and his troops finally arrive in the national spotlight of Division 1 in which every match will have a bearing on their season.
The mix is quite Premier League-like too. Cork, Monaghan and Dublin are the perennial Champions League contenders, Laois and Mayo are more likely Europa League challengers and Tyrone and Donegal are very much the yearly strugglers that always seem to do enough to avoid relegation.
So where will Kerry fit into this diverse grouping. The games against the top three will be a good marker to see if the progress of the championships of the last four years will tell early in a league campaign.
The Dublin and Monaghan games at the moment look like bonus territory for a squad that is still only waking from its winter slumber. The fact the Kerry have done very little since their loss to Cork in the Championship is sure to tell in the early games.
The Cork game will no doubt attract massive attention yet again, but Cork will be treating contest as a lot more than just a league game as they bid to regain their Munster title. However, it is with the remainder that Kerry will have to prove their worth. Donegal and Tyrone would surely have needed home advantage to give them some chances; while Laois and Mayo are both beatable.
In all Kerry will avoid relegation, a trip into the top four and a semi-final place is certainly within reason, but teams that come up from Division 2 usually do very well in their first season. Last year Mayo reached the Division 1 final to lose out to Cork in the final.
O'Sullivan will welcome back Lorraine Scanlon, Debra Murphy, Aisling Leonard and Mairead Finnegan, but at varying different levels of fitness, they will probably figure later in the campaign. Caroline Kelly and Aoife Lyons are both out until at least March, while Kerry's success in the basketball ring will delay the return of Emma Sherwood and Louise Galvin.
Apart from the retirement of Mags' O'Donoghue, Kerry have lost no other players and will have a panel that many have Division 1 experience. None of the Kennedy Cup development squad have made their way onto the senior panel.
O'Sullivan seems happy to go with the tried and tested to at least survive in the Division and maybe few can blame having taken so long to get back, this is not the time to be experimenting as they strive for a good first season back.
However, there is no doubt that a lot more is now expected from this team and in the months ahead a better picture will unfold as to whether Kerry are realistic All Ireland champions contenders in the waiting or the last swansong for a talented squad.