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Sunday 21 September 2014

The early signs are positive

Published 22/01/2014 | 05:36

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Kerry’s Sean Weir in action against Tipperary’s Patrick Maher during last Sunday’s Waterford Crystal Cup game in Austin Stack Park, Tralee

GOING into last weekend's game the general consensus was that Kerry with what was a quite youthful and inexperienced combination would be outclassed by a side who operate on a different level.

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Mission impossible and a baptism of fire dominated the match previews and it was easy to concur with these assessments, given that Tipperary were All Ireland Champions in 2010, while Kerry in a nine year spell have contested three Christy Ring finals and won just one in 2011.

Tipp's team was sprinkled with All Ireland medal winners, while Kerry included just four players who featured in the Christy Ring final against Down in Croke Park last June, so, all of the odds were stacked against the home side.

But, even if, the conditions contributed to a sluggish encounter the signs for Kerry were encouraging, even if it is still January and it's after just one competitive encounter. It should be borne in mind that Kerry's preparations have been limited due to the circumstances surrounding Tom Howard's departure.

Understandably it took a bit of time before a new management team was put in place, so, valuable time was lost in the interim period. The result was that Kerry's pre-season was left a good bit behind most other counties.

Nevertheless the input and endeavour shown by each and every player last Sunday was extremely admirable. For the moment it raises expectations, but experience will remind us that the history of Kerry's senior hurlers rarely changes.

Some very good managers come and go and early impressions indicate that Eamonn Kelly has been an extremely good choice. The words availability and commitment are almost enevitably linked to the code's well being and status in the Kingdom.

Some players either because of injury or a commitment to their college are unavailable at the moment. Players who have bought in to the managements philosophy were given a chance last weekend.

Obviously the return of players will strengthen the squad, and with a full complement on board Kerry will be competitive, even if, in the league trips to Derry and London will test them. Kerry should be capable of beating Kildare at home, but it's hard to be optimistic about the team's chances against either Westmeath or Carlow.

Then again Kerry are a long way off from bridging the gap between the elite and the lesser lights. All Eamonn Kelly and his management team can do is to extract the maximum from the players available to them.

Whether it will ultimately repay rich dividends is difficult, if impossible to predict at this particular juncture. However, the first step taken has been one in the right direction and that for the moment is encouraging.

Kerryman

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