There was some surprise in these parts - and elsewhere - when the GAA All Star nominations were announced last week that Kerry had only one name on the list, Colm Cooper. I think if we are honest with ourselves we were lucky to get that one nomination.
Overall, as a team we had a bad year and individually not too many of our fellas impressed highly enough or consistently enough over the season.
That's why the County Championship games at the weekend are important to the county management. I have said many times before that we could well be at a crossroads in Kerry football. I have listened to people say after the All-Ireland Final that perhaps we could have been there and how we went close to beating Donegal and stuff like that. Well, to me, that's looking at games through the green and gold-tinted glasses.
We were never going to beat Donegal that day. The scoreboard flattered Kerry at the end and that's the first thing we must admit if we want to move forward. I have seen the Under-21 and senior managements at games together lately. Now, some will see that as a positive thing while others might see it differently. Are they discussing the same player or are they focussing on a particular type of player? Well, it might be a good thing that they are seeing players together because we need to fast track a few players right now to put up a realistic challenge next year.
We now know that our opening Munster championship game will be against Tipperary and the real chance of a Munster Final in Killarney is the preferred Kerry way. We will have a whole League campaign before that and in my view we will have to use this competition to build a stable team. So if I was Eamonn Fitzmaurice I would be playing my best team in every game.
I have long argued that you can only ever judge a player if he is playing in his best position with the best players around him. It's no good saying we are looking at players and trying fellows out. We don't have time for this in my view and I would question its merits at this point in time. My point being this: how many fellows down the pecking order on the Kerry panel over the last few years have broke into the team and how often did that panel change?
Eamonn Fitzmaurice could do worse than to check back on that system over the last few years and check where are these players now and how are they playing. Or, indeed, if they have any involvement at all now. Some of them played hardly any football with their clubs while they were hidden away on the county panel, and the management of the time had no intention of playing them anyway, so their club lost the player and the player lost out on what might have been a good year with his club. This will have to change. I think you'd be better off starting with a smaller county panel early on, and then adding players to it who are showing good form early on with their clubs and who have a real bit of ambition.
Of course, I would argue that the structure of our domestic schedule needs to change accordingly, with county championship starting earlier in the year and not strung out over six months. That would be a huge benefit to management but that's a matter for the County Board. If they don't think that a review of our domestic game is worthwhile then I believe they are being unfair to the clubs, the players and the Kerry management. There are too many gaps in the season for players and it's almost impossible to keep them interested and motivated. With little work available now, players simply will not hang around for a start-stop football season. A lot of soul searching needs to be done in my view.
Speaking of the county championship, this Sunday will see the semi-finals down for decision. Dr Crokes and Laune Rangers will be a good game of football, as will St. Kieran's versus Dingle. What is interesting for me in both games is that each team will excite in the forward line while all four teams have question marks at the back. Dr Crokes will be everyone's favourites but Joe Shannon has a good blend of youth and experience with Laune Rangers. Fair play to Liam Hassett, John Sheehan and Mike Frank Russell: they are helping the young fellows along and what great clubmen they are! But allin-all one would have to say Dr Crokes will just have too much firepower. For the men from the west Murt Moriarty was a good forward himself and he has this Dingle team throwing up big scores. This game, in my view, will go down to the amount of ball St Kieran's will leave into their full-back line. All Dingle forwards are capable of scoring so Padraig Reidy and his backs will be hoping that Seamus Scanlon and Eamon John O'Donoghue do the business at midfield. We got three out of the four right at this stage, Dingle being the ones I left out. As much as I like their forwards I will have to go with Dr Crokes and St Kieran's for the final.
Alas, there was no joy for the Kerry ladies football team in the All-Ireland Final last Sunday. Nevertheless, well done to all concerned in reaching the All-Ireland Final. Despite the disappointment of losing the final, getting there was an achievement in itself and is a positive sign of the direction the ladies game is heading in the county. This is a young Kerry squad that hopefully will benefit from the experience, with more successful days ahead of them.