THIS is the test that Kerry need. Their game against IT Tralee last weekend was all well and good for a first run out of the season, but for us to get a more accurate gauge of where Kerry are at then we need to see them face off against some sort of formidable opposition.
On pervious occasions IT Tralee have been able to provide that opposition, events conspired against them this time around, so instead we look towards Limerick IT and to their charismatic manager Davy Fitzgerald for that test.
The first thing to note about LIT is that Joe Canning isn't part of the set-up this year. That will no doubt come as a relief to Kerry's defence, but then again, maybe not? Maybe that's precisely what they would like: the chance to prove themselves against one of the very best hurlers in the game today and arguably the best. One top quality hurler who is part of the LIT set-up this year, but won't play a part against the Kingdom is Tipperary star Seamus Callinan. Callinan is another top quality forward and his absence should be a boon to Kerry's chances.
LIT's midfield does have a formidable look about it. Clare senior Sean Collins will lead the line here alongside Limerick senior Paudie O'Brien (who played against Kilkenny in last year's All Ireland quarterfinal). Darren Dineen and David Fitzell did really well last Sunday against the IT, but this is a whole new ball game. How they react to such talented opponents will tell new Kerry boss Tom Howard quite a lot.
Tipperary's John O'Keeffe, meanwhile, will man one of the wing-back berths, or possibly a more central role. Davy Fitzgerald and his right hand man Cyrill Farrell will also have a number of Limerick senior players available to them. All of whom featured for a Limerick side against Clare in a challenge match ahead of the Waterford Crystal last week. These include goalkeeper Aaron Murphy, defenders Pat Begley and Alan Dempsey and wingforward Seanie O'Brien.
These mightn't be household names – Collins and O'Keeffe aside – but they are quality hurlers and with Fitzgerald involved you can be sure they'll be well drilled and flying fit with the Higher Education League behind them and the Fitzgibbon Cup ahead of them. Kerry, team trainer Fergal O'Louglin admitted on Sunday, have "a savage" amount of work to do. That could tell in LIT's favour.
Win or lose this will be a reality check for Kerry. They've got good hurlers, we know that, but do they have good enough hurlers to finally get a victory in this competition against a side other than IT Tralee?
Possibly they can, but our gut says no. This game might just have come a little too soon.