AUGUST was the key word in most of the Kerry Minors original plans but now that the campaign has been extended to September manager Mickey Ned O'Sullivan agrees that the team is very much in 'bonus territory'.
"The team has continuously improved with every outing in terms of proving that they are grafters and battlers and they have upped the tempo every time and they are here cause they deserve to be here," he told The Kerryman.
There is an undoubted sense that Kerry are lucky to be here because of the chances Roscommon missed in the quarter-final on the Bank Holiday Sunday but, O'Sullivan is a firm believer in a team making its own luck.
"The reason I would say Roscommon missed those chances is because of the pressure they were put under to take those shots from where they did. I know we were fortunate but you need a small bit of luck to make progress in Championship Football," the Kerry Minor manager said.
In terms of Sunday's opponents, Dublin were the team to beat at the outset not only in Mickey Ned's view but a lot of others as well and doesn't necessarily feel that the competition is 'wide open' because the defending champions have now been eliminated.
"Tipperary would have probably told you the same thing about Dublin at the start of the year. They did catch Dublin on the hop a bit last year, but Dublin have kept the main bones of that team together and have won the majority of their games by an average of 12 points so they are the pick of the four teams left. I have seen them play a number of times this year and I have been impressed by their physical presence and they like to move the ball out of defence with speed and have two mobile midfielders to go with some fast forwards. Tipperary were impressive again this year, but it is very hard to keep young players' feet on the ground at this level and probably the fact a lot of them were involved with the Minor Hurlers had an effect on them as well," O'Sullivan said.
As with any Minor team when they get to this stage, this time of year comes at an important stage of their lives with the transition for a good majority from second to third level education and Mickey Ned feels both elements compliment each other in some ways.
"One takes pressure and
focus off the other. They have had stress throughout the campaign firstly in the build-up to the Leaving Cert, secondly during it and recently they've been making their choices about Third Level. I've found they've taken everything in their stride and the interaction between them about it has actually provided them with a means of support for one another," he said.
The Kerry manager attaches no significance to the fact the senior team are not involved anymore to the sense of pressure about an All-Ireland semi-final but does it has an impact in terms of support.
"Dublin will have the benefit of maybe 50-60,000 people there with their seniors playing Mayo after so we will have to cope with that especially when the throw-in to the senior game gets closer," O'Sullivan said.
He agrees thoroughly with the view that Kerry need to come out of the blocks an awful lot quicker than they did against Roscommon.
"We had gotten out the blocks quicker in every game up to that and there is certainly no point in coming out slow against this Dublin side. They haven't been put under pressure from what I've seen in this Championship so far this year so we certainly want to see how they will react when they are put under pressure. The quicker the better certainly from our point of view," he said about the start. Despite being very much a part of the Kerry Dublin rivalry himself, he doesn't see the traditional rivalry being a factor in this game.
"These teams (underage level) change every year and they are never really the same. Dublin being the team to beat overall is the challenge more than any form of rivalry," the 1975 AllIreland winning captain said.
At this advanced stage Mickey Ned and his management team have zoned in on the players performances both in training as well as in the County Minor Championship matches since.
"The players know the drills and indeed the gameplan at this stage. Teams are picked on form and between training and the County Championship that's what we're going on. Club form can be just as important as inter-county form in a lot of cases as well," the Kenmare native said.
Where will it be decided in the Kerry manager's opinion?
"Every one of the 20 players who goes on the field from our point of view needs to 'empty the tank' and that's where I feel it is going to be decided. You're as strong as your weakest link in these situations and against Dublin the lads have really got to perform."
There will be a strong tinge of nostalgia for Mickey Ned when he walks the sideline on Sunday considering his own battles with the Boys in Blue, but this one is firmly about the future rather than the past and might shape how both the storied county's longterm ambitions will pan out in the coming years.