BREANDÁN Kelliher talks about all the "young fellas" on the Dingle team, and tells of how much they have stepped up to the mark this year. As he speaks you do a quick mental check of the facts and then remind him that he's talking like an 'aul fella' even though he is still only 26 years old. An elder statesman of the team at 26!
It's probably more a reflection on how long Kelliher has been kicking ball with his club and how long he has been a regular starter on the club's senior team, rather than any suggestion he is nearing the end. Indeed, looking at how the team captain is playing this year and considering his natural athleticism, there could be another decade of football in him.
This year Kelliher -a builder and part-time farmer - assumed the captaincy of the team, but like his dashing half back play it's something he is taking in his stride. What's of greater importance to him is that collectively the team has matured and learned better to overcome tight contests.
"Being captain comes with its own responsibilities but it doesn 't mean doing much more this week than any other week. In this team so far this year a lot of fellas have stepped up to the mark and become their own leaders, and perhaps that why we are in a county final this year and why we are different than in other years. I think in other years we wouldn't have got through that quarter-final or semifinal when things got really tough but this year we did get through them. "That's because all these young fellas have stepped up to the mark this year. We have a very young team but we have a lot of talent, we have a lot of under-21s coming through and what not, so it's great that we have finally stepped up to the mark," he says. "People were saying we were a young team and that we'd come eventually but that's a tag that has stuck to us and it's a tag that we wanted to get rid of. It didn't seem to be happening but we really wanted to push on and show that we could get to the next level. I think we have matured and developed more this year.
"We have learned a lot about ourselves over the last few years. Certainly the loss last year to East Kerry [county championship quarter-final] was very disappointing, more so the manner of the loss than actually losing. I think we were down nine or ten points with only ten minutes gone in the game so we were chasing it for the whole of the game. We could have actually sneak back into that game but we didn't, but that whole experience really stood to us.
"We worked very hard this year on being mentally prepared for those situations, as well as being physically right, and it seems to be coming together alright."
Kelliher is excited at the fact of playing in his first senior county championship final, and while he acknowledges the enormity of the challenge the Dingle captain is quitely confident that he can get his hands on the Bishop Moynihan Cup on Sunday evening.
"It's all very new to us. It's a huge thing for the town because there's a huge tradition of football back here in west Kerry. People love their football back here. We (players) are trying to enjoy it a little bit but we are keeping the heads down, we will train hard and do what we have to do, and hopefully come Sunday you'd never know.
"This year we are very happy to be in a county final but we know we are certainly up against it. That's a great Crokes team and you don't have to talk them up, their record speaks for itself. The key is that we have prepared well all year. We take it one game at a time and it's all about preparation. You look forward to the challenge.
"Obviously Dr Crokes are a club team, they are hugely experienced and they are going for the three-in-a-row. But for us it's just another challenge. That's why we play the game, to face those challenges. That's the best thing about football and when you get to a final you just never know. No matter how good the other team is you always still have a chance once you're there."
Kelliher cites his most memorable game with the club as the county intermediate championship final win over Annascaul, all the way back in 2004, when he was just 18 years old. A young fella. Eight years on and he is hoping that game will be relegated to second most memorable.