KERRY captain Donnchadh Walsh admits that Eamonn Fitzmaurice's under-performing troops have heaped pressure on themselves after their winless start to the league season.
Walsh, who is skippering the side while Colm Cooper is on club duty with Dr Crokes, knows Kerry are facing a battle to maintain their top-flight status for a second successive season after losing at home to Derry last weekend.
"We are just not getting over the winning line and it's just a couple of percentage marks we are off, but they are the critical ones that make the difference between winning and losing," Walsh said. "We lost a tight game against Dublin by a point, and then lost by two (against Derry).
"We are very disappointed in the dressing-room after that. We will just have to pick ourselves up and move on from the two defeats, having learned from them. We will get back to training again and we will put in a big effort but we have put ourselves under a lot more pressure than we wanted. It's not the end of the world. It was always going to be a hard and tough league campaign, and we certainly have made it even harder for ourselves."
As was the case last year, Kerry are without a host of front-line operators at this stage of the season. Fitzmaurice, for a variety of reasons, was missing 11 players who, barring injury, will be in the shake-up for a starting place by the time their championship opener against either Clare or Waterford rolls around on June 22.
Of the new faces, Conor Cox's second-half display and the no-nonsense approach of Rathmore's Paul Murphy before his black card were the most encouraging signs but Walsh admitted they came second in the physical stakes against a Derry side that featured more experienced performers.
"The physicality will come from years of conditioning. Most of our young players are only a few years into getting used to weights and the intense training of inter-county football and that will come in time," he said.
Walsh admitted that Kerry were "cleaned out" around the middle third where the resurgent Fergal Doherty and Patsy Bradley outplayed two of Kerry's more experienced performers in David Moran and Anthony Maher and they struggled for breaking ball.
"Every game comes down to the team that can win the lion's share of possession around the middle of the field and they absolutely cleaned us out. We will have to work hard on that over the next two weeks. It's on top of the list of stuff we have to work on. They had their homework done."
Kerry next visit Mayo, who also find themselves without a point in Division 1 despite registering 2-33 in their opening two matches. After that, Kerry welcome Tyrone to the Kingdom and Walsh agrees that he and the rest of the county's senior players have to step up.
"As stand-in captain, fellows look up to me much more, and that brings its own responsibilities," he said. "Yes, I have to step up to the plate too because I am one of the older fellas on the team, and the younger fellas are looking up to me, so there is that extra bit of responsibility on me. But if that is what I have to do, then I have no problem doing it for the team."