Sunday 4 December 2016

Bryan Sheehan best club player of modern era in Kerry - Maurice Fitzgerald

Published 24/11/2015 | 02:30

South Kerry captain Bryan Sheehan and team-mates celebrate with the Bishop Moynihan Cup
South Kerry captain Bryan Sheehan and team-mates celebrate with the Bishop Moynihan Cup

Bryan Sheehan's status as Kerry's most celebrated club footballer of modern times has been enshrined with a ringing endorsement from his club manager and boyhood hero, Maurice Fitzgerald.

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Fitzgerald is overseeing St Mary's Cahirciveen as they extend their season to next Sunday's Munster intermediate football final against Cork's Carrigaline and has seen at first hand the influence of Sheehan on a number of fronts.

That provincial campaign has had to be incorporated into the concluding stages of Kerry's County Championship that has fallen to South Kerry for the 10th time, courtesy of their dramatic extra-time win in Sunday's replay against Legion.

That was Sheehan's ninth victory between club and district in nine consecutive weeks since Kerry's All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin.

The layered nature of the Kerry club scene could see Sheehan and five other St Mary's players - Paul O'Donoghue, Aidan Walsh, Denis and Daniel Daly and Conor O'Shea (Conor Quirke is a substitute) - wrap up their season with 16 games over a 15-week period on St Stephen's Day if they reach a South Kerry Championship final.

They are the holders and will be keen to defend the title to ensure that Sheehan is rewarded with the Kerry captaincy in 2016. As county champions, South Kerry have the choice and their own champions will then dictate that honour.

In a climate of concern over the demands on players, the schedule that Sheehan and his colleagues have engaged in over the last nine weeks requires some scrutiny.

The nature of the games are reflected in the tight margins - eight of the nine won by five points or less.

But when Fitzgerald considered substituting Sheehan in their only easy game, their 4-24 to 0-1 Munster semi-final win over Clare's Corofin last week, Sheehan told him he was "enjoying" himself too much to go off.

"When someone tells you they are enjoying their football, you have to admire them. You just have to look at Bryan to see that he is loving his football right now, and it's a joy to behold," he said.

His influence in the second half of the drawn county final and again last Sunday to drag South Kerry back have embellished Fitzgerald's strong sense that Sheehan has eclipsed everybody else as a club footballer.

"I am in a better position to judge Bryan's greatness than most, given that I have played with him at St Mary's and he is playing under my management now. Bar none, Bryan is the best we have seen," he said.

"For sure he is and has singularly been the outstanding club player, for the last ten years, all over the county."

There is little time for respite even after this weekend's Munster conclusion as St Mary's have two Division Two league games which, if they win, could push them into the top flight next year.

These have been fixed within four days of each other next week before the South Kerry Championship gets underway, compounding the demands.

Former Kerry manager Jack O'Connor often attributed some of Declan's O'Sullivan's huge resilience to all those late afternoons at the back end of the year when he'd carry Dromid Pearses and be the obvious target for opponents in South Kerry battles.

On Sunday O'Sullivan, despite being crippled by such debilitating knee injuries, was again heroic.

Sheehan is carved from the same rock.

Irish Independent

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