D-day looms for Kerry legends - Fitzmaurice expects decision 'this month'
Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice has revealed that his veteran stars will have to indicate whether they are returning for another campaign before the end of the month.
The likes of Aidan O'Mahony, Colm 'Gooch' Cooper and Kieran Donaghy have all put decisions on their future on the long finger as they pursue other interests.
O'Mahony is taking part in RTE's Dancing with the Stars, a TV show which runs until March - around the same time that Donaghy's basketball commitments come to an end.
Cooper has also indicated that he will wait until after his club commitments with Dr Crokes are over before making a call on his future with the Kingdom.
All three men started as Kerry went down to Dublin in last year's All-Ireland semi-final.
"Aidan is still thinking about his future, Kieran is the same while Colm is focussed on the Crokes at the moment," Fitzmaurice said.
"I have nothing firm on any of those at the moment. I haven't set any deadline as such but I would be expecting to hear from them during the month of January one way or the other.
"By that stage I think it will be time to have made a call and be ready to move forward whether they are going again or not. But I would be expecting to know this month either way."
Kerry have already lost veteran defender Marc Ó Sé to retirement, while they will also be without former captain Darran O'Sullivan and Stephen O'Brien for the early part of the 2017 campaign as they concentrate on their club commitments with Glenbeigh/Glencar and Kenmare respectively.
Fitzmaurice also confirmed that midfielder Anthony Maher is the only man on the injury list as the Kingdom set about winning Sam Maguire for the first time since 2014.
Kerry's season starts on Sunday when Tipperary come to Tralee's Austin Stack Park in the McGrath Cup, but the Kingdom will field their U-21s in the fixture as Fitzmaurice takes the chance to look at the county's promising youngsters.
Managed by Jack O'Connor, their U-21s can pull from the last three All-Ireland minor winning teams and are tipped to collect yet more silverware for the Kingdom.
Deploying the U-21s in a pre-season competition is not an uncommon move, with Donegal doing something similar in the McKenna Cup, while the Kilkenny hurlers have also used the Walsh Cup to help prepare their U-21 sides in the past.
Dublin will also field a second string team in the O'Byrne Cup as the 2016 panel are on a team holiday.
However, Fitzmaurice confirmed that the senior team will return en masse for the trip to Cork the following weekend.
"We are doing something slightly different in that the Kerry U-21s are going to play Tipperary on Sunday, lock and stock from the point of view that we (Kerry senior squad) are back training tomorrow night and we will have only two sessions under the belt," Fitzmaurice revealed.
"I spoke to Jack and we were looking at it and I was interested in looking at a share of the U-21s in the first couple of games and we said 'you know what it makes sense for us as a management to look at the whole lot of them playing that first game' so that is what is happening on Sunday against Tipperary.
"Then the following Sunday it will be a senior squad that will take on Cork below in Cork."
Ó Flatharta returns
TomÁs Ó Flatharta is back in management, this time with Meath outfit Navan O'Mahonys.
The former Westmeath, Galway and Laois boss has signed on with the Royal county club in what is his first job as a manager since stepping down from Laois in 2015.
Former Meath captain Kevin Reilly will act as one of his selectors as the club look to reclaim the county SFC title from their Navan rivals Simonstown Gaels, who secured their first Keegan Cup last year.
Dublin-based Ó Flatharta first came to prominence when acting as Páidí Ó Sé's assistant in Westmeath as the two Kerrymen guided the Lake County to their only Leinster SFC title in history back in 2004.
And his appointment as O'Mahonys manager is being viewed in Meath as a serious statement of intent by the club.