Sunday 22 October 2017

'I'd go off tomorrow in a heartbeat if I could' - Kerry star admits he would jump at chance to turn professional

Kerry players Ronan Shannahan, Paul Geaney, Jack Savage and Jack Barry at yesterday’s launch of Lucozade’s ‘Make to Move’ initiative. Photo: Marc O’Sullivan
Kerry players Ronan Shannahan, Paul Geaney, Jack Savage and Jack Barry at yesterday’s launch of Lucozade’s ‘Make to Move’ initiative. Photo: Marc O’Sullivan
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Jack Savage's first full season with Kerry was, he admits, an eye-opener.

The Kerins O'Rahillys man was drafted into the squad in the middle of the summer last year to make up the numbers and pick up some experience.

But 2017 was his first proper go at life as a Kerry footballer. As you would expect for a debutant, he was in and out of the side. Still, he did enough to get a taste of both league and championship football. And he got a feel for how much it differs from underage football.

"Just the physicality," Savage replied when asked about the biggest difference when stepping up to senior football.

"And you are training four or five times a week. The gym work, the heavy load. It's all new."

He got a look at the other side of being in with Kerry. By most measures, two senior medals is more than a decent start and Savage's first season yielded a National League and Munster medal. Still, he knows that is not what matters in the Kingdom.

"It was not a bad year for us, but at the end of the day it is all about All-Irelands for us," he said. "That's what we were brought up with in Kerry. We have a Munster and a National League medal in the back pocket but the goal is an All-Ireland medal.

"We will take positives out of the year, there definitely were positives, but as I said the goal is the All-Ireland at the end of the year."

The squad fell short of their ultimate goal, going down after a replay to Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final but they will go again with Eamonn Fitzmaurice at the helm.

At a meeting in Killarney a fortnight ago, Fitzmaurice confirmed to the squad that he would be on hand for 2018 while the county board are expected to ratify him for a further two seasons later this month. Savage is delighted he is staying.

Kerry captain David Clifford celebrates with the Tom Markham cup after the Electric Ireland GAA Football All-Ireland Minor Championship Final match between Kerry and Derry at Croke Park in DublinPhoto by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Kerry captain David Clifford celebrates with the Tom Markham cup after the Electric Ireland GAA Football All-Ireland Minor Championship Final match between Kerry and Derry at Croke Park in DublinPhoto by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"The feeling in the camp anyway is all positive towards Eamonn, he's done a lot for that group. He's brought them on leaps and bounds. We've no regrets to have him on for two or three years, we have a great respect for him and he puts a lot of time and his own hard work into it. We reaped the rewards in 2014 and hopefully now we can reap the rewards again soon.

"The meetings are all about looking back and seeing what you can do better for next year. But we will brush everything under the carpet now, and we will look back on it over the winter months.

"We'll get back into the gym and we will go hard at it again next year, focus on the league and hopefully we will be there or thereabouts next year."

Savage believes some of Kerry's underage talent will be ready to join the senior ranks for 2018, including star in the making David Clifford, who has attracted attention from the AFL.

However, he admits he can understand if someone gets their head turned by the lure of life in professional sport.

"I'm hoping he stays around, definitely," he said of Clifford, at the launch of Lucozade Sport's 'Made to Move' series.

You want all the best players to be available. Back in '09 we lost Tommy Walsh from my own club and he was a big loss to Kerry at the time. We lost Mark O'Connor there two years ago but you can't say no to a fella that wants to go off and try the professional lifestyle. I'd go off tomorrow in a heartbeat if I could so there's no complaints there!

"He has the Maurice Fitzgerald knack about him and he has the skill about him so hopefully we can hang onto him."

In the meantime, Savage is concentrating on O'Rahillys' county SFC semi-final clash with South Kerry on Saturday. And he insists former Kerry star Tommy Walsh has rediscovered the sort of form that made him such a handful before he went the AFL.

"It took him a year or two to adapt back into it but he's flying now again for us with the club. We are in the county semi-final next weekend against South Kerry. He's been motoring well for us all year and he's been carrying the team all year. He's nearly back to his best so it's great to see."

Could he be ready for another run with Kerry? "Definitely. That's obviously not up to me, it's up to the management and stuff but I'm sure they'll be watching the county championship closely. He's staking a claim for his place anyway."

Irish Independent

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