Message clear for Kerry fans – keep the faith
IT is understandable why there is talk of a crisis in Kerry. This is a county that expects to be challenging for every trophy and the idea of relegation to the second tier of the National League for the first time since 2001 does not sit well.
But is there really a reason to hit the panic button just yet? For me, talk of a crisis is premature. But let's start with why the supporters are beginning to worry.
While Kerry have never taken the league too seriously, it is perhaps the nature of the performances that have caused the most concern. To lose is one thing, but, so far, the feeling is that there hasn't been evidence of the team playing to any particular system. There have been no signs of improvement from match to match.
After the second half of the Kildare game, there seemed to be some small hope, but that was quickly diminished after the display in Donegal last Sunday.
The scoring average of just under eight points a match – half of last year's figure – is a miserable return and the attack has looked disjointed and out of sorts.
Also, having seen many new faces introduced so far in the campaign, doubts have been raised around the county regarding the ability of the new generation to step up to the level required for winning All-Ireland titles. And, if they do have the basic raw talents, can they match the physicality of teams such as Dublin, Cork and Donegal?
Even the structure of the county championship has been scrutinised. Some have put forward the theory that allowing so many intermediate teams to go on their own has weakened the divisional teams, leading to a lesser standard in the senior championship and this, in turn, has damaged the competitiveness of the Kerry team.
The obvious thing when so many issues have arisen, therefore, is for people to look for someone or something to blame and when a team has a new manager, that's usually the first port of call.
Questions regarding Eamonn Fitzmaurice and whether he has the experience required to take on such a demanding role have been raised. Personally, I believe if we don't win the All-Ireland this year, it certainly won't be because of Eamonn.
He has given numerous players the chance to stake a claim and show what they can do in the jersey. Regardless of results, that can only be a positive thing as it has provided these fellas with invaluable experience. Perhaps some of them won't feature in the long-term plans, but those that do need to start somewhere.
It would have been easy, especially after the manner of the defeat to Dublin, to go back to the old hands and try and salvage something. But, in reality, what would that have proven and what real impact would such action have had in terms of championship preparation?
Word coming from the camp has been nothing but positive. The training has been top class and every player has been putting in a huge effort.
Defensively, things have been quite good. We have not been conceding a massive amount more than Dublin or Tyrone and that's despite having a weakened team.
It is also impossible to ignore the players who will be coming back into the fold. I would expect Colm Cooper, Declan O'Sullivan and Paul Galvin all to be starting come the championship and I firmly believe that they still have what it takes to destroy any team.
Kieran Donaghy has played in the league and his form has been good, be it at midfield or on the edge of the square.
Darran O'Sullivan is another who is likely to take it up a level when the ground gets that bit harder and the ball is moving faster.
Bryan Sheehan will be a huge addition and the same can be said for David Moran and Anthony Maher.
Even though things could be a lot better, there is a long way to go before the real heat of championship battle in July and August. Should we go down to Division 2, it's not the end of the world. The message is clear: keep the faith.