Friday 2 December 2016

Skipper Sheehan keen to keep the show on the road

Published 19/04/2016 | 02:30

Kerry captain Bryan Sheehan. Photo: Ray McManus / Sportsfile
Kerry captain Bryan Sheehan. Photo: Ray McManus / Sportsfile

When Bryan Sheehan was confirmed as Kerry captain, it crossed his mind that he should put in a call to Kieran Donaghy.

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After all, Donaghy had been in a similar position 12 months earlier when an extended club campaign bled into the 2015 season in which he would lead Kerry. He rushed straight back into action with the Kingdom when Austin Stacks were beaten in the All-Ireland semi-final but would later admit that by the time August and September rolled around, he was running on fumes.

Sheehan's campaign was even more hectic than Donaghy's as he lined out for both St Mary's and South Kerry.

At one stage he went 20 games without losing and the body was holding up okay. All was well but still, he put a call to Donaghy on the 'to do' list.

As it happened, 'Star' beat him to it. "Kieran actually picked up the phone and rang me about it," Sheehan said.

"It was something I was always planning on talking to him about as well. He just felt he should have taken two weeks out when they lost their All-Ireland semi-final.

"But we were struggling in the league and we had Dublin in Killarney and that was a big game for us and he felt it was a big game for us and as captain he wanted to come back in and lead by example.

Fatigued

"In fairness to him I thought he was outstanding that day as well and I can understand why he wanted to come back in but he felt that down the line the bite wasn't there and the mind was a bit fatigued and he probably lost a bit of form and found it hard to pick it up again.

"So he just let me know about it, that this is what he felt about it."

Sheehan is quick to point out that he's accrued nearly a month off already this year. There were two free weeks in the build-up to the Down game.

A damaged finger picked up against Mayo gave him another fortnight to himself. But, if anything, regular games suits his constitution.

"Number one, I'm injury free and I have been unfortunate picking up injuries at the wrong time of the year, just coming into the championship.

"In 2014 I played all the league and I think the quarter-final against Galway I had a slight problem with my hip flexor coming into the game and it just went and it turned out to be two or three weeks and I missed out on the All-Ireland semi-final and just got back for the final.

"Last year I was grand but I missed out on the All-Ireland semi-final, but for me I'm the kind of fella who needs to play football and I played from last September to Christmas.

"Luckily I didn't get any injuries and continued on from there into the new year and I didn't go on a team holiday with Kerry just stayed home and played my football and I think that is what is standing to me."

The Kerry panel looks ominously strong but perhaps nowhere is quite as competitive as midfield. Eamonn Fitzmaurice has to pick two from Sheehan, Donaghy, Tommy Walsh, David Moran, Johnny Buckley and the still-injured Anthony Maher.

"I think it drives fellas on because no fella can afford to take a back step or take his foot off the pedal because if you do then you're going to be replaced and that's the way to have it.

"It's great for the team, it's great for the morale. Even on our 26-man match panel there's some big names missing out on making that squad as well so that's good for us going forward."

Having filled a variety of roles down through the years, Sheehan has his eyes firmly fixed on nailing down one of those midfield spots having served his apprenticeship.

"It is where I enjoy my football and it is where I am most comfortable. I spent last year in the half-forward line. The aim was to try and keep me closer to goal for an offensive threat but I hadn't played in the forwards since 2010, maybe 2011. I like it out in the middle of the field.

"Six years ago I was only 24 years of age. I was probably still relatively young going in there at that age and playing midfield. It's a hard slog inside there.

"It is a physical game. You had Darragh Ó Sé and Séamus Scanlon: two big, physical players and at 24 years of age I probably didn't have the physical strength to get up and down the field all day and give and take the hits.

"The last couple of years I have matured and adapted to the game, when to push it and when not to push it.

"Since I got to the middle of the field I just feel like my game has progressed and I feel more comfortable."

Irish Independent

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