Wednesday 28 September 2016

'You are always under pressure to prove yourself at Kerry..It's not like FIFA' - Peter Crowley

Kerry defender Crowley spells out need for a second All-Ireland for current crop

Published 27/07/2016 | 02:30

Peter Crowley, here attending the launch of the All-Ireland SFC series in Dún Laoghaire, is confident Kerry’s return to Croke Park will spark improvement. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Peter Crowley, here attending the launch of the All-Ireland SFC series in Dún Laoghaire, is confident Kerry’s return to Croke Park will spark improvement. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Peter Crowley recalls the Tuesday night after his championship debut for Kerry against Tipperary in 2012 with clarity.

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He had been, in his own words "alright" the previous Sunday, relatively satisfied with what he had done.

That was until Diarmuid Murphy, a selector then under Jack O'Connor and still now with Eamonn Fitzmaurice four years later, called inside with a blunt message.

"He said to me ,'You realise you are a Kerry player now, you have to go out and show it'."

The comfort he might have expected to extract from successfully negotiating his first championship game in green and gold was instantly pulled away from him and has, he admits, never returned.

"Since then you are always under pressure to prove yourself. No better example of that than myself, I've been dropped a few times. You can never get too far ahead of yourself," he admits.

"Practically everyone has missed games since Fitzy has come in. I don't think anyone has played in every game. You always get your sobering experiences. You can never take it for granted."

For the third successive year earlier this month he didn't start a Munster final that came to a conclusion.

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Kerry's Johnny Buckley

A training ground collision with best friend Johnny Buckley that left him looking like an extra from 'Braveheart', as he said himself, and needing stitching to the bridge of his nose, ruled him out of the Tipperary game.

But for last year's replay with Cork in Killarney and the previous year's final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh he lost form and consequently his place to serve as a further reminder of those uncertainties.

"Eamonn is not afraid to change things around. I'm as much a sign of that as anyone else. Obviously, the Munster final hasn't been my game over the last number of years! He just goes with form."

This year the pace of change has remained steady, but the introduction of debutants Tadhg Morley and Brian ó Beaglaoích adds to the defensive options and is a welcome development, Crowley concedes. "A couple of younger fellas have come in, some of the minor teams of the last few years and a couple more older - we'd a bit of a shake-up.

"Some people would say 'not before time' but when you're inside there, it's a bit more difficult. People look at the team and think it's like FIFA - you put the fella with the highest rating in here. But there's a group dynamic. We lost a few fellas who were some of our best friends.

"The young fellas have come in and are really going at it. Jason Foley wasn't even born for the 1997 All-Ireland win. I can remember lifting the cup in Killorglin so I'm getting old!"

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Crowley in action against Diarmuid Connolly

The path to another potential rematch with Dublin is guarded by Clare in Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final and Crowley is careful not to jump ahead of himself, citing Down's victory at the same stage in 2010 when they had eyes only for Cork later on that summer.

But inevitably the Dublin question is one every Kerry player will face after losing their last three meetings in Croke Park, an All-Ireland and league final, either side of a regular league meeting to start the season.

If the manner of the league final defeat to Dublin is a concern, he's doesn't wear it openly.

"April football and August/September football aren't first cousins of each other really. We tried out a few things.

"Up to the 60th minute we were doing alright. We didn't have enough possession, enough chances. If you don't have that you're not going to win a game.

"Despite that we still got a lot of turnovers which is something that we'd be looking for because we want to get the ball back as quick as we can. Turnovers are good quality possession that you get good shots off. It was positive that way.

"We finished bad. They did it in '13, they did it last year. I wouldn't say it's a trend. You take lessons from it. It's league football. If we win an All-Ireland in September it's going to be forgotten about."

Getting over the All-Ireland final was a quicker than expected process.

"Whenever you lose an All-Ireland final, it always sticks with you. I'm lucky that when I came in, the boys had All-Stars, multiple All-Irelands - they'd give you lessons.

"The ones you lose stick with you. That's human nature. When you get to the last day of the year and don't win? That's not ideal. But you learn from them. You park it quick enough."

That said the need for Kerry to reinforce their status as a really good team is apparent. Maybe only a second All-Ireland title can provide that.

"Good teams win one All-Ireland, great teams win two or multiple. We feel we can get there. We need to shore up where we fell short last year. The Dubs are leading the way at the moment, taking up from our team of the noughties and that's something we want to address.

"I think until you get your couple of All-Irelands that's when you really get to validate it. People might start arguing that maybe 2014 was a fluke if you only stay on one. You need to reinforce that you're a good team and move on."

A stellar career with UCC put him on a path to the Kerry senior team that he didn't always think himself was possible. It put him in the public eye. But fighting out of the Laune Rangers corner made him as a footballer.

"I would never have been tagged as a senior player," he admitted. "There was always fellas who I would have thought were higher up in the pecking order. Going to UCC was great. Just playing Sigerson football. You learn different cultures, a lot of Cork fellas there, learning from them. Learning from Billy (Morgan) and John (Corcoran) how to enjoy your football. Kerry moulded you and there's no doubt that UCC helped in that process.

"I've been lucky, any walk of life or culture shapes you. I've been lucky that with my own club at home we've had a history of championship wins," he recalls.

"For a long time in the county championship we punched above our weight. It's an attitude that has really helped me, the sheer stubbornness and headstrong nature of fellas like Liam Hassett, John Sheehan and even Mike Frank (Russell) in his own way, that kind of doggedness to win.

"And obviously being from Kerry as well is bred into you. You have to win All-Irelands. You are kind of naturally moulded like that and then the players that come in.

"I played with Dec (Declan O'Sullivan), I'm still playing with 'Gooch', 'Star' (Kieran Donaghy), Marc (ó Sé), then Tomás (ó Sé) and Gally (Paul Galvin).

"They instil value in the jersey and how important it is to treasure that and mind it as much as you can when you have it and make sure no one takes it off you."

Irish Independent

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