Boss Meyler braced for 'ferocious' battle in cup decider
WITH last year's Christy Ring Cup champions Carlow giving a good account of themselves in the Liam McCarthy competition, Kerry manager John Meyler feels that a place at hurling's top table is a real incentive for his players heading into today's Ring decider at Croke Park.
This is Kerry's first appearance in a final, with Meyler moulding his side into an impressive unit in his second stint at the helm. They are unbeaten since the first round of the league and have secured promotion to Division 2.
And while Meyler admits that promotion was the primary target for the season, a Christy Ring Cup would be a massive boost to the game in the county.
"The important thing was to gain promotion to Division 2, so as to ensure a higher standard of hurling for the younger players," he said.
"We will be going younger again next year; a lot of younger lads, who did not get game-time in the league this year, will be playing next year.
"We have played three matches so far in the Christy Ring Cup; we won the three of them by margins of five to six points. This game is another championship game and we want to win it. It's in Croke Park and it's an All-Ireland final in a way, so we want to win it."
Kerry got past Wicklow in the semi-final despite playing with 14 men for most of the game, and they have also had to go without the services of their talisman Shane Brick, who starts the game on the bench but is expected to see action at some stage.
"I am expecting a ferocious battle and we will be ready for it. We will be playing the likes of Clare and Limerick next year in the league, so the pressure will be on and we will have to perform," continued Meyler.
"It's the same now -- we are in a final and are expecting the lads to perform.
"I am demanding that the lads play with heart and spirit and if they do we have a great chance."
Darren McCormack, Blaine Laharte, Adam Price and Greg Gavin are all carrying knocks but Westmeath are a grizzled and experienced side in this competition. They have won the competition twice since its inception in 2005 and were beaten in another final in '08.
However, this will be a first appearance in Croke Park for the majority of the Kerry squad but Meyler denies that will be a factor.
"Look, Croke Park is no different from that Ballyduff field -- except that there are big stands around it. It's not about the occasion or it's not about the stadium, it's about the green grass and it's about what happens between the white lines and it's about performing at 4.0 and that's what I will be stressing -- that it's the game that counts once we cross the white line," he said.
"We can go on a tour of Croke Park at 5.30 if we want to take a look at museum but between 4.0 and 5.0, we have to win a match."