Mun's the word on Kerry's 'crisis' until Dr Crokes have say

Frank Roche

PAT SPILLANE could never be accused of calling a spade by its factually correct name – a digging implement. Black-or-white queries do not merit a nuanced grey response. Thus, speaking from Fitzgerald Stadium on Sunday evening, he batted away a question from League Sunday presenter Michael Lyster on whether mid-February was too early to be talking about a Kerry crisis.

"It is a crisis," he countered, "with a capital C." The same weighty topic is addressed elsewhere on this page by Pat's former comrade, fellow legend and now current Kerry selector, Mikey Sheehy. So we'll pose a different question here: what if any bearing will events in Killarney have on the next Dublin/Kerry showdown – between Ballymun Kickhams and Dr Crokes this Saturday?

So a week that begins with angst-ridden debate about Kerry football's alleged crisis ends with another match that will either reinforce or contradict this impression. A place in the AIB All-Ireland club final beckons and, belying recent inter-county trends, Crokes (at 8/15 with Boylesports) are still the bookies' choice.

But what if Dublin football's good vibrations seep into Ballymun's mindset? Unflappable nerve, not just flying fitness, was a recurring feature during their county and provincial campaigns; who is to say they won't be further emboldened this week?


Paul Curran was adamant that Dublin's 10-point demolition of a toothless Kerry will have no impact on their club semi-final.

"We are not playing Kerry – we are playing Dr Crokes," the Ballymun boss reminded.

He didn't add the following but we will: right now, Kickhams would probably have a better chance of beating an understrength Kerry than their flagship club team.

Put it this way: if Eamonn Fitzmaurice (right) had first call on Colm Cooper, Eoin Brosnan, Kieran O'Leary and rising stars like Johnny Buckley and Brian Looney, it's hard to conceive Kerry being limited to four measly points against the Dubs.

Jim Gavin's options have also been weakened by Ballymun's All-Ireland quest, but not to the same extent. That's partly because the 'Mun, for all their admirable qualities, have no 'Gooch' in their ranks ... even more so because Kerry no longer have the strength in depth to absorb such losses.

Dublin's elite development squad programme has yielded such riches that bar stool debate has moved on from the capital being split into 'North' and 'South' to idle talk of a third selection embracing the outer M50 hinterland. The traditional superpower from the deep south could be left behind.

That is why 'big picture' obsessives will look beyond Saturday's result to see what Thurles reveals about Kerry's medium-term health – ie, this year's championship.

By now we all appreciate that the real crisis facing Kerry football is the ticking time bomb of a distinctly underwhelming underage record. The talent and sheer relentlessness of modern-day greats like Cooper, Declan O'Sullivan, Paul Galvin, the ó Sé siblings, etc, have masked the myriad problems underneath.

The Gooch, though, hasn't gone away ... a shellshocked Dublin discovered this to their cost in August 2009; Ballymun should be on their guard three-and-a-half years later.