An exciting summer awaits the Kingdom
Seán O'Sullivan feels that Kerry are in a really good place after their stunning victory over the Banner in Fitzgerald Stadium on Sunday
In his post-match interview on Sunday, Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice spoke of how his players had been 'chomping at the bit' to get going in this season's Championship.
After his side inflicted a twenty two-point demolition on Clare it's fair to say that the men from the Banner were chomped, chewed up and spat out by a young, relentless and rampant Kerry team that has us all getting very excited about the summer ahead.
Yes, there will be bigger tests ahead and yes, the early exchanges saw our defence again a little off their men, but that was to be expected. Ten weeks is a long time to be without competitive action so ten minutes of feet finding is natural.
Once guys settled, especially our forward unit, the gulf in class became apparent. Gary Brennan who, along with Éoin Cleary, was Clare's only bright spark, had started well on Jack Barry and was giving the Na Gaeil youngster a few problems. A quick switch by management saw David Moran pick up Brennan and cut off any bit of oxygen he had been supplying an already fairly lifeless Clare team.
Taking nothing away from Kerry, but Clare were awful. Where was this blossoming team that had got the better of Cork in the league? (What does that say about Cork by the way?) Where were the scoring forwards who had nearly shot them to Division 1 and who were going to test our debutants at the back?
A lot of talk had come out of Clare from former players and local media that their boys were coming to Killarney with a right good chance of pushing Kerry all the way. It was over as a contest 20 minutes in. Why?
Yes, Clare were bad. Apart from a decent start they failed to get to the pitch of the game, but that wasn't their fault. Kerry took the pace up a few levels and challenged Clare to come with them.
It didn't happen and was never going to happen. Not only could they not live with Kerry, they literally waved the white flag and I think that will be the hardest thing for Colm Collins to take.
Kerry, to their credit, were hell bent on putting down a marker on Sunday. Fitzmaurice and his management team have to be commended for a brave selection. He had a full deck to play with bar injury to Shane Enright and the not yet fit Donnchadh Walsh and Killian Young, yet he went for youth and inexperienced players.
That game, as one-sided as it was, will do them the world of good. That 'championship debut' weight is now firmly off their shoulders and they can look forward to a Munster final in three weeks. They all acquitted themselves well, but even in their young heads they will know the days will get tougher, opponents will get slicker.
One negative that has to be discussed, even if it's nit picking, is our lack of creation when it comes to goal chances. Take Galway for instance in their semi-final up west against Sligo. They hit the net four times.
Dublin likewise against Wicklow the previous weekend. If we go further north, Donegal are finding the net regularly. These are the teams that are coming down the tracks and they are putting teams away with their ability to score goals.
Now, 32 points in seventy plus minutes of football is an outrageous return but how many times did we open up a Clare defence that was ripe for the picking? We will need goals to beat Cork on June 23, there is no doubt in my mind about that. It is something that will definitely go in the 'things to work on' section of Eamonn's file.
It was interesting to see how the management used their bench. The guys who were sprung into action were all of the older generation and I'm measuring age in Championship minutes rather than in birthdays, lest the boys get upset.
With a new format this year and the eagerly anticipated Super 8s in the distance it looked like something Kerry were having a look at. Start with the young, energetic, pacy first fifteen to go hard for as long as possible and then introduce the experienced game managers when the time is right. Obviously Sunday wasn't ideal for having a look at that possible set-up but it might be the way Kerry are looking to approach that busy period in late July and August.
They are leaving nothing to chance when it comes to the latter stages of the Championship. By all accounts Eamonn has up to near 40 players training in the new centre of excellence in Currans with a view to that busy schedule of games. It's a good call especially with the inevitable injuries and possible suspensions that they might be faced with during the Super 8s.
More players, of course, adds to the expense of running a county squad, but that is the nature of the beast. It's one thing trying to compete with the likes of Dublin on the pitch but it's another story when it comes to the financial side of the game.
Regardless, I think having an extended panel working alongside the main group has to be done and is also a good incentive for younger players to aspire to. Instead of trying to fast track our Under 20s for instance, why not put them into this extended panel so they can see first hand what it takes to be part of the senior inter-county set-up?
When their time does come to graduate up the level it's not a huge deal and they come in better prepared. It's a win/win situation for both players and management.
For now, however, it's job done for Kerry. Training should be fun for the next three weeks.
Let the chomping continue.