‘If you’re doing your job, tipping away, you’re in the background, and you’re not the talking point, that’s always a good sign that you are playing solidly’
Brian Kelly is convinced that the battle waged between Shane Ryan and Shane Murphy for the no.1 jersey during the National League has really enhanced the former’s development in the role, as the Rathmore man prepares for Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin.
The recall of the Dr Crokes goalkeeper by Jack O’Connor at the start of the season led to an intriguing situation where Murphy and Ryan alternated the jersey for the majority of the seven regular league outings. It was only when the latter was given the nod for the clash with Mayo in the Division One final that management appeared to settle on their 2022 championship choice.
“I think Shane (Ryan) has been very solid. Shane Murphy gave him a nice bit of competition during the league, and that probably brought a bit of pressure for both of them really. Shane Murphy has had a couple of great years with Dr Crokes, and he was probably chomping at the bit to get a good run,” Kelly told The Kerryman.
“Shane Ryan was obviously then number one for the last couple of years, and he wants to hang onto the jersey and make it his own for the long term. So this year I thought the league campaign was very interesting. It was kind of tit-for-tat, and I think a lot of the county weren’t sure what way Jack was going to go.
“Definitely the league final was a big plus for Shane Ryan. He seemed very solid, the kick-out strategy seemed very good, and that put to bed any doubts over the number one position, for this year anyway. I always find with the goalkeeper position, nearly the less that you are talked about the better.
“If you’re doing your job, tipping away, you’re in the background, and you’re not the talking point, that’s always a good sign that you are playing solidly. That’s the thing about goalkeeping. You could be having a great game, and then one mistake, and that will be the talking point on your performance.
“That just comes with the territory. That’s the nature of the position. You need to have a thick skin if you’re inside there. There are always going to be comments on mistakes that have been made, and this and that from previous years.
“You just need to be thick-skinned and drive on, and Shane Ryan has done that in the last year. He seems to be getting more confident, he seems to be growing into the role, so I think Kerry are in a great position goalkeeping-wise.”
Ryan v Murphy during the league brought back great memories for the Legion man of the many times himself and Brendan Kealy were in direct competition for that coveted goalkeeping jersey. Having a serious rival for the position generally ensured that both individuals were constantly striving for improvement, which was only benefiting the squad.
“Sometimes you just need a stroke of luck. In 2014, we won a Sigerson with UCC, and I think that probably just added a bit of stock to my name, and that might have weighed on (Eamonn) Fitzmaurice’s mind when he was making his decision,” Kelly explained.
“He gave me the nod that year and, thankfully, it all went great. In 2015, I injured my ankle and I was out long-term. If you’re injured for 13 or 14 weeks, you’re always going to struggle to get the jersey back then. Myself and Brendan had a great battle. Like I said, it probably comes down to big moments, and who is making less mistakes, and who is the more solid at that time.
“At times, during our battle, it came down to even maybe the training camps pre-championship. One guy might have been going well, and getting more game time in the league, but we would go away to Portugal, we went to England, or up the country for training camps in the weeks leading up to championship.
“In a couple of training sessions there, it could just decide it, or swing things in your favour, so it was a great battle. It’s fine margins in goalkeeping. At the end of the day, it could just be someone’s personal preference. If that’s the case, you just have to suck it up.
“If you are on the bench, you just have to be prepared, because with the black card and everything these days, you can be thrown in at a second’s notice. The main thing I would say is to be prepared. I’ve been there a few times.
“There was a league game up in Mayo one year that comes to mind where I was on the bench one minute, then I think there was a blood sub, and you’re thrown in there at the deep end. You have to be ready to go.”