Focus on the present delivers piece of history

This young Kerry team coped really well with the burden of expectation around their five in-a-row bid

Darragh Rahilly, left, and Dylan Geaney of Kerry celebrate following their side’s victory
Darragh Rahilly, left, and Dylan Geaney of Kerry celebrate following their side’s victory

Damian Stack

There really was no escaping it, talk of the five in-a-row. It's followed this team around all season. Could they? Would they?

Even as we attached the proviso that one year's minor team has very little to do with the next - and this year doubly so given the change in age - we were still talking about it. The drive for five was the thing.

It percolated our consciousness. To a lot of us it meant that these players were playing for more than just the Tommy Markham Cup, they were playing for a shot at immortality.

That all this was going on - a county and a people bound up in notions of legacy and historic achievement - and the players at the centre of it all were able to perform as well as they did, that it didn't distract or burden them, just says it all.

It says a lot too about their management team. Their focus was singular, on this team and what they had to do, everything else was just for folks like you and me to consider. History could await posterity.

"Everything is history," Kerry manager Peter Keane said after the match under the Cusack Stand, smile beaming from ear to ear.

"Winning it today regardless of last year or any other year is history. It's history for those young fellas inside there going home with a medal tonight they'll be thrilled. I know there was talk about the five in-a-row, but that's probably for us.

"I remember being here in 1982 when Kerry lost that, but you can't really compare. That's the nucleus of the same team, they're playing together and they're balanced whereas this is new fellas coming in and I kept saying that to ye over the year and ye might have felt I was only brushing it off to take the pressure off. It probably suited me to do that, but by the same token they were new.

"Two weeks ago I said these fellas hadn't played Hogan Cup and three weeks ago it was their first outing in Croke Park, but I'll tell you one thing, the big thing about getting to Croke Park is you blood them for the future and those fellas were well blooded after that because they know what winning in Croke Park is all about."

Still though, even if inside the group the five in-a-row wasn't a consideration, the players would have heard talk of it pretty much everywhere they went. Even when the teams were being announced in the midday sun with the players out on the pitch at Headquarters, the Kingdom were introduced as a team bidding for five in-a-row.

"Sure I understand that," Keane admitted.

"But look at Dylan Geaney. He's Under 16 this year. Five years ago he was eleven. If you bring it back to day he would have been lifted over the stile to go into the game. That has no bearing on five in-a-row for him.

"If we had lost here today would they have gone home going 'we're fierce disappointed we missed out on five in-a-row'? Would they hell, they'd be going home disappointed because they lost an All Ireland final."

There's a great maturity in that and of all the things that have stood out about this team, that maturity is probably one of its defining features especially for a team so young. Along with maturity goes their remarkable composure.

The Kerry minor team responded better to serious set-back than the Tyrone seniors did later on in the afternoon. Obviously there's a big difference between senior and minor and the Dubs are an all-time great team, but you've got to remember too that these Kerry players are just fifteen and sixteen years of age, seventeen at most.

The Kingdom went from three points up to seven points down in the space of about fifteen minutes. The whiplash of that should've have been enough to completely knock them off their stride and, yet, instead they rallied to round out the half in style.

"We had started poorly," Keane explained.

"We weren't at the races in the early stages. We went up four-one, but we closed down. We stopped working and they were destroying us on their kick-outs and we just had to reset that. We'd have had to reset it at half-time anyway, but it was easier to do when you were four down instead of seven down or maybe more."

Turning things around at midfield in the second half was a big part of the reason why Kerry were able to triumph, Keane's half-time team talk quite clearly worked a treat.

"It was [crucial], but look we'd a bit of work done on it," Keane said.

"That was our plan and our plan was to maybe not have to implement that, that you'd be more comfortable at half-time, but look fellas sometimes expect that over the last couple of years where you'd be comfortable winners that you'd stroll away here.

"There's no bloody stroll and this is something that I'd seen in Monaghan early and I'd seen from the experience of the Cork game that these guys [Galway] were waiting in the long grass as well, there was nothing easy about this year and go to back to it did that make it even better? Yeah definitely."

A special day for players, management and fans alike. The verdict of history is in.