Noel Kennelly was the ultimate child prodigy. On the Listowel Emmets senior team at 15 years of age. A Kerry minor for two years. A Kerry under-21 for a phenomenal four campaigns, including All-Ireland glory in 1998. Winning his first All-Ireland senior medal in 2000 aged just 20.
For the Listowel Emmets man twenty years ago, the footballing world was his oyster. But, in a salutary lesson for any up and coming sporting talents today, not withstanding the massive improvements in player welfare and medical science, there is always that danger of being pushed to the well too often with such a young and still developing body.
Kennelly knows all about the highs of glory days in Croke Park wearing the green and gold jersey, but he is also fully aware of the injury problems that bedevilled his career, eventually culminating in an early conclusion to his inter-county life with Kerry when he was only 25.
Let's start with the good days first. His breakthrough year of 2000, where Páidí Ó Sé's men ended up involved in four titanic battles with Armagh and Galway before Sam Maguire found its way home to Kerry.
"In hindsight, looking back on it now, my age probably helped me that time. The younger you are, these things don't faze you," he said.
"There's no expectations, you just go out and play the game. You don't have any pressure on you, you're 20 years of age, you try and make things go well. The older you get, the more pressure that you put on yourself to perform. You always think that this could be your last day out. You don't know what's coming down the track.
"It was a strange year. I don't think we played Cork in Munster. We played Clare in the Munster Final and then it was straight into the semi-final. They were rebuilding Croke Park at the time, the Hogan Stand side.
"The two games against Armagh could have went either way, any day. Maurice [Fitz] came on and buried a goal the first day and kicked the equaliser I think. He rescued us.
"Then the final, the first day, we were out the gap but Galway came back and, if I remember right, Derek Savage took a shot off his right leg, when he would be naturally left-footed, and all he had to do was pop the ball out to Padraic Joyce and he would have put it over the bar, and Galway would be All-Ireland champions.
"The second day out, we just got on top of them and got over the line. I was taken off early in that game, about 25 or 30 minutes, my man had scored a goal. Declan Meehan, he was quick and fast, and maybe my naivety came into it.
"Drawn games and replays can be very different. That's where I think I got found out. I reckoned I had his number the first day and I thought I would have his number the second day, but he just brought a different element to it, and I wasn't expecting it.
"At 20 years of age, that's what probably happened. I learned afterwards that what works the first day is not necessarily going to work the second day."
Did being taken off in the first half lead to mixed emotions that night, despite Kerry's victory?
"Not really, being honest. To win an All-Ireland medal, we were training twelve months for this, we had gone through the muck and the shit and the whole lot. I had played every game.
"I wasn't fully fit either, I was carrying a bit of a hamstring at the time. I probably wouldn't have lasted the game anyway. I probably would have liked to have played on. I got a point after he scored his goal, and I was trying to come around back into it, but no, the joy of winning your first All-Ireland senior medal would overshadow everything."
Fast forward to 2002 and Osteitis Pubis - a painful chronic overuse condition affecting the pubic symphysis and surrounding soft tissues. It is characterised by lower abdominal and pelvic pain.
"It was the day of Ireland and Spain in the World Cup and I played the Munster Final against Cork in Killarney. I couldn't actually kick the ball that day with the pain. I handpassed every ball that day, didn't perform and got dropped for the replay.
"I came on in the replay, did alright, we lost to Cork, played a couple of qualifier games and then the whole thing broke down. I couldn't train. I wasn't right for the rest of 2002.
"I eventually had to go to Australia for an operation, got that sorted in January 2003, got back playing club football in the middle of that year and broke my collar bone. That finished 2003. The injury wiped out maybe a year and-a-half of football for me."
Was it all simply down to burnout?
"Correct. That's my thinking on it anyway. I was playing senior football at 15 years of age, I was as tall then as I am now. I definitely had too much too soon. At the time, you just wanted to play because it's what you do as a child. You want to play as much football as possible, and you don't see the ramifications coming down the track.
"I definitely think that it's better nowadays. I see from my own small fella there, he can only play in his own age group. That's right and proper. When I was 12, I was playing under-14 and under-16. You're playing two ages above, four or five games a week, playing stuff in school. There's a pile going on and you're practicing outside that as well.
"The way they are protecting players today is proper. They will definitely have longevity in their careers. All it takes is a couple of bad injuries from over-use. And even worse, the appetite goes and fellas walk away from football. That's the other side of the game."
Not a lot of people realise that Noel Kennelly worked his way back from his injury nightmare to regain his place in the Kerry squad that won the All-Ireland in 2004 under Jack O'Connor. He didn't see any championship action, but the medal means as much to him as the first because of the huge role his father played in his recovery.
"People often say which one would you cherish the most? The first one was very special, but that one would be right up there. Even though I didn't play, it was the fact that I got back in there and the work my father did to get me back in there, it was a joint effort as such to get my body back up.
"He put in as much work as me. When I look back now, we had some great times together. He was putting me through what Mick O'Dwyer put them through. There was a huge bond there between us and I didn't realise it at the time. That medal will always hold a high place in my heart."
Even more so, because the following year, 2005, turned out to be the worst year in the Listowel man's life, despite brother Tadhg's wonderful victory for Sydney Swans in the AFL Grand Final.
His inter-county career finished for good after he busted his knee clashing for a high ball with Tommy Griffin in a club game in Dingle, and his beloved father, Tim, passed away suddenly later that year on December 6 at the age of 51.
"Tough, tough times . The person you look up to is your father, particularly in a sporting sense, he was our idol. He was on the famous four-in-a-row team in the 70s and 80s, he had a big part to play in it, people idolised him. We idolised him.
"He was hugely influential in our football careers. He was kind of my counsel, in football terms as well as outside football, just like anybody else's father and son relationship. You bounced stuff off him.
"For a while there in 2006, 2007, I wasn't taking football as seriously, I still hadn't cleared up the injury, definitely Dad's death had affected me, I lost the grá for a few things, it was difficult to get back. Then, having that cut off the county championship with Feale Rangers brought back that grá."
Looking back now, Noel Kennelly, with an All-Ireland medal in his pocket at 20 years of age, would have been a player that Kerry would have been aiming to build a team around for seasons to come. Yet, due to serious injury, his days as a starter were over at 22, and he was finished for good at 25. Does that leave lingering regrets?
"Without a doubt. I won an All-Ireland in 2000. Without injuries, and if you were still playing to form, you probably maybe would have played in six All-Irelands in-a-row. Would I have hung in to play with Tadhg in 2009? Possibly, I would have been 29, 30 years of age then. I could have maybe picked up five or six All-Ireland medals.
"You can look back on it and say, that could have happened, but I might never have won my two All-Ireland medals either. That's the other side of it. You could have got severely injured even earlier, and things might not have worked out.
"These things happen. I don't dwell too much on them. They are the cards that you are dealt and you just get on with them."