Kerry hurling boss was only appointed towards the latter stages of last year’s championship
If one little factoid out of the Joe Mac Final stands out in our mind it’s this: Kerry didn’t use their full complement of subs.
That, nevertheless, the Kingdom were the ones coming on strong at the end, with Antrim seemingly listing a little, says a lot for the Kingdom’s preparations. They were fitter than a side off the back of a Division 1 campaign and a spell in the Leinster championship. It’s no mean feat we’re sure you’ll agree.
All the same Kerry could have done with a little more off the bench – which might seem a mad thing to say in the context of Jordan Conway and Maurice O’Connor’s performances at Headquarters – to get them over the line.
It’s fair to say that Kerry boss Stephen Molumphy and his management team extracted the absolute maximum out of what they had available to them in 2022. All the same to push to the next level, as surely will be the ambition, he’s going to need to add to the squad.
Already he’s indicated as much. Going back a couple of months to the Kerry Under 20s’ performance against Tipperary in the Munster championship, he laid his cards on the table saying “there’s seven or eight names already on a list that to be honest we would want to bring in as soon as possible”.
How those guys perform over the next six or seven weekends is going to go a long way to determining just how interested the Kerry boss will be in them.
Molumphy was only appointed Kerry manager towards the latter stages of last year’s championship, so this year’s competition will be the first he’s going to take in in full (although something tells us he had his ear to the ground long before his official appointment given his attention to detail).
All the same he’s sure to be a very interested observer – along with Shane Briggs and Pat Bennett, his other selector Brendan O’Sullivan will have his hands full managing his native Ballyheigue – in Austin Stack Park over the coming weeks.
Certainly those Under 20 players will be the focus of his attention. There’s a lot of talent there from keeper Keltyn Molloy of Lixnaw through defenders Adam Segal (Ballyduff), Darragh Conway (Lixnaw, nephew of senior star Shane). Rory Mahony (Crotta O’Neills) and Dáire Nolan (Kilmoyley). It’s a bit of a shame that Ballyduff’s Darragh Slattery is currently on the injury list.
Midfielders Ronan Walsh and Felim O'Sullivan – Kilmoyley and Ballyheigue respectively – are worth keeping an eye on too. Walsh, one would imagine, after playing a super sub role for Kilmoyley in their run to Croke Park will be gunning for a starting role this time around.
Attackers such as Ballyheigue's Nathan Guerin and Kieran Carroll are sure to be on the Déise man’s short-list too.
All in all there’s a nice bit of potential in that Under 20 side alone, but we can’t imagine Molumphy and co's focus will end there. They are bound to reappraise some of the more established players who, for one reason or another, weren't part of the senior set up in 2022.
Could guys like Lixnaw’s John Buckley come back into the reckoning off the back of an impressive championship campaign? Could Causeway’s Jason Diggins? Or O’Dorney’s Michael O’Leary after he was forced to take a step back in 2022 due to an on-going injury concern that looks to have cleared up?
There’s a lot of very fine hurlers who weren’t part of the set up this year, who having seen just how well the Kingdom did in their absence, might well be chomping at the bit to get back involved. Hearing from club colleagues about just how impressive Molumphy’s set-up was could see a handful edge back to the senior squad. Or so you’d hope.
One thing we do know for certain is that this management team doesn’t limit itself to the blue blood clubs in the North Kerry hurling heartland. Molumphy’s got guys in from intermediate outfits Tralee Parnells and Kenmare Shamrocks.
He's also got a couple of players in from the Crokes. One of their new recruits for this year, Galway man Vinny Doyle, might well be of interest to the Kingdom boss. Doyle is a former Galway minor and Under 20 hurler.
He played senior hurling in Galway with is native Turloughmore and is still regarded as a fine hurler in his home county and at about 27 or 28 years of age could certainly have something to offer.
As Jack O’Connor did during last year’s football championship, we will probably see Molumphy and his management team sitting in the little dignitaries area under the press box in Austin Stack Park over the coming weeks.
Given the talent that’s in the county, he’s sure to go home with some food for thought.