Sunday 18 February 2018

Mickey Ned determined to solve Kingdom's minor problem

Kieran McCarthy

NEW Kerry minor football boss Mickey Ned O'Sullivan believes the county's poor recent record at All-Ireland level is a cause for concern.

Without an All-Ireland minor football title since 1994, Kerry have had three final appearances in the last 17 years, all ending in defeats.

But, while the new man admits recent disappointments give him plenty of food for thought in his new role, the former All-Ireland-winning Kerry captain of 1975 also feels that the minor set-up has served its purpose in producing senior players for the county.

"Kerry's recent minor record is a worry and at the same time it isn't," O'Sullivan mused.

"As long as Kerry get one or two new players every year on that conveyor belt to senior level, then they seem to be happy. That has been happening; otherwise Kerry wouldn't be winning All-Irelands."

Of the Kerry side that won the recent Munster SFC final, eight of the players who started against Cork have come through the minor ranks in the last 10 years -- Brendan Kealy, Killian Young, Shane Enright, Anthony Maher, Bryan Sheehan, Donnchadh Walsh, Darran O'Sullivan and Kieran O'Leary. On top of that both Barry John Keane and James O'Donoghue were used as subs that day, while unused subs included former minors Padraig Reidy, Tomás Mac an tSaoir, David Geaney and Peter Crowley. That's 14 Kerry minors from the last 10 years involved.

The case can also be made that if Tommy Walsh was still playing gaelic football and if David Moran wasn't sidelined with a cruciate ligament injury, then that number would swell to 16.

So, while Kerry might not be setting the minor world alight, there is still a steady flow of talent bridging the divide from underage to senior. That, to O'Sullivan, equals success.

"But it is a cause for concern that Kerry are not as competitive as we should be at minor level. I don't know the reasons for this. Is it to do with the structure? Is it to do with the management? I don't know. But we will get to the bottom of it, and get Kerry back on the right path."

Officially appointed as Kerry's new minor manager on Monday, with former Kerry team-mate John O'Keeffe named as a selector, O'Sullivan faces the onerous task of reviving the Kingdom's flagging fortunes at this level, which culminated in a shock Munster semi-final defeat to Tipperary this season.

"Going forward, Kerry will need new players to come through, since the current senior players won't go on forever. Naturally, it would be better for Kerry to be successful at underage level," he concluded.

Irish Independent

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