Wednesday 17 July 2019

Analysis: O'Sullivan joins exodus to underline rebuilding job required in Kerry


Darran O’Sullivan: Game-breaker. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Darran O’Sullivan: Game-breaker. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

There's almost a rhythm to them now, these Kerry retirements.

And yesterday Darran O'Sullivan joined the exodus in much the same fashion as Anthony Maher, Donnchadh Walsh and Kieran Donaghy in the weeks before him. The announcement was made and the plaudits rolled in. They departed the stage with applause ringing in their ears. Theirs was a honourable shift in the Kerry geansaí.

None of the retirements could be branded as a real surprise. All four men were north of 30 and well into double figures in terms of years given to the cause, running somewhere between 16 and 11 seasons of service. However, their decision to move on casts the rebuilding job the newly-appointed Peter Keane has to do in a new light.

Injuries meant the four couldn't always command a place in the team in recent seasons but nonetheless they leave a considerable hole in the Kerry squad.

In Maher there was a reliable midfielder, while Donaghy could bend games to his will from either midfield or full forward as witnessed by his season saving intervention in Clones in the 'Super 8s' earlier this summer. Donnchadh Walsh was often praised for his ability to cover ground and his work ethic but that didn't do justice to the finer points of his game.

O'Sullivan was a game-breaker with searing pace and hard running and an eye for goal. Keane has a job on his hands to replace the things they could offer to the Kerry team in just a few short months.

Between them the four who have left since, Eamonn Fitzmaurice opted to walk away leave with 56 seasons' worth of experience between them as well as 13 All-Ireland senior medals and six All-Stars.

There's been talk of transition in Kerry this last couple of seasons as the first wave of their talented young minor teams start to make the breakthrough. But it doesn't feel like transition at the minute.

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The St Mary's clubman is almost starting from scratch. He's trying to build a house and only the foundations are poured. Keane and his impressive backroom team have plenty of work to do.

On the panel now, only David Moran and Killian Young have more than one All-Ireland medal. Of the team that started the 2014 All-Ireland final against Donegal, just eight were on duty when their season ended in the final round of the 'Super 8s' in August.

Throw in the fact that Kerry and Fitzmaurice blooded seven SFC debutants this year and the likelihood that another handful will be given a chance in 2019 and the scale of the job at hand starts to become clear.

In his introductory media briefing Keane acknowledged there was work to do. Kerry have opted against entering the McGrath Cup this time around so his first game in charge will come when All-Ireland finalists Tyrone visit Kerry.

"What represents success next year? My first priority is to sit down as a management, put some kind of a panel together and start cracking on from there and creating some bit of a structure to our team, the way we want to play and see where we go from there," Keane said.

"Whether it's minor or senior, you are dealing with people. It is about man-management. Are you dealing with more expectation? I think yes, there is no doubt about that. There is more expectation.

"It is probably a big job, there were seven debutants last year, plus a few more going out the door now. And does that mean there will be a couple more introduced again next year? It will only be in the fullness of time when we get everyone in that we will see where we are at."

Where they are at and where they will be expected to be might become two very different things over the next couple of seasons. Five All-Ireland minor titles in a row have a way of lifting expectations.

The top brass in the county have called for patience. The rebuilding job they are undertaking underlines that need.

Irish Independent

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