Thursday 19 September 2019

Crokes may have the template for Keane's Kerry to maximise riches

Kieran O’Leary in action for Dr Crokes Brendan Moran/Sportsfile. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Kieran O’Leary in action for Dr Crokes Brendan Moran/Sportsfile. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Two brothers left Killarney on Sunday afternoon having watched Kerry kingpins Dr Crokes cruise to the Munster club SFC decider for the third year running but each departed in an entirely different humour.

New Kerry boss Peter Keane will no doubt have had great sympathy for his brother Ray - manager of Cork champions St Finbarr's - but he must also have had a wry smile across his face contemplating the vast potential within the Kingdom.

Having guided the minors to three All-Ireland titles in succession, to complete their five-in-a-row last August, Keane knows the conveyor belt is overflowing but to see the fashion in which Crokes wiped out Cork's finest must have been hugely encouraging.

Defensive cover may have been absent from the 'Barrs but the attacking display from Crokes was majestic, with a vice-like grip on possession in atrocious conditions helping them to 5-20, all of it, remarkably, from play.

The ease with which they kick-passed their way the length and breadth of the pitch was a throwback to simpler times and a swashbuckling style which has been missing from a Kerry side which has been caught between several different stools in recent years.

It was uncomplicated football at its finest and were such a skill-based approach to be combined with Donie Buckley's ability to cordon a defence and develop teak-tough tacklers, they could play to their strengths without abandoning their history.

Just two Crokes players - exciting defender Gavin White and attacker Micheál Burns - played in Kerry's do-or-die 'Super 8s' draw with Monaghan in Clones this year but it'd be no surprise to see many more involved next year.

Johnny Buckley's work commitments may allow for a return under Keane while Daithí Casey, Fionn Fitzgerald, a re-invigorated Tony Brosnan and Kerry U-20 David Shaw may also feature along with this year's goalkeeper Shane Murphy.

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One player unlikely to contribute is Kieran O'Leary - who retired from the county game in 2016 - but the former Kerry skipper is their playmaker in chief and performing better than ever at the age of 31.

O'Leary's attitude as their attacking orchestrator speaks volumes for why they are second favourites (2/1) for the All-Ireland club title behind reigning champions Corofin (5/4).

"Never satisfied," O'Leary said when asked about the 21-point win.

"We were at the losing end of a good few and lucky enough to be in the winning side, so we're always seeking the perfect performance.

"Nemo really blitzed us last year and we came out with our tails between our legs after thinking that we had prepared really well for it. We just went back to the drawing board.

"We were on the losing end to a Nemo team in Mallow as well before, you always learn from your mistakes if you can. We were just caught last year by a better team on the day and we just didn't want to make a repeat of that."

For Pat O'Shea's side to maintain that level of performance heading into the provincial decider with Clare's Miltown Malbay won't be easy but the training ground is where the magic happens for O'Leary.

"The biggest thing for us is our panel because every fella is looking over his shoulder.

"You've Colm Cooper, who was probably unlucky at the time, picked up an injury and got sick and then David Shaw came in and did really well," he said.

"It'll all be in training which is a fantastic thing, we always had a good panel but we've a ferociously strong panel this year and we're really using it and bringing on all subs and it's just great to be part of.

"Training is fairly intense, Pat would go eight days in the week if he could. There's 30-odd lads training above and there's been numerous changes on the team throughout the year and it's been fantastic."

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