'It was a cute move' - How Kerry manager Peter Keane took the pressure off his young guns ahead of league opener
It was a job well done for Peter Keane in his first game as Kerry manager as the Kingdom produced a dogged performance to see off Tyrone 0-11 to 0-7 in their National League opener in Killarney.
The game was played in poor conditions and was low on quality, but Keane's charges showed 'ravenous' work-rate according to Tomás Ó Sé and afterwards, the new manager admitted that his first priority was to tighten up the team's defence.
Second on the list is to integrate members of Kerry's five minor All-Ireland-winning teams into the senior side, with Keane overseeing the latter three of those triumphs.
A few eyebrows were raised when the Kerry team was named ahead of the Tyrone test, with goalkeeper Shane Ryan the only debutant listed to start. However, come throw-in Keane had deployed promising talents Diarmuid O'Connor and Dara Moynihan in the forward line, with both men impressing on their first senior outing.
Speaking on The Throw-In, Independent.ie's GAA podcast, Michael Verney of the Irish Independent and Conor McKeon of The Herald were in agreement that it was a shrewd move from Keane to shield his two young forwards from the pressure of being named in the starting team from the off.
"It was a cute move because when the team was named on Friday night, there was no real angle other than the return of Tommy Walsh to the bench," Michael Verney said.
"I was interested to see that from the team that was named, the two changes were two young players in Diarmuid O'Connor and Dara Moynihan," McKeon added.
"The two debutants. Obviously Peter Keane was very mindful of two young players dealing with pressure. If they were named in the team on Friday night, then all of a sudden the conversation becomes about these young lads and everybody is expecting to see them. They would be going to the match with a bit of pressure on their shoulders. Obviously Keane is pretty mindful of not overburdening them with huge pressure, the players coming in off the minor teams.
"We had all expected Peter Keane to name six or seven young players in his team and then stick with them for the league."
Kerry travel to Cavan this weekend before hosting Dublin in a mouthwatering Saturday night match-up on February 9, and McKeon thinks that Keane has one of the tougher assignements in Division One this year as he looks to compete for league honours while also blooding more young players.
"Peter Keane is an interesting figure in the league because he has to strike a very delicate balance," McKeon said.
"The win yesterday was huge for him because as much as he needs to put new fellas in because we need to see these guys, they can't spend another league not playing. The sooner they get experience, the sooner they learn, the sooner they become championship Kerry footballers.
"But Peter Keane can't afford to get into a tailspin when you lose two or three games, because then the young players are burdened with the pressure of the public not being happy with how the team is going."
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