'It was cat stuff' - Kerry legend Mikey Sheehy 'embarrassed' by Kingdom support in Croke Park
His old team-mate Páidí ó Sé landed himself in trouble for his reference to "animals" when speaking of the Kerry support in 2002.
But that hasn't stopped Kerry legend Mikey Sheehy expressing big disappointment with the level of Kingdom support for their All-Ireland semi-final replay against Mayo last August and highlighting the cutting backlash that defeat to Mayo prompted in the county.
Eight-time All-Ireland winner Sheehy, a selector to Eamonn Fitzmaurice for the last five years, has described their numbers that day as "embarrassing" and "shocking", by comparison to the wall of noise that consistently greeted Mayo.
He also admitted that management came in for stinging criticism in the wake of the defeat but it would never put them off continuing with the rebuilding work.
"There was a lot of snipers around, I can tell you!" he recalled of the aftermath of the defeat.
"They are in Kerry but it doesn't bother me and it doesn't bother Eamonn or any of the lads," he admitted at yesterday's Allianz Football League launch in Croke Park.
"If it did bother you, I wouldn't be here talking. We love Kerry football and we love football in general and we love being involved.
"If you take notice of those people, you wouldn't be there. They were there when I was playing and they're there as I'm involved in management and they will always be there."
Sheehy accepts management got it wrong for the Mayo replay and that they "hold up our hands," on it.
"There's certain days. We got it totally wrong, not alone on the field but off the field and we just had to take the criticism for that. But, as I said earlier, if you were to take that too much to heart I wouldn't be involved now, but we took ferocious criticism too. Oh my God, you couldn't, you'd stay away from the bars - oh you would. It was cat stuff.
"The thing that would annoy you at times, a lot of fellas who were giving flak were fellas who weren't even at the game. But look, as I said, that's part of the gig and you just accept it."
Sheehy conceded that the low levels of Kerry support was something he felt "very strong" about.
"I felt it was embarrassing, there were so few Kerry people there, particularly for the replay. Jesus, they didn't travel, whether it was because it was a Saturday afternoon or not.
"You know, the team deserves (it)," he continued. "Mayo, look how many times they have lost and you go outside and you see the crowd. The amount of support they had both days against us.
"I saw something in the papers during the week - was it 2,500 at one game, FBD League? To be fair, you'd have to admire them. They back their team.
"They have nearly as far to travel as the Kerry supporters, but our lads, the genuine people, go there."
Sheehy admitted that the dearth of support filters down to the players. "Of course the players would be aware of it, absolutely they would be. That wasn't an excuse why we lost. We lost because we were beaten by a better team. But the support was shocking, shocking."
And it contributed to the most disappointing day he had in his long involvement with Kerry outside of the 1982 All-Ireland final defeat to Offaly.
"The biggest disappointment I would have had outside of 1982," he admitted. "It was shocking. It was so flat, so disappointing.
"They were far better than us on the day and deserved to beat us by five or six points more than they did in the finish. We prepared very well for it, played reasonable in the drawn game, could have stolen it and got over them. But we wouldn't have deserved it.
"They deserved the minimum of a draw. Then the replay, there would only have been one team in it. That would have been very disappointing. A lot of soul-searching went on over the winter."
Fitzmaurice's extension until 2020 has pointed to a potential period of transition and, while Sheehy acknowledges that Kerry should always be ready to challenge at the very top, a degree of patience is required with the stellar cast they have lost over the last 18 months.
"There are some very good lads coming through that have won All-Ireland minor medals and unfortunately they were beaten at U-21 level. They'll learn from that. It remains to be seen can they step up this year.
"The big thing for us is to get a balance between the experienced players and hopefully some of the younger players. I'm excited about it really."
Fitzmaurice echoed those sentiments at a press briefing in Tralee last night when he indicated that he will use the league for some "experimentation".
"We are very conscious at the moment that we are in a three-year plan. We're trying to develop the young talent that is in the county to bring them from their minor success up to senior, which, as you all know, is a considerable jump," Fitzmaurice said. "But you have to experiment and give players their head.
"With regard to the fellas who are unavailable, I don't like putting timelines on the return of a particular player because that will change over time. Short-term is a couple of weeks, medium-term is four to six weeks.
"For the most part, injury is the cause of absenteeism for the players listed. There are a few club-tied players, then you have Kieran Donaghy with the basketball."
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