Sunday 26 January 2020

Kerry legend O'Shea fearful of what future holds for ageing side

Jackie Cahill

KERRY legend Jack O'Shea has expressed concerns about the Kingdom's future when a host of established stars depart the inter-county scene.

Long-serving players such as Paul Galvin, Kieran Donaghy, Eoin Brosnan and the O Se brothers, Tomas and Marc, are all over 30, with Colm Cooper and Declan O'Sullivan hitting that mark soon.

O'Shea is predicting a tough period of transition for Kerry once the influential core of the team drifts into retirement. He is confident that Kerry's most experienced players are still good enough to cut it at the highest level, but admits it will be difficult to replace them when they do step aside.

O'Shea said: "The worrying thing is that there is not too much coming through at underage, but that's for another day. You go with what you have and the older players are still the best in the county."

GLITTERING

O'Shea, a seven-time All-Ireland medallist and six-time All Star during his glittering career, has backed Eamonn Fitzmaurice's Kerry to launch a strong assault on Munster and All-Ireland honours in the coming months.

And he noted: "An awful lot of people are tipping Kerry to win the All-Ireland this year. They're still held in high esteem and viewed as the team to beat. You'd have to give them a real good chance.

"You have to go with belief and experience. They've been there, done it and that's a huge plus going into any match. But when you get older, you start worrying a bit more.

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"You worry more about yourself than when in your prime. But they won't carry that mindset into games. You have to be confident in yourself as a player, that you're still capable."

Kerry face an emerging Tipperary side in their Munster SFC opener at Fitzgerald Stadium on Sunday.

And while O'Shea concedes the hosts will start as hot favourites, he's backing Tipp to emerge as a serious senior force in the province. O'Shea said: "I think they've done very well at underage and if that's nursed properly, there's no doubt that there has to be something at the end of the tunnel.

"If you go back over the last 30-35 years in Gaelic football, very few teams have won (senior) All-Ireland titles without having minor or U-21 success."

O'Shea has also backed Fitzmaurice as the right man to oversee Kerry's future period of transition. After a difficult start to this year's league campaign, Kerry preserved their Division 1 status with three wins on the bounce.

O'Shea reflected: "There's always a lot of pressure on a manager coming in. He's had to go with the tried and trusted while also attempting to unearth a few new lads. The more established players have done it before, seen it all.

"But the downside of it is that they've played an awful lot of football and there are a lot of years' wear and tear on the legs and body.

"Kerry are still very dependent on those senior players with that experience and that's vital to any championship run.

"If there were younger players capable of taking over they'd get the chance, but from midfield up Kerry remain as strong as any other top side. When you haven't won and not been successful, your defence will come under scrutiny but there are some good young lads coming through and they'll bolster that."

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