Kerry young guns will need time, says Geaney
Paul Geaney remembers looking around the Kerry dressing room back in January and seeing plenty of faces much younger than his own and wondering to himself where the time went.
"There was a mass of fresh faces," he recalls. "There was a lengthy injury list, there was 16 or 17 of the older guys out and Kieran (Donaghy) was playing basketball and things like that.
"When I came back first it was like an U-23 squad to train with but there was fierce energy there and enthusiasm. You could sense the start of something new for them and they were excited to finally be Kerry seniors."
It wasn't like that when he was called in to make his debut in 2011. At that stage, the guts of the team that had picked up All-Irelands regularly since the turn of the millennium were still around.
And Geaney reckons the current crop's experience of joining a Kerry dressing room will have been very different from his own.
"I was 19 coming into a dressing room full of guys that had four or five All-Ireland medals at that time, so it's different I suppose to what they are coming in to," reflected the Dingle man at the launch the All-Ireland Smiles campaign, which aims to educate Ireland's primary school students on the importance of good oral hygiene.
"They might see themselves more as on-par with some of the more senior fellas because we haven't exactly been blowing any records out of the water.
"I'm sure that the feeling of awe for the Kerry jersey or the feeling of honour of playing for the Kerry jersey is the exact same. The excitement of a career in the green and gold; I'm sure that's just as exciting for any young kid going into the inter-county dressing room. Hopefully they'll all have long and successful careers, and if they can bring me a small bit of that success too, I won't say no to that."
The league saw plenty of new faces get game-time but by the time their championship opener against either Limerick or Clare on June 3 rolls around, Kerry's team should have a much more familiar look to it. The likes of David Moran and Johnny Buckley returned to the side late in the league while more have since come back on board after absences for different reasons.
Kieran Donaghy, James O'Donoghue, Anthony Maher and Donnchadh Walsh are all back in full training with Killian Young expected to rejoin the squad too.
For Geaney, getting the mix right between the new faces and the older heads is top of the list for the Kingdom as the championship comes into view.
"There's a lot of talk about minor teams, but as you see, not every team that wins minor goes on to win senior. In Kerry, when we hadn't won since 1994, before the last four, then there was a bit if pressure put on the young heads.
"With the four back to back, people think Kerry are going to have 30 class players in the next few years and they're all going to start at senior level, straight out of minor, but it doesn't happen like that.
"It is good to have what we have coming through, because there is good talent coming through, it's about getting the mix right, getting a team and the right blend of experience and youth and you have to have them playing well. They have to be performing as well on the training pitch to earn a start. That's all been happening for the past year and half but you have to be patient too it just takes time."
Of course one man more than the rest has excited the Kerry public. Geaney played alongside minor sensation David Clifford when they faced Donegal in the opening round of the league.
"He's a serious talent. It's a big transition and there is a lot of learning but David is capable of learning and performing at the same time I think.
"I expect him to play his part. I'm not sure how big a part that is but I'm sure he'll play his part. The summer will be long and condensed and it's something none of us are used to so we have to acclimatise to that but David is young and is willing to learn and is learning at a good rate.
"He's vastly talented that is very clear but he'll bring some scoring threat to the front three or four or five or six, whatever but it will be exciting and we'll see what David brings and what everyone else brings."