Monday 17 December 2018

Sinead Kissane: Young Kerry team needs support of the county more than ever

The new faces from the minors, such as David Clifford will need to take on roles which were usually reserved for experienced players. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
The new faces from the minors, such as David Clifford will need to take on roles which were usually reserved for experienced players. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Sinead Kissane

Sinead Kissane

Some things are best viewed from a distance. I was reminded of that this week after a few days in Santorini - the Greek island with views of the Aegean Sea which are best seen from the cliff-top.

One day I sweated it down from the cliff-top to get a closer look from sea-level but, of course, the closer I got to the sea, the more I lost sight of the view.

Greek mythology tells the story of Icarus who flew too close to the sun. Well, I cursed the folly of wanting to get too close to the sea as I slugged my way back up the cliff.

When it comes to the Kingdom at Croke Park, some Kerry people believe it's best viewed from a distance. At last summer's drawn All-Ireland semi-final with Mayo, RTÉ commentator Ger Canning noted: "Mayo fans outdo Kerry fans five or six to one".

If you think the '16th man' motif is an over-hyped marketing ploy, then you weren't a Kerry fan at Croker for those two Mayo games.

Anytime Aidan O'Shea disrupted or won the high ball kicked in for Kieran Donaghy, the Mayo support compounded the misery for Kerry by seconding what O'Shea did with their vocal approval.

It began to create an atmosphere of fear with the trickle-down effect being that, as a Kerry supporter, I didn't want any more feckin' high balls going in because of the risk involved.

The support Mayo got from their fans showed up Kerry, something selector Mikey Sheehy called out months later.

"I felt it was embarrassing, there were so few Kerry people there, particularly for the replay," Sheehy said before adding that Kerry players felt it too.

"Of course the players would be aware of it, absolutely they would be. The support was shocking, shocking".

In an April interview with Radio Kerry, Eamonn Fitzmaurice tried to address the fractious relationship between the team and fans.

"At times, I do think there is a 'them and us'," Fitzmaurice said.

"There is no 'them and us'. It is all us. It is all Kerry".

One of the most-beloved clichés in the GAA is that Kerry only travel for the final and maybe it's because of the notion that Kerry only accept winning and nothing less.

What tends to get neatly over-looked is the cost and time it takes to travel to Croke Park.

A Dubs supporter could hop on the number 15 from the south side of the city, spend €2.85 on Dublin bus and they're in Drumcondra in 30 minutes. A Kerry fan could pay more than €60 adult return for the four-hour train journey from Tralee to Dublin and there's rarely only one to pay for.

Travelling by car from Tadhg Morley's village of Templenoe to Croker, for example, is an eight-hour, 738km round trip with a petrol tank which would need refuelling.

And then there could be overnight accommodation, food and parking, which all add up to a costly bottom line for a family.

Then again, Mayo showed us up here too. As Sheehy also pointed out, Mayo kept travelling last summer, despite these considerations.

"Mayo, look how many times they have lost and you go outside and you see the crowd," Sheehy said. "They have nearly as far to travel as the Kerry supporters, but our lads, the genuine people, go there."

Kerry looked like an abandoned team at Croke Park against Mayo - especially after losing. It's not hard to imagine the players wondering just who or what the hell they were playing for if they couldn't hear, see or feel the county backing them besides the loyal group of Kerry fans who were there.

Why should they care as much about playing for the green and gold if the county doesn't care enough to go in their numbers to watch them play? One feeds into the other.

The poor turnout against Mayo would lead you to believe we've become a hostage to tradition in Kerry. It's like the past has decreed how we're to support Kerry in Croke Park and that's what we're sticking to.

Some people might stay away because they don't like it when the team doesn't play our traditional style. But Kerry's tradition of success is haunting us. There's a skewed badge of honour attached to "only" traveling for the final, as if anything less is beneath us and maybe we're happy to play up to this caricature because that's just the culture in Kerry. But it's people who create a culture, not the other way around.

Away from Killarney, which always draws a crowd, it's time for a change from this waiting-for-the-final approach because we will see the biggest change to a Kerry team we've ever witnessed before.

The new faces from the minors, such as David Clifford, O'Shea et al, will need to take on roles which were usually reserved for experienced players.

We don't know what to expect from them and we don't know how they're going to handle the hype and pressure which is why the Kerry team needs the support of the county more than ever before.

The moral of the story about Icarus flying too close to the sun was to warn of the dangers of instant gratification and over-ambition. Maybe there's a lesson in that for us and what to expect from the 'kids' in the Kerry team this summer.

Croke Park is a long way from here; it's all about Killarney tomorrow against Clare and seeing what this new team can deliver.

Maybe the young players will make the transition quicker than expected. Who knows. But some things are better viewed up close.

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