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Spread the message – Kerry are nowhere near finished


Eamonn Fitzmaurice speaks to his players prior to the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin in September, Kerry's last championship outing. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Eamonn Fitzmaurice speaks to his players prior to the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin in September, Kerry's last championship outing. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Eamonn Fitzmaurice speaks to his players prior to the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin in September, Kerry's last championship outing. Photo: Dáire Brennan / SPORTSFILE

Dear Kerry,

I'm sorry. It's not you. It's me. Honestly. I took you for granted, you see. Got used to the success. Or being in the final shake-up at least. Maybe a part of us assumed we'd always have dates rolling right into September.

Our summer-lovin' should be sparking into gear now; we start our championship against Clare on Sunday. But what's going on with us Kerry?

You've changed. No Tomás. No Gooch. No Galvin. No hope? How do you replace the irreplaceable? No-one is talking us up – even if it was an excuse to talk ourselves down in the past. Is this a summer when we'll only do an impression of Kerry football? Three players make their championship debuts on Sunday. Are we really entering the world of that most feared phase? Transition?

I know, I know – we had it good. We even kept our public displays of affection to ourselves when it really mattered. You never felt the need to grab hold of your team-mates' jerseys and stomp in front of us in a declaration of god-knows-what. Like one Dublin team did. There were no gimmicks. No kisses to the terraces. Our chants to serenade you never went much beyond the safety of "Ker-ry (clap-clap-clap) Ker-ry" (repeat clapping).

You never titillated us with flowery words or false promises. In fact, the opposite. "Yerra" covered a multitude. Maybe it was a lesson learned from printing those damned five-in-a-row t-shirts, but you never boasted about how good you were going to be. Not to mind how good you were. Instead you enticed us with your actions. I liked that about you.

Kerry? Let us count the ways – 36 in all. We are not keeping count of All-Irelands or anything, but it feels like an age since we last won. 2009. 2009! Success isn't a flexible concept. "Haven't ye won enough," is a dirty phrase thrown in our faces. Don't you get it? Once you get a taste, you get a hunger to want it again. And again. And etc. It's unquenchable.

There were times when you made us doubt ourselves. Or rather Tyrone did. There were times when we doubted you Kerry. Like the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final against Dublin. Walking up to Croke Park for the game, I feared it would be our last trip of the summer. But then, it was Dublin hearts you broke that day.

There were times when you led us on. And led yourself on. Four points up in the 2011 All-Ireland final, did we descend into a premature orgy of quiet self-congratulation? I know I turned to my mom and whispered/yelled (triumphantly) "it's in the bag." That bag was then torn apart. Haven't seen that bag since.

Love is blind? Not in Kerry. No-one is more critical of you than we are. Not even you Joe Brolly. Maybe the late Páidí ó Sé was right when he compared us to animals. Then again, animals in Irish – ainmhithe – used to be a term of endearment in Kerry.

We have a fetish in Kerry for rumours of rifts. Players not talking to each other. Players out drinking. Players out bitching. In 'Keys to the Kingdom', former manager Jack O'Connor said there was one "wild story" that Darragh O Se was "supposed to have hit me a skelp... How can you deal with bulls**t like that? Come out as a manager and say no, Darragh ó Sé hasn't been beating me?" Ah. Just another day in the life of a Kerry manager.

So, where do we go from here Kerry? You see, I don't want to go on a break. Ever. Being knocked out in the quarter-finals to Down and Donegal in 2010 and 2012 was enough of a break. If you're forced to go scenic route in the qualifiers, let's go scenic. We've been in tight spots before in far-flung places. Like Tralee. Against Sligo. And just about escaped.

Thing is, Kerry's Got Talent. He's out of Sunday's game, but James O'Donoghue wooed us in last year's All-Ireland semi-final. Thank god we still have one ó Sé left in the team. We've yet to see the full extent of David Moran's talent (here's to an injury-free season). Did I mention Declan O'Sullivan? And Darran? And the boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice who knows us better than anyone? We've survived losing players before. Jacko. Maurice Fitz. Seamus. Darragh (the et al list here is quite long). And each time, the accusation would fly that there wasn't much talent coming through in Kerry. Rubbish.

Oh no. We're not done yet. With Gooch injured, maybe we've lost a bit of our box-office appeal. Put us on the undercard then and see how we react. No-one's talking about us – that suits us just fine. One thing is for sure Kerry; we'll never cheat on you. Our heads will never be turned. Spread the message. We're nowhere near finished.

Sincerely yours...

Ref mics the way forward for GAA

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I can live without the ref-cam, but one gadget that should be used are ref mics – like in rugby. It would bring us closer to the game. Which is also code for us being really nosey/curious.

Wouldn't you like to have heard just exactly what referee James McGrath was saying to the Clare selectors at the start of the second half in last weekend's Munster SHC semi-final? I'm sure they weren't discussing the biscuits Semple stadium had to offer at half-time.

Nash steals the limelight from 'Famous Five'

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So, an easy place for GAA stars to slip in unnoticed, right? Not so for Cork hurling 'keeper Anthony Nash. While Clare hurling boss Davy Fitzgerald watched the Pro-Am on Wednesday, it should have been a little quieter for Nash the previous day. But the Cork star was a wanted man with a number of photo requests.

He even had a quick chat with Europe Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley and vice-captain Des Smyth. Maybe Nash gave them some swing advice.

You would imagine McGinley, an avid GAA fan, will be taking in all the advice he can get ahead of the Ryder Cup this September.

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