Saturday 17 March 2018

Winds of change about to blow hard across Kingdom

Paul Galvin was very much the embodiment of Jack O’Connor’s Kerry team, adding the hard edge that had been missing SPORTSFILE
Paul Galvin was very much the embodiment of Jack O’Connor’s Kerry team, adding the hard edge that had been missing SPORTSFILE
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

As an exodus there might never be one to match that from the Kilkenny hurling dressing-room in the aftermath of last year's All-Ireland final.

By the time Henry Shefflin walked up the steps of the stage in Langton's Set Theatre late last March, the count was six - Brian Hogan, Aidan Fogarty, Tommy Walsh, David Herity and JJ Delaney having already taken their leave.

Convert that figure to All-Ireland senior medals, the unit of currency in the county, and it amounted to 45. Try years of service and the figures are just as phenomenal, 73 collectively between the six.

Could Kerry now be facing a similar flight? Is the team that Jack O'Connor constructed in the middle of the last decade and formed the basis of five All-Ireland titles that have followed from 2004 on?

Eamonn Fitzmaurice expressed the hope in the wake of Sunday's defeat to Dublin that "most" would stay on, stressing that all are still capable of making a contribution.


Selector and coach Cian O'Neill also sounded a rallying call in Kerry's team hotel on Monday morning before the team returned to Tralee where it was confirmed that Fitzmaurice would be remaining on as manager in 2016.

But it's highly improbable that all the same faces will be present and correct when they convene for duty ahead of next season.

Over the last two seasons Kerry have lost some their most iconic names of the modern era. Tomás ó Sé bailed out after the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin, Eoin Brosnan quickly followed. Last year Declan O'Sullivan's painful knees were his cue to go.

Marc ó Sé and Aidan O'Mahony might have used the platform of All-Ireland success to depart but the lure of sixth medals with a squad that was strengthening considerably with the return of the injured Colm Cooper and Tommy Walsh was too powerful.

Paul Galvin came out of a year-long retirement, taking to three the number of 35-year-olds on the squad by season's end.

Galvin's return hasn't gone as well as he might have anticipated, just 30 minutes or so of action hardly equating with the hours on the field and on the road that he has put in for his second coming.

So now there are decisions to make.

Tomás ó Sé gave the strongest possible hint on Monday morning that Marc will walk away soon. Marc came in under his uncle Páidí for the 2002 championship but it was under O'Connor that he really flourished between 2004 and 2006. By 2007, when Pat O'Shea had taken over, his game was sufficiently equipped to win Footballer of the Year.

As the player with the second most championship appearances ever, three behind Tomás who finished his career on 88, his service to Kerry has been immense.

O'Mahony and Galvin were very much the embodiment of O'Connor's approach when he took over in 2004, the hard edge that may have been missing in areas of the team as they submitted to Armagh first in 2002 and then Tyrone a year later stitched into their DNA. Both were 23 when O'Connor introduced them.

Speculation will also focus on Kieran Donaghy's future in the coming months though the nature of Sunday's loss may alter a thought process that was thought to be leaning towards retirement. After coming back from a cruciate rupture, Colm Cooper won't want last Sunday as his parting shot.

Like Kilkenny, transition in Kerry never leaves them too far off the pace. The supplementing of players from the two All-Ireland minor-winning teams may not happen quick as Fitzmaurice has not used U-21 players in his three seasons so far.

But the last embers of the team that Jack built may be about to die out.

Irish Independent

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