Thursday 14 November 2019

Kerry's new kid O'Shea already showing maturity way beyond his years

Dr Crokes forward Micheál Burns. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Dr Crokes forward Micheál Burns. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Dermot Crowe

In the opening round of the National League against Donegal, a high-scoring jamboree with three sendings-off and a cliffhanger finish, Seánie O'Shea made his senior bow, one of eight newcomers who sampled some action. This appeared to trumpet a new departure in hitherto conservative Kerry selection policy.

The changing environment demanded an end to caution. Kerry had won four All-Ireland minors in succession and the senior cast took a beating from Mayo as they exited the All-Ireland championship the previous August. It was a time for change and they didn't hold back.

Of the eight who featured only two have started all four games Kerry have played in the league to date. O'Shea, the 19-year-old centre-forward from Kenmare, is one of those. The other is Dr Crokes forward Micheál Burns.

But for injury, the most heralded of all the brilliant young footballers coming through for Kerry now, David Clifford, would surely have started all four matches too. He featured in all four, coming on as a sub at half-time against Monaghan, having gone off with an injury after 17 minutes in the second round win in Castlebar over Mayo.

On the league's opening day, while Clifford attracted most of the pre-match attention following his remarkable feats for the minors in the last two years, it was his predecessor as county minor captain, O'Shea, who stole the show with seven points against Donegal, three from play. Of all the minors from the last four seasons, none could match the impact Clifford has had on the public imagination. In the last two years he scored an eye-watering 10-68, 10-50 from play, over 12 minor championship matches. His 4-4 in the All-Ireland final last year may never be surpassed.

But O'Shea is in the same league, talent-wise, certainly in the top few from those four minor sides and destined for a bright future. He has not looked out of place and carries excellent prospects of making the Kerry team come the summer, along with Clifford. Today's match against Dublin, a first return for Clifford to Croke Park since his minor extravaganza, will be a severe test for all of Kerry's young legion. But O'Shea has an excellent temperament, demonstrated more than once in the league already.

When O'Shea stood over a free from 45 metres with play in injury-time in the first round, Kerry were a point down, having just conceded a third goal to Donegal. Before a crowd of 11,000 O'Shea nailed the score and then Dáithí Casey ran through to claim the winner. O'Shea was brought into the Kerry senior panel last year after the league but didn't get any play time in the championship.

That became a matter of controversy within Kerry when manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice stopped O'Shea from playing in a county under 21 final a week and a half out from the Galway match. That anger deepened as O'Shea got no game-time against Galway. He is - as Tomás Ó Sé put it - a "serious footballer". He is getting the game-time now.

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