Kelly expects more 'tooth and nail' toil from Kerry heroes
Kerry's unbeaten hurlers are now Division 2A champions and just one game away from top-flight status after an extraordinary turn of events last weekend.
They were expected to take on favourites Carlow without several key players, including Mikey Boyle and injured captain John Egan.
The game clashed with Boyle's pre-planned family holiday in New York, but at the last minute he pulled out of the trip and turned up at training to declare himself available.
Egan's participation was even more heroic.
He broke his arm playing with Tralee IT on March 1 and was expected to be out for at least six weeks.
But he played half a game with the county panel a week ago, got a painkilling injection last Thursday night and started and scored 1-1 in their three-point victory over Carlow, who are managed by former Kerry boss John Meyler.
"Yes, it was a pretty amazing turnaround," manager Eamonn Kelly said yesterday.
"We had some idea that John wanted to try to make it but Mikey literally turned up at training on Friday night – we already had the team picked!"
Boyle's wife went on to America without him but he flew out to join her yesterday morning and therefore will miss their big promotion play-off with Offaly next Saturday.
The GAA's decision not to automatically promote the 2A winners to Division 1B has caused controversy in some quarters.
However, Kelly insisted Kerry can't get hung up on that and are just concentrating on the next big challenge they face.
"It's something we haven't really thought about before and now we just have to treat it like another game and go for it, tooth and nail," he said.
He took over as Kerry manager this year but gives most of the credit for their 100pc record so far to coach Brian Horgan and fitness trainer Damien Ryall.
Ryall is from Abbeydorney but Kelly and Horgan are both Tipp men and travel to training from Kildangan.
"We made some hard decisions when we took over," the manager explained.
"We asked everyone to get involved and some weren't interested so it is a very young team, three quarters of them are under the age of 21.
"But we've also benefitted from a lot of good underage work that Kerry have put in," he added, pointing to the fact that the Kingdom won All-Ireland 'B' titles at both minor and U-21 hurling last year.
He admitted that Saturday's relegation play-off is something of a bonus because the Kingdom had not targeted a league jump for another year.
"League promotion wasn't our priority, what we really wanted is to do well in the Christy Ring and get back into the Liam MacCarthy and that is still our main target," he continued.
"Obviously Offaly are a serious hurling county and this will be another step up for us, but it's another game in Thurles, where the lads love playing, and we will be giving it everything."
The Kingdom will definitely have to battle on without Boyle this time around and they will also be without their corner-forward Davy Butler.
A Tipperary man who works in Kerry and declared for the county this year, Butler still plays his club hurling with his native Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams.
Butler had already committed to lining out for them next Saturday in the first round of the Tipperary Senior Hurling championship.