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Meyler eyes return to big stage for Ring victors


Gary O'Brien comes under pressure from Jim Connors at Croke Park. Photo: Barry Cregg / Sportsfile

Gary O'Brien comes under pressure from Jim Connors at Croke Park. Photo: Barry Cregg / Sportsfile

Gary O'Brien comes under pressure from Jim Connors at Croke Park. Photo: Barry Cregg / Sportsfile

Kerry were crowned champions at Croke Park on Saturday and afterwards manager John Meyler said that it's time to start thinking about a return to the Munster championship.

The Kingdom last played in the premier provincial competition back in 2000, but Meyler believes the progress in the county could lead to them being back in the senior grade within three years.

"This is very satisfying. This is our second Christy Ring final in a row, and we should have won last year, but were caught by a lack of experience. We finally put two good halves together, which we hadn't done all year; we finished well, saved our best hurling until last really -- that was a real plus," he said.

"Even before this game, I said we'd have to sit down with the county board, with the clubs, with the GAA itself and sort this out -- what are we going to do?

"We've won two U-21 'B' titles, we've won a minor 'B', Causeway College won the schools, we've won the Christy Ring, we've stayed in Division 2 -- we're on the way up, but we're two or three years away from competing (in Munster)," Meyler added.

The former Wexford boss believes there is merit in the Christy Ring champions being given a shot at the Liam MacCarthy by being entered into the qualifiers.

"Yeah, that wouldn't be bad. It would be a good experience and the more of that the better. We're two or three years away from competing against the top teams as the Munster championship is hugely competitive -- Tipperary are really opening up a gap, then you've Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Clare all pushing on," he said.

But before any of that is ironed out, there is also Meyler's managerial future to be decided with Saturday's victory marking the ends of his two- year term.

He refused to be drawn on the subject afterwards and was afraid of tempting fate -- citing his bitter experience in Wexford, where he was unceremoniously dumped after two years at the helm there.

"The last contract I had, I was fired, so I'm not talking about this now. My two-year contract is up, I'm finished, so it's up to the county board next, and it's up to the players themselves whether or not they want to go on another level.

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"I'm not discussing it -- when I was in Wexford they kicked me out the door, and I thought I had done reasonably well in the two years."

Captain Michael Boyle used his acceptance speech to ask the Kerry county board to give the hurlers a holiday for this victory, and he was even more forthright about them keeping Meyler.

"He has done phenomenal work with Kerry and that was the icing on the cake today -- if he doesn't get another contract there's something wrong," he said.

Kerry were deserving winners as a younger and sharper Kingdom side were a step ahead of a battling Wicklow all through.

Andrew Keane and Jason Casey were the pillars in defence, while up front, Darragh O'Connell was in sharp-shooting form and ably assisted by Shane Nolan, Mike Conway and John Egan.

Midfielder Eamon Kearns tried hard to inspire the Garden County, but apart from a period in the first half, they struggled to make headway with dual star Leighton Glynn closely watched during he match.

In the 22nd minute of the game Andy O'Brien won a penalty for Wicklow, but Jonathan O'Neill's shot was well saved by Darren Dineen on the line.

Kerry led 1-10 to 0-6 at the break and when O'Connell burst inside to score a goal in the 37th minute it was a tall order for Wicklow, who improved when they brought on James Quirke in attack.

But there was no way through a tight Kerry defence who were protected well by goalkeeper Bernard Rochford, a member of the All-Ireland-winning Cork panel in 1999.

SCORERS -- Kerry: D O'Connell 1-9 (4f, 1 '65'), S Nolan 0-5, J Egan 1-1, M Conway 0-2, J Griffin, M Boyle, G O'Brien, J Flaherty 0-1 each. Wicklow: J O'Neill 1-4 (3f, 1 '65'), J Quirke 1-1, A O'Brien 0-2, D Hyland 0-1.

KERRY -- B Rochford 9; P O'Grady 8, J Godley 7, E Fitzgerald 8; C Harris 7, J Casey 8, A Keane 9; D Dineen 8, J Griffin 7; M Boyle 8, G O'Brien 8, D O'Connell 9; J Egan 7, M Conway 7, S Nolan 8. Subs: J Flaherty 7 for M Conway (51), L Boyle 7 for O'Brien (63), J Fitzgerald for E Fitzgerald (68), C Harty for S Nolan (68), A Royle for Egan (68).

WICKLOW -- W O'Gorman 8; J Connors 6, G Keogh 6, B Cuddihy 6; S Kelly 6, L Kennnedy 6, G Bermingham 6; E Kearns 8, R Leddy 7; A O'Brien 6, E Glynn 6, L Glynn 6; T Doyle 6, J O'Neill 7, D Hyland 6. Subs: J Quirke 8 for T Doyle (h-t), E O'Neill 6 for J Connors (41), W Collins 6 for Bermingham (58), J Murphy 6 for E Glynn (65), E Dunne for S Kelly (69).

Ref -- G Duffy (Antrim).

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