Jason Foley: 'Kerry people are getting behind this young team'
By Cian O’Connell
Jason Foley has noticed the differences about how the Kerry panel has changed since arriving into the inter-county game.
Decorated green and gold footballers have retired, different challenges exist, but one thing remains the same: Kerry’s desire for victory.
On the eve of the All Ireland SFC Quarter-Final Group Phase Foley is excited about the three matches which are imminent with Sunday’s Fitzgerald Stadium opener against Mayo carrying intrigue.
A year ago Kerry suffered a loss to Galway at Croke Park and never truly recovered so the first game in the series matters deeply according to Foley.
“It is something we have discussed over the past number of weeks,” Foley admits. “It is important to get off to a good start in this series.
“You have to get a good, positive performance and a result in the first game to probably give yourself any chance of getting to a semi-final.
“We are just concentrating on ourselves at the moment, concentrating on putting in a performance on that first day. Everything after that we will look ahead to after the first game.”
Significant experience was accumulated in 2018 and Foley wants Kerry to deliver in Killarney. “Huge lessons were learned, it felt a bit like a quarter final last year coming into the game, having it in Croke Park,” Foley reflects on the Galway reversal.
“It is obviously huge and very positive having our first game in Killarney. We train there every night, we are used to the surroundings. I'm sure the Kerry people will get behind us aswell. That will be all very positive for the first game. Hopefully we can give them something to shout about.”
The Kerry squad has altered due to the departures of some many stars following distinguished service in the green and gold jersey.
“When I came in during 2016 there was a lot of older guys in and around the set-up,” Foley states. “Since then a lot of them have left, but that is natural, it happens in every county. You are just hoping that the guys who come up, that they take the jersey, put it in a better place than when they were given it.
“That is all we are trying to do at the moment. Get the young guys in, build a squad, and get a positive reputation for ourselves.”
Five All Ireland minor triumphs on the spin ensures the Kerry public are beginning to believe that a developing outfit can make a real impact at the highest level. So Foley is delighted to be involved at an interesting time for the Kingdom.
“When you set out in October or November these couple of weeks are what you are aiming for, to be in the quarter-final series,” Foley remarks.
“This is where every player wants to be, playing into late summer. It is exciting times for all of us down in Kerry, hopefully we can give a good account of ourselves over the next couple of weeks.
“Of course when I set out as a minor your aim was to get up to Under 21 and senior. We have probably building a little bit of momentum since.
“Even with the new management, there is a rejuvenation, a bit of freshness brought to the scene. Kerry people are getting behind this young team, we are just trying to give them something to get behind.”
Peter Keane’s vast knowledge of the emerging talent in Kerry supplies another source of optimism down south.
“It is very useful that he has had dealings with players coming up through the ranks from when they were 16, 17, or 18,” Foley comments. "It helps that you know a guy on a personal level and his footballing ability. He has brought in a share of guys this year that he has had from minor level that he has seen.
“That is obviously very useful, it can give you a bit of a head start knowing guys on a personal level. Those guys he did know clicked quickly with the management straightaway, so it was all great really.”
During his university days in UCC Foley enjoyed working under Tomas O Se and Billy Morgan, who left an indelible mark.
“I was in UCC for three or four years,” Foley says. “I never got a Sigerson out of it, a few of the lads at home still slag me over that. They won a Sigerson this year.
“We lost by a point in the semi-final against St Mary's a few years ago, we had Tomas and Billy involved at that stage, two stalwarts of the game, great people, great management.
“Some of the best days were those days playing with the college team, UCC did a lot for me, and a lot for other players. Unfortunately we didn't give them anything that year to shout about, but all in all it was a great experience.
“You can have preconceived thoughts on people, but when I met Billy, he absolutely loves Kerry footballers. You wouldn't think it really, but he really loves the Kerry guys that come into the college.
“When you go into UCC all the Cork, Kerry, Tipperary, wherever you are from it is all parked at the door. We are all one, we are all in UCC, that is the philosophy built down there. Even fellas like Dr Con (Murphy) down there they'd be mad for Kerry, so it is all building towards something in the college. The county scene is left at the door.”
Performing at that level helped Ballydonoghue clubman Foley on his sporting journey. A couple of All Ireland minor medals hinted at his promise and now Foley is delivering on the grand stage.