Peter Keane: 'We are satisfied'
By Cian O’Connell
Steel exists underneath Peter Keane’s smile. To survive as Kerry manager with the expectations always lofty pragmatism is required.
So when Keane and his new backroom team assembled to gather a panel for the 2019 campaign one particular area was identified as needing addressing.
There was no shortage of potential or promise, but Keane knew about the value and importance of enticing some experienced players back into the green and gold set-up.
“I suppose it has been a bit of a journey alright this year for all involved,” Keane admits. “Getting to a final is great.
“We are satisfied, a lot of young fellas have come through and some fellas have come back into the fold. Seeing how they are developing has been very, very interesting.
“We felt that there was football in these guys, that they had something to offer. They grabbed the opportunity and here we are.”
During the past number of years several decorated Kerry players have retired from inter-county action so it was critical to ensure the emerging talent were supported in every way possible.
“You are right in saying that a lot of fellas have left the scene over the last few years,” Keane says. “I suppose that was one of the reasons we got Jonathan Lyne, Jack Sherwood, and Tommy Walsh back in.
“Just for them to bring their experience back into the fold allied with these young lads coming through. It is just something that takes time. You put all the ingredients together and hope they come out right in the end.
“Of course, this is the dream for every team, to be there on the final day. We are no different here in Kerry, we are really looking forward to it.”
Football peppers the conversations in Kerry, but Keane doesn’t find it too difficult to deal with managing the flagship team.
“We are a football mad county,” Keane accepts. “By the same token the supporters here in Kerry are very, very aware and knowledgeable.
“They are very aware of the fact that we have a very young and probably inexperienced team. That it might just take us a bit of time, but they have been patient with us.
So a feeling of optimism surrounds the current crop with the locals particularly interested in how they are progressing.
“I would agree with you, I think we've had great support this year,” Keane states. “Even against Tyrone above in Croke Park there was a great Kerry crowd there.
“I think for some reason people have zoned in on this team. Maybe it is the youth or I don't know what it is, but they feel maybe that there might be something stirring and they want to be part of it.”
Growing up sport mattered in the Keane household with brothers Peter and Keane making a significant coaching mark during the past decade down south.
Training teams, though, is something which simply captured the imagination once their playing days finished.
“I don't think you envisage that,” Keane remarks about being involved on the sideline. “When you are young you want to play and play, to keep playing.
“Then the day comes when you can't play, you want to stay involved in some way. It just happens this is where we are.
“No different to Ray, who you alluded to there, who was involved with St Finbarr's last year winning a Cork County Championship and who helps me out here in the background with the Kerry seniors. It is just something you kind of grow into.”
So how much did being involved with Kerry’s All Ireland minor outfits in 2016, 2017, and 2018 help Keane settle at senior inter-county level?
“I suppose it is no different,” Keane replies. “You crawl before you can walk, you walk before you can run. I suppose it is learning along the way.
“You talk about players getting experience, being involved in teams, being involved with a club team or a development team or an underage team it is all part of learning curve. There is no day you go out that you aren't going to learn something.”
Next on the agenda for Keane and Kerry is Sunday’s All Ireland decider against Dublin, who are striving to claim an historic fifth All Ireland triumph on the spin.
“It is a huge occasion for Dublin,” Keane comments. “They are looking to do five in a row which hasn't been done before. From our perspective it is a final, we are going up to give it a good shot.”
Is all the record breaking debate specifically an issue for Dublin? “Ah sure, we are only making up the numbers here,” Keane retorts. That most certainly isn’t the case because Kerry’s tradition and talent still counts. Keane is keeping Kerry relevant.