Barry John Keane on Galway: 'The closest team to Kerry on football that I've played against'

Barry John Keane says the two counties competing in this year’s All-Ireland final are kindred spirits.

FORMER KERRY FORWARD Barry John Keane says Galway are “the closest” team to match his own county in terms of football and talent, that he has played against during his inter-county career.

aib-all-ireland-final-launch Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

The 2014 All-Ireland winner finished up at inter-county level in 2018 having first made his championship debut for Kerry in 2010. Over the course of a decade, Keane played a key role for the Kingdom, typically coming in from the bench as a powerful finisher to either help engineer a decisive score, or chip in with one.

He’s shared a pitch with many of the players who will make an appearance in the All-Ireland SFC final on Sunday, and the Kerins O’Rahilly man believes the two counties are kindred spirits in many aspects of the game.

“I’ve always loved watching Galway and they’re the closest team to Kerry on football and talent that I’ve played against,” he says.

“Corofin are a joy to watch. You’d pay any money just to see the way they’re coached. I think they [Galway] have it in them but they’ve never [been able] to kick on and get over the line and they’ve really hardened up in the last two games against Armagh and Derry.

“Damien Comer brings that solid presence to the team and their back line are tackling very cleanly like Kerry.

“Once they turn you over, they have the Molloys and the Dalys and they’re just gone. Liam Silke and Seán Kelly in the full-back line can all play ball and if they get up there, they can take a shot.

“Galway don’t want to give Kerry oxygen and don’t want to give the two Cliffords [any] space because they’ll turn you like that. Similar to Seán O’Shea, they only need a yard. For the first time in about 10 years, Paul Geaney is not the main forward but you have to watch him too because he’s as good as he was.”

There’s a lot of familiarity for Keane in the current Kerry dressing-room, including the man in the bainisteoir bib. Jack O’Connor is in his third term as manager of the Kerry footballers which yielded three All-Ireland titles throughout eight seasons in total. Sam Maguire success over in each of his two turns at the job. In his first year back at the helm, O’Connor seeks to preserve that winning legacy this Sunday.

“He gets the most out of fellas,” says Keane, who was part of the group which O’Connor took charge of in his last appointment.

“He’s his own man. He wants to play football. He wants the workrate and everything that comes with it. You have to do what he wants. He wants to kick, kick, kick. Everything on the money. Move the ball, everyone moving. He wants the performance. At the end of the day, he knows with the team he has, what way they’re set up, if they get the performance that he wants, they should have enough. That’s what he’d be looking for.

“Everything that he’s been involved with, he’s nearly won it. Schools, underage, seniors, he’s done it all. It was a big scalp to beat Dublin. At the time, we probably all said that was the final.”

Keane’s last season on the Kerry panel coincided with the birth of two new sensations in the sport. He was on the pitch when David Clifford and Seán O’Shea made their senior debuts for the county against Donegal in 2018 and watched them quickly impress their authority on the Kerry attack.

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The pair quickly soared to superstar status with their displays and have both been elevated into leadership positions on the team. O’Shea’s monstrous free against Dublin cementing his place as a true modern great.

“They’ve won everything at underage so they’re not going to fear anything. They’re leaders in themselves and they’ll express themselves on the field, they won’t be roaring in the dressing room. They’ll let their football do the talking, and at that age, it’s unreal to see.

“I remember going in at 19 and you’d be giddy, looking up to a fella that you’re playing with. Once those lads came in, it was like they took control of the show and they weren’t even thinking about it. That just shows how talented they are and they’re still learning.

“I’ve had chats with Dave [clubmate David Moran] and he looked up to Darragh Ó Sé and you’d be marking and almost be respecting him too much. I used to go in and Marc Ó Sé would be teaching me, and a year later, he was marking me. But once you’re there and you go out on the field, there’s two hours of work to be done and you have your banter afterwards.”

Barry John Keane was speaking ahead of the 2022 GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final. Sice teamed up with AIB to look ahead to one of #TheToughest matches of the year between Galway and Kerry.

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