'We've just sorted out the province and it's time to knuckle down again' - Kerry's All-Ireland aim

Kerry U20 boss John Sugrue on the challenges ahead after last night’s Munster final win.

MUNSTER SILVERWARE HAD just been collected but John Sugrue did not hesitate in starting to look forward in Tralee last night.

Kerry’s U20 boss has accumulated enough football experience over the years to understand the standards and demands expected of the county’s representative teams.

sean-oconnell-celebrates-after-the-game-with-team-mates Kerry players celebrate after last night's final victory over Cork Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

For sure this ended up an impressive final win over Cork, a four-point interval deficit morphing into a five-point full-time advantage.

Yet the concern in Kerry football circles has been their inability to shine on the All-Ireland stage in this grade. Factor in the previous U21 level and they have only one national triumph to their credit since 1998.

Sugrue’s Renard club-mate Killian Young was captain for that success over Kildare since 2008. Otherwise there have been frustrating outcomes, particularly given the firm grip they took on the All-Ireland minor grade for five straight seasons from 2014.

The last two campaigns have seen Sugrue operate on the senior stage with Laois, he can appreciate the expectancy that surrounds this team since his appointment last winter.

“It’s good to get this far but like we’ve spoken about our presence on a provincial and national scale in the last 20 years. We’ve just sorted out the province and it’s time to knuckle down again.

“We’ve got a chance now so we may put our heads down and see can we take our chance. Croke Park is a great opportunity for these guys to get up there and play a national semi-final. We’ve work to do and plenty of it before we get there.”

john-sugrue Kerry U20 football manager John Sugrue

He has experienced heads working alongside him. Brendan Guiney shared in Sam Maguire celebrations in 2004, a decade on it was the Dr Crokes pair of Kieran O’Leary and Fionn Fitzgerald that were on trophy-sharing duties. That trio are part of the Kerry U20 brains trust, along with trainer Aidan Cahill and goalkeeping coach Seán Óg Ó Ciarduabháin, who has picked up a couple of All-Ireland junior medals of late as a netminder.

Sugrue watched his team overcome that sluggish start to hit full speed in the second half. Winning that latter period 0-12 to 0-3 was indicative of the control they gained. They’ll face Galway or Roscommon on 17 March.

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“It needed to be. We were not at the races in the first half, probably lucky to go in only four down at half-time.

“Our guys settled reasonably well in the second half and put a better structure to it. Cork certainly dominated the first half on kickouts. We knew they were going to be very competitive there and with a change of goalie probably threw our fellas a little bit in the first half.

“Thankfully we got ourselves back in the game and established a bit of a foothold there. Our turnovers were particularly poor in that first half so certainly it was a focus point at half-time.”

Kerry’s preparation has not been smooth, like all teams in this grade they have been forced to cope with weather difficulties along with their involvement with college and school sides.

colm-oshea-and-ruaidhri-obeaglaoich Cork's Colm O'Shea and Kerry's Ruaidhi Ó Beaglaoich in action last night. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Yet Sugrue has been heartened by the squad’s collective effort. Ruaidhri Ó Beaglaoich, Paul O’Shea and Sean Horan all starred in starting roles last night while Sean Quilter and Sean Keane both made scoring contributions off the bench.

“Yeah a good return from the bench but that’s why guys are training,” said Sugrue.

“Thankfully guys are training hard and their focus is good. We’d a training session last Friday night and guys came in and really put their shoulder to the wheel, guys who hadn’t got much game time on the Wednesday night and they really want to be on this.

“The door is open for every fella who keeps his focus right, turns up and is ready to train hard and put their hand up.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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