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'It wasn't as if it just happened overnight where we were looking over our shoulder at what's next'

Even in his 11th inter-county campaign, Killian Young can’t help but relish the business end to the season.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

EVEN IN HIS 11th season of inter-county football, Killian Young’s enthusiasm for the business end of the Championship hasn’t wavered.

Whatever about the league, or even a Munster Championship which Kerry – bar a couple of hairy moments versus Clare – strolled to this year, for Young, it’s all about the latter stages, the All-Ireland series, and timing an assault on the crown.

Once more, the Renard man finds himself relishing the opportunity:

“You’re waiting long enough to get back up there in the Championship, playing where you want to play.

“It’s great to be at that time of the year again, when you look at the overall scheme of things the year doesn’t be long going. When you look at it, there isn’t much left to go.

“Now, you don’t want to take anything for granted, no matter who you’re playing. You obviously take whoever comes at that time, but we are looking forward to it, there’s a good buzz around the place.”

A decade into his Kingdom career, Young has borne witness to a process which, some would argue, could be described as devolutionary as quickly as it might be called evolutionary, as his beloved sport continues to change apace.

The one constant, he says, is his own role within the Kerry team, which hasn’t changed a jot since his inter-county debut in 2006.

“No, actually it hasn’t. Of course, the game has changed a lot over time. It has got more professional and demanding, but for me, in general, the reason I’m there for so long is because I enjoy the game so much. I love it.

“There is a passion about it, to have that opportunity to play for Kerry is something I don’t take lightly as well. I just enjoy every moment of it, try to make the most of it. This year has been slightly frustrating for me with injury. That normally wouldn’t have happened throughout my career in the past, but I’m glad to be back now. It was good to get game time in the Munster Final, it’s great, it’s a good time to be back for the real business end to it.”

2017 was penciled in by most to be a transitional year for this Kerry side, with bastions in Aidan O’Mahony, Gooch Cooper, and Marc Ó Sé having called time on legendary careers, and a number of young talents having been brought through by manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice.

Young, however, argues that there was nothing sudden or unforeseen about Kerry’s turnover of talent, and that Fitzmaurice had earmarked most of his new-ish recruits long in advance of losing the aforementioned stalwarts.

“I think we’ve dealt with it well,” he says of Kerry’s change in personnel.

I think a lot of players got a lot of experience in the last two years. So it wasn’t as if it just happened overnight where we were looking over our shoulder at what is next. Eamonn Fitzmaurice brought players in and got game time for them players. I think anybody who has stepped in has very good experience already. He has used players early in the year during the league and Championship.

“It’s become such a squad game now. In the past, maybe five years-plus, it would have been very difficult when players of that calibre would have left the panel because you would have been highly relying on the first 15. Now it’s such a panel effort, a lot more players have that experience, so it is a lot easier to transition into the first team. So I think that has been dealt with well. So far it has worked out.”

A record-ending league final victory over Dublin was quite the inauguration for many of the youngsters, but while the elder Young acknowledges how it might have benefited some teammates, he’s careful not to overstate that victory back in the spring.

“It does bring confidence to certain players. Of course it was a big game and it was a big result. But it’s always going to be forgotten about. Nobody knows how many league medals a certain individual has, so it’s something that’s going to be overlooked.

“When it comes to the business end of the year in July, August or September, certainly the league isn’t spoken about. That form is completely irrelevant, but it does give you confidence around that time. It did keep a good buzz within the camp, coming into the Championship as well it kept the spirits high and things like that. Looking back at it now, it feels a long way away.”

Even allowing for league success and the perceived inexperience of many of Kerry’s current outfit, however, pressure invariably rises back home. A year without an All-Ireland is generally considered a barren year, but Young maintains that neither the senior nor up-and-coming figures within Fitzmaurice’s setup will be perturbed by that weight of expectation.

Frankly speaking, it’s nothing new, regardless of a player’s age.

“I think it’s just embedded in you in your younger years, when you’re coming up through the ranks even. That expectation comes at under-16, Minor, 21s – it happens regardless of what age group you play with. There is an expectation, you grow accustomed to it and you know what’s expected from everyone.

“Of course you’re going out to win it, that’s important as well. From that point of view everyone’s main goal and main aim is the Sam Maguire. It’s ages away yet, so you don’t want to be overstepping the mark, you take it every game at a time. You learn from experiences.

Over the years we have been dumped out of the Championship by the likes of Down, we were very disappointed by that. It was more like an ambush in one sense where we just weren’t prepared, we could have been prepared a lot differently. You just want to be very careful that way.

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