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Kerry boss - 'You're looking for some bit of hope and joy. If that can be through football, wonderful'

Peter Keane takes his Kerry side into action in Sunday’s Munster semi-final against Cork.

Kerry manager Peter Keane after their recent win over Monaghan.
Kerry manager Peter Keane after their recent win over Monaghan.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IN EARLY OCTOBER Peter Keane held serious concerns about the prospect of the 2020 football championship being run off, his pessimism captured in his description that the season then was ‘hanging by a thread’.

Fast forward a month and he’s largely in managerial mode, focusing on the business of preparing for games.

The Kerry boss has seen his team despatch Monaghan and Donegal to collect a league title, Cork await next Sunday in their opening championship test.

He’s pleased to see the schedule given the green light and is passionate about the impact the football championship can have this winter.

“I think there’s great expectations by people, they’re looking forward to it. There’s that bit of a buzz about it and look there’s a lot of things that aren’t good around at the moment. This virus has come in and it’s rattled a lot of people. It’s taken over our lives, almost every night there’s some bad story.

“There’s a lot of sadness around there. You’re looking for some bit of hope and joy. If that can be through football, wonderful.

“We were above in Monaghan, we stayed in a hotel called the Nuremore. Some of the lads were out and around and they met this lady from Tralee and she’d been up there 30 years and she was thrilled Kerry had come up. She was really looking forward to it.

“Later on when we were leaving the game closer to 1, she was outside the gate with her Kerry flag. That lady stands out in my mind, that she wanted this but you could equally say there are people who don’t want it. How can I argue with that?”  

Keane has praised the GAA approach to handling the return to play, both at a national level and by the Kerry county board.

“I know myself I wasn’t sure if it’d ever get off the ground, that we’d get back to playing football, but we have. I think the way they managed us above in Monaghan was excellent. I think equally the way we managed the players, we had a hotel above there that opened up for us so I think we had great security above.

seamus-mcenaney-with-peter-keane Banty McEnaney and Peter Keane after the recent game in Inniskeen. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“The last day again in Austin Stack Park the county board, through the Covid officer Liam Lynch and our own Covid officer Deirdre Kelly, they had everything well laid out and well-organised for us.  

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“I think it’s been handled very, very well by the GAA. I did think it was hanging by a thread at the time. I feel, albeit it might sound like a contradiction, now that we are in Level 5, if the numbers are dropping and you are still in Level 5, then you would have to imagine that things would be very safe.  

“I know when I’m here in Currans, when the lads came back to us on the 14th or 15th of September, there was a great buzz, the lads were looking forward to it, to coming back amongst their friends. Albeit slightly different, slightly distanced but there’s a great hop in the place.”     

Now the focus is back to matters on the pitch. Kerry are the reigning Munster champions, a position they have enjoyed every year since 2012.

That was the same season Cork last inflicted a blow against their old rivals. Younger members of Kerry’s squad have no experience of losing out in a match of consequence to Cork but Keane tries to argue against that being a major boost.

“Is that a plus? I don’t know. You could switch that the other way and say the (Cork) boys have a massive hunger to torpedo David Clifford and Seán O’Shea. I think wherever Kerry play Cork there is never a whole pile in it. You might get an odd year where there is an anomaly but I think you’re looking at very tight games whenever they’re there.”

Last year was Keane’s first as a senior supremo. He was successful in that Munster final but it was a searching examination and required persistence ot hand off Cork’s second-half rally.

That puts him on his guard now.

“You’re walking a tight wire here, that’s for sure. We’d an awful battle above there last year to try and get out of there. Subsequent to that, Cork did very well in the ‘Super 8s’, they played very, very well. They have taken that on a step further and have had a fantastic League campaign, albeit no different to ourselves, an elongated one, but their scoring returns have been very high.

“I think it’s a huge advantage to them and I think the pitch above is a big advantage as well, getting used to it and familiar with it. That’s a ground we’re familiar with but not a field as it’s relatively new. The last time we were there was last year so it’s once a year that we’re there.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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