Death of young player puts things in perspective for Peter Keane
New Kerry manager pays tribute to under-16 player Niall McGillycuddy
New Kerry manager Peter Keane. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
New Kerry football manager Peter Keane has said that he never dreamed of being a Kerry senior boss and on a day when he should be elated he had just received news of a young player’s death that put his new job in perspective.
The 47-year-old, who led the county to the last three minor All-Irelands, was speaking on Friday at the Kerry Centre of Excellence in Currans during his first media conference since being appointed last Monday.
“I suppose there was a vacancy and I became available, I had a minor gig and I was supposed to have a minor gig again next year. You think about in a happy way about what is effectively my unveiling today, but there was news that broke from Killarney this morning about a young fella called Niall McGillycuddy, who passed this morning.
“He was a young under-16 player that played with the Legion and would have played with the Sem last year and I would have been looking at this fella as potentially playing with the Kerry minors this year in 2018 but most definitely playing with the minors in 2019 because he was under-17.
“He got sick a couple of months ago with leukaemia and it’s very sad to think that there was a young fella that you were looking at when there was no senior gig or anything like that. That’s the predominant thought that’s in my head all day.”
Asked what would represent success for Kerry in 2019, he replied: “I haven’t thought about it but my priority is to sit down as a management. We’ll try and put some kind of a panel together and start cracking on from there and creating some bit of a structure.
“It’s a very valid question but I haven’t thought of an answer in any way. I went away home after the Kildare game [in August] and I wasn’t expecting anything. Next thing, two hours later, news broke that Eamonn [Fitzmaurice] had retired and I’m getting phone calls and text messages and hearing that Paddy Power had me down as a favourite for two days until they copped on to themselves and decided to make someone else favourite.
“It kind of went on a bit of a rollercoaster and after that I had a Monaghan game [minor All-Ireland semi-final] which was the most important thing in my head at that time. That went on to having an All-Ireland and then being contacted after the All-Ireland to see if I was interested in managing the senior team.
“When you normally come out of an All-Ireland you’re in a bit of a tailspin, you’re half shagged and you’re mentally stretched and tired from it and you try and get a few days off but then you’re trying to work towards getting a management and then wondering are you going to get it or who’ll get it; what success is next year to our team, the way we want to play and see where we go from there.”
He deflected the two most difficult questions. It was put to him that anything less than an All-Ireland is not considered a success in Kerry.
“Wouldn’t that be lovely,” he replied, “but there isn’t much point in I sitting here today talking about that.”
The other issue raised was the prospect of Dublin’s potential five-in-a-row next year, an unparalleled feat in GAA history and one that has famously eluded Kerry in the past.
“I suppose I haven’t even a panel picked so where would I start on that one without a panel? That’s like digging a field and you don’t even have a shovel. We’ll get the shovel first and then we’ll start thinking about that one.”
He also spoke about the step up from minor management to senior.
“Fundamentally, what are you doing is dealing with people. It is about man-management. Are you dealing with more expectation? I think yes, there is no doubt about that. Look, we will have to go and see what will happen.”
Under Fitzmaurice’s management, Kerry training took place behind closed doors and he was asked had he a policy on that.
“I have,” he replied. “I can see why it was done and there is no question about it, talking about the lad that was up the tree in Killarney a few years ago. I can understand why they did it.
“I don’t think it is hard and fast, but I wouldn’t be closing the gates all the time. “Does that mean there are open on a Monday or Tuesday? I don’t know. But I certainly wouldn’t have gates locked all the time. I am open to the idea.”
He acknowledged that the players may prefer the controlled access.
“They may feel that way, and look we haven’t met yet. I was asked a question as to what I would think. I don’t see a problem, think it served us well over many years, you look at the town of Killarney and there is almost a tourism built around that, you often hear about people coming down from Armagh to watch Kerry training and stuff like that. Does that mean you bring them in all the time? Probably not.
“But there are times when I don’t see it as a problem to open them.”