Paul Murphy and Kerry keen to make up for lost time
New captain looking forward to leading the Kingdom back into the limelight
Paul Murphy: “Certainly, there is something to prove. There is savage hunger among the group. We’re raring to go, raring to get stuck in . . . We want to start well and see where we go from there.” Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
A make or break season for Kerry begins this weekend in Tralee with the visit of Galway.
Last year began with many believing Peter Keane’s team would complete the job begun when they nearly beat Dublin in the 2019 All-Ireland final.
Instead there was the mayhem of the pandemic lockdown and a long lay-off until autumn. Kerry won the league and the belief that their time had come hardened only to come apart in the monsoon that swept Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the last drenching seconds of extra time when Cork pulled out a first win over their oldest rivals in eight years.
New captain, Paul Murphy is asked whether his team have something to prove – will this affect your attitude to theatre, Mrs Lincoln?
“Yeah, absolutely. We’ve had a long time to think about it too and to wait for it but we’re back training now three weeks ago, having been off and away from the group for six months, more or less.
“There’s a great buzz, a great bite to the sessions. Certainly, there is something to prove. There is savage hunger among the group. We’re raring to go, raring to get stuck in . . . We want to start well and see where we go from there.”
And they have had a long time to think about it; more than six months and not a ball kicked. There were also rumours of discontent in the dressing-room, which he dismisses or at least, parries.
“We’re delighted with the set-up we have both in terms of the backroom and the players.”
It might appear ludicrous to saddle the team with All-Ireland pressures after a season like 2020 but there’s no doubt that this is the likely price of redemption.
The task was slightly complicated by the retirement of Peter Crowley at the early age of 30. He and Murphy were key players in the Kerry defence when the All-Ireland was won in 2014. Crowley became the fourth defender to retire – albeit the only first-choice back – after reserve goalkeeper Brian Kelly, Shane Enright and Jonathan Lyne.
Murphy is friendly with Crowley and shared a house at one stage with a few of the retirees.
“I would be close with Peter. I lived with him for a few years along with Brian Kelly and Shane Enright. Yeah, I did talk to Peter but you know Peter is his own man and he’s not the easiest guy to change his mind on anything but I’d just like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to him.
“He’s been a great servant for Kerry, a fantastic footballer and he went straight from minors to U21s to seniors. He’s well over a decade of service given there and I always saw him as a standard-bearer within the group. You could see him on the field but in the background he always pushed things on.”
He sees the vacancies as also being an opportunity for others but there’s no doubt that Crowley represents a loss of quality and experience in what will be a challenging year.