Peter Keane braced for meeting with ‘probably the team of the ages’
Weight of history – and Kerry – bearing down on Dublin’s five-in-a-row bid
Peter Keane: “We are on a fast track here and we are hoping we won’t fall off the track.” Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
There are some people in Kerry who will tell you next Sunday’s All-Ireland football final isn’t so much about the winning as it is stopping Dublin from the five-in-a-row – never before achieved in the senior men’s game.
Manager Peter Keane isn’t necessarily one of them, only that weight of history is not lost on him either, as obvious as it is unavoidable. Kerry were the last football team to find themselves in that position, going into the 1982 final, where Offaly put a stop to them. Kilkenny’s quest to win five successive senior hurling titles was also stopped by Tipperary in 2010.
“I don’t know about it adding value,” Keane says of that prospect of denying Dublin. “Sure, an All-Ireland final is an All-Ireland final. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, you know it will be in Croke Park. A final is a final. You want to win it.
“I’ve watched Dublin back against Mayo, thought they were hugely impressive. There is nothing else you can say. These guys are going for five-in-a-row, and unlucky in 2014 to beaten in the semi-final by Donegal as they were up five or six points 20 minutes into the game. This is probably the team of the ages, and all we are doing is trying to go against them.
“We haven’t been in a final since 2015, with a team that has no resemblance to this year’s team. You don’t start out at the beginning of the year ‘saying, jeez we’ve got to make a league final, or we got to make a championship final or we got to win a Munster final’. You just take it game by game and you start at the foundation by building a squad, get as much experience around a squad as you possibly can and take it from there. That sounds boring – but, sure, what else is it? There’s no rocket science to it.”
Nor does Keane necessarily agree that Kerry are in bonus territory by making the final, given it’s his debut season in the senior management game, and the range of new debutants already introduced on his watch.
“Look, I suppose, you’ve a lot of guys who’ve won minor All-Irelands and have been around minor teams over the last few years. So, look, they’re not thinking that they’re in bonus territory – that’s not the way their psyche is.
“I suppose the big thing we wanted to do was to put experience into the team. If you look at our team, you have a lot of lads, 15 or 16 who have been given debuts with Kerry over the past say 15 months. Fellows retired before the start of this year and more had walked away the previous year.
“We are going into an All-Ireland final with a team that does not contain a lot of experienced players. Some fellas are trying to say that we do but we don’t.
“For example Adrian Spillane has played six games with Kerry, Gavin Crowley also six, Shane Ryan has only played six championship games for Kerry while David Clifford has played only 10. They are going up against an experienced team like Dublin with Stephen Cluxton having over 100 appearances so they have lots of experience.
“We were just trying to get experience into players, try to get them used to each other, get them used to us and us to them and try and formulate some kind of a squad.
“What I have learned is the longer you are at it, the easier it probably becomes because the players know you better and you know them better. You get to know what you can trust and you cannot trust so we are on a fast track here and we are hoping we won’t fall off the track.”
Keane may still be relatively inexperienced at senior level, his main success coming last summer when, in his third season as Kerry minor football manager, he guided the county to a fifth successive minor All-Ireland. That’s a lot different, naturally, at senior level.
“I wouldn’t say it’s the same. Because your minor teams are new every year. So that changes and changes and changes. He [Jim Gavin] is getting into the same car, pretty much for the last five years, where we’re changing cars every year.
“And not alone that, but the car knows him as well as he knows the car. Fellas are very, very experienced in doing that. Look, as I said, there’s been teams that have come up against them over the last four years and they haven’t knocked any smoke out of them.”