Peter Keane: Counties breaking Covid-19 training ban ‘unfair on society in general’

‘We have to be conscious of all of these people that we were minding, vulnerable people’

Kerry manager Peter Keane dismisses the view that the team were overly defensive against Cork in last year’s Munster SFC semi-final. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Kerry manager Peter Keane dismisses the view that the team were overly defensive against Cork in last year’s Munster SFC semi-final. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

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Peter Keane was uncharacteristically forthright – for any type of football manager, let alone one from Kerry – when asked about the counties currently being punished for training in defiance of Covid regulations.

The four counties – none of whom coincidentally Kerry have beaten in their most recent championship meetings – are Cork, Down, Dublin and Monaghan and whatever “edge” they thought they were getting, the episodes left Keane unimpressed.

“I think what the other counties did was wrong. I think it was unfair. I think it was unfair on society in general. The view was that we were all in this together and, look, some of these counties breached the Covid guidelines and I don’t believe they should have.

“Did it bring pressure? In the early part I think yes it did. We took a view down here that we weren’t going to do it, that we weren’t going to break the guidelines. We were going to try and look out for all of these people.

“There was a good number of months that with my own mother I didn’t see her. We have to be conscious of all of these people that we were minding, vulnerable people.

“If you do see or hear that other counties were doing something it brings pressure because you might have players saying ‘Jesus, why aren’t we doing this?’ And that then brings pressure on but we are where we are with it then.

“But, look, it’s not really for me to comment on why they did it and it’s not really for me to comment on the penalties or punishments applied.”

It has been an agonisingly slow wait for Kerry since last year’s calamitous November when despite having ample opportunity, the county fell to a startling last-second defeat by Cork in the extra time of their Munster semi-final – the first provincial championship in 19 years not to have the reassurance of a second chance.

So that was it. Kerry, AFL winners in 2020 and then two weeks later out of the championship in one thunderclap on an afternoon of relentless rain in an empty stadium.

Keane dismisses the view that the team were overly defensive on the day and left themselves open to their fate.

“I think a lot of that discussion came around Brian Ó Beaglaoich playing as a wing forward. If you reverse back 12, 13 or 14 months from that we played an All-Ireland semi-final with Brian at wing forward and there wasn’t any perception of, to use your own phrase, not playing football with flair.

“I think we play football with flair where we can.”

It was a devastating loss for a team that had nearly prevented Dublin’s five-in-a-row the previous year, losing in a replay. In recent months there has been a number of retirements from the Kerry rearguard – Brian Kelly, Jonathan Lyne, Shane Enright and most recently, Peter Crowley.

The total lack of activity since the end of last year’s championship has made it difficult for team building and running the rule over potential candidates for promotion,

“I think it’s very difficult,” he says. “I think it’s very difficult on the players as well. Last year we had a county championship and had a look at a few fellas and brought them in. You would see when a fella comes from club and Sigerson that it takes them a little bit of time to settle in and get used to the increased training load and that and expectation.”

Last year was different, from one championship to the next without [an\ ] in between.

“Suddenly you’re finished and then starting again so is it safer to go with the tried and trusted? The guy who’s coming in from the outside – is it harder for him to break in? It probably is.”

In the aftermath of the championship defeat last year, Keane made headlines again for reasons he wouldn’t have wished, falling on a walk around Carrauntoohil with a friend who had agreed there’d be no football talk.

“The forecast was to get poor later on, but it got bad earlier than anticipated. And I had a very innocuous fall. It was just a slip and I put my hand back to save myself and unfortunately I dislocated my shoulder in doing the same thing.”

He is both embarrassed and grateful to the rescue services, who came for him.

“It was amazing – that’s maybe the best way I could describe it – the way people could come out. Kerry Mountain Rescue has no funding, no Government funding, but they’ll go out in any conditions to bring any person home.”

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