Kerry begin league defence with fresh looking team
Side hosting Donegal without many of players that beat Dublin in final showdown last April
Kerry’s David Moran he intends on taking an extended break through the early rounds of the league. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
It used to be a sort of GAA tradition that a county would open the defence of a competition with as many players as possible from the team that won it. By accident and design, that won’t be happening with Kerry on Sunday.
Their defence of the Allianz Football League begins with the hosting of Donegal at Fitzgerald Stadium on Sunday, only manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice has the bare bones of the team that beat Dublin in the final showdown last April.
Some are out injured, others on an extended break, and either way the list is extensive: No Tadhg Morley, Peter Crowley, Mark Griffin, Tom O’Sullivan, Fionn Fitzgerald, Killian Young, or Gavin White; and no David Moran, Anthony Maher, Johnny Buckley, Darran O’Sullivan, Donnchadh Walsh, Kieran Donaghy, Kevin McCarthy, or Adrian Spillane.
Of those, Donaghy is likely to be out until the tail end of the league, as he focuses instead on basketball. Moran is on a sort of self-imposed break, a few others are club tied, although few of those injured are considered long term.
Not that there won’t be some familiarity between the teams; not at senior level, however, but rather from their meeting in the 2014 All-Ireland minor final, which Kerry won. Among the Kerry minors to have already graduated from that team are Killian Spillane, Cormac Coffey and Andrew Barry. Donegal are also now managed by Declan Bonner, who was in charge of that year’s minor team.
There’s also Kerry’s standout minor from the last two years, David Clifford. “Patience” is the word everyone has been using regarding Clifford, but he has been training with the senior panel in recent weeks, and poised to make his debut sooner rather than later.
For Fitzmaurice, with an extension of his management term until the end of 2020, there is no great hurry either: there is still plenty of experience to pick from for Sunday, the likes of Shane Enright, Paul Murphy, Gavin Crowley, and Barry John Keane part of the current training squad.
For Moran, there is definitely no hurry, as he intends on taking an extended break through the early rounds of the league: “I hope to get back towards the latter stages, I just have a few niggles and stuff at the moment, probably a bit of wear and tear rather than any serious injury.
“I’m just back in the gym with the lads, I’m just trying to get the body right and kick on towards the end of the league, that’s the plan.”