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'We're on tenterhooks here' says Kerry boss Keane as League beckons

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Kerry senior football manager Peter Keane (left) and footballer David Clifford

Kerry senior football manager Peter Keane (left) and footballer David Clifford

SPORTSFILE

Kerry senior football manager Peter Keane (left) and footballer David Clifford

This time next week Kerry should be somewhere up in the northeast preparing to travel on to Inniskeen for their Allianz Football League match with hosts Monaghan.

Where they'll be staying was still open to question yesterday, given that many hotels are opting to shut down again and how they'd be getting there was also down for decision.

But their manager Peter Keane sensed that they'd be driving individually because to do otherwise would be at odds with how they get to training.

Inniskeen is around four hours from either Killarney or Tralee, too far to take on a round trip in one day which would have been the manager's preference and why he felt it would have been the right call to allow neutral venues for counties who would otherwise require overnight stays.

"It's something I would like to do with the environment that we're in," he said.

"Should we travel on a bus? We're travelling to training individually so does it make any sense if we're putting everybody in a bus together?" he asked.

"If you put 26 players into a bus does it make any sense telling them to travel individually to training?"

All reasonable questions, maybe even conundrums, management and board officers are facing as they seek to plot the safest path over the next few weeks to keep them on track for the

"I'm giving you the pure reality of it here as an inter-county manager," he said. "I thought there was an awful lot of logic in neutralising the venues. I thought they might do that yesterday (chairs meeting with GAA management officials). I'm speaking of both sides as we have to travel to Monaghan, and Donegal have to travel to Tralee the following weekend, and that's a hell of a long journey as well. You have a lot of hotels closing too."

For Keane, the future is fraught with great uncertainty, thus his contention that the championship is "hanging by a thread".

"It's always in the back of your mind. You get a phone call during the day and it could be any player ringing me and the first thought is, ''Oh shit, have we a problem here?'

"We're on tenterhooks, we're hanging here by a thread I think anyway. I'm not talking about Kerry, I'm talking about every team hanging by a thread.

"There are obviously stories out there about teams who have problems. Problem is the wrong word because I think it's just a fact of life. It's not a bad reflection on any team, it's society, we're all mixing.

"We can't say we're in a bubble because I'm working in SuperValu, all the players are working or in college. They have families, their parents are working.

"We're all trying to mind ourselves and our communities. You take a lot of older people who were suffering from cocooning early on and the mental health associated with that. But equally, you had a lot of young people from 14, 15 upwards and they need to socialise too and minding all those people is very difficult.

"If I'm here thinking that we may or may not have a game then am I only half-hearted doing the job that I'm doing? So our focus is on being ready for Monaghan next weekend."

The prospect of a team having to pull from a championship game and forfeit because of multiple Covid cases is a real one in light of the case of Fermanagh who have currently suspended all GAA activity including inter-county training.

And if that happens, Keane acknowledges there will be an "asterisk" placed over any triumph, no matter who it is.

As to the idea that Covid interruptions could bring champions Dublin 'back to the pack', Keane feels their familiarity with each other will only strengthen them.

"With the very short window, the teams with most experience have a fall-back plan and that makes it a lot easier for them. Dublin have a system and are comfortable with each other, have a lot of experience and I know you're talking about the knockout and how a team could be caught. But have you seen Dublin caught in the last few years? I don't agree. It's probably more benefit to them."

Keane has welcomed David Moran back to training after he missed the opening five league games before lockdown with injury, while Peter Crowley has a Mid Kerry club campaign behind him now after recovering from a cruciate ligament injury. James O'Donoghue, who didn't feature again in the league after picking up an injury in the second round game against Galway is also back in the frame.

"It's not that he has a lot of knocks but he has got knocks at the wrong time. Last year after the Mayo game he was in great knick. He started against Mayo in the 'Super 8s' in Killarney, got a bit of tightness in the hamstring and turned out to be a little bit more than that and pretty much took him out of the rest of our campaign anyway."

Keane was joined at the launch by his captain David Clifford who has just come off the back of another successful club campaign with East Kerry who delivered back-to-back county titles.

He missed the semi-final, however, because of a red card and picked one up earlier in the year for two yellows in a league match against Tyrone when clearly he was a target of the opposition.

It's a level of attention that Clifford, so far, says he is not overburdened with.

"I am lucky enough in the sense that we have six and usually another three or four forwards that can come on and make a difference, so I wouldn't say I get targeted any more than any other forward we have in Kerry.

"That's probably one of our strengths, our forward options. It's something that comes with the territory of being a forward."