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Kerry braced for changing of the old guard

By Declan Bogue

A scan of the names on the Kerry team is to gaze upon a decade of history. However, given the manner of how their second half performances have gone all year, retirements are an inevitable consequence.

Whenever Kerry have come up against top-tier opposition this season, they have tended to lose the second half score, a sure sign of a team in decline not matter how is dressed up. With the game increasing year on year in demands of fitness and strength, the age profile of the Kerry team has been questioned.

Although the defence is largely a new-look outfit, and the likes of James O'Donoghue are blossoming into serious operators of the attack, the veterans of the last decade may consider their futures.

In 2002, Colm Cooper and Marc ÓSé made their Championship debuts. A year later Paul Galvin and Declan O'Sullivan came onstream but going even further back than that, Eoin Brosnan fist played Championship in 2001, and this was the sixteenth campaign for Tomás ÓSé, who debuted in 1998.

Although he was the nominated county captain from the start of the year, Brosnan struggled to regain full fitness all year and with a career in a busy solicitor's practise, it seems unlikely he will return.

It is fair to say that Galvin's continued commitment was as a result of his clubmate Eamonn Fitzmaurice taking the manager's job on, but with his own diverse career taking him in different directions, along with a declining on-field influence, may usher him into retirement.

With a move out to centre-forward, Cooper has enjoyed a new lease of life and he will certainly be back, while the ÓSé brothers also continue to be star performers. But with Tomás seeming to bid a poignant farewell to the stadium yesterday, along with his 36th birthday approaching, it appears inevitable that someone else will inherit his famous number five jersey.

"When I took the job last year I didn't think any of them had to retire, purely based on effort and whether they were over the hill," was Fitzmaurice's assessment.

"Whether lads in their mid 30's can give the necessary sacrifice they gave this year, that is a decision for them."

Phrases such as 'end of an era also hold little with the Kerry boss.

"I think it's been exaggerated. I mean Tomás is 35, fair enough. Paul is 34 at the end of the year. Other than that the rest of them, I mean Colm, Declan and Kieran are only 30.

"I know they have a lot of football played but at the same time they are not old men and the way they preserve themselves and how they prepare, I don't think longevity is as much of an issue as it would have been in the past."

In the meantime, Kerry will return home and plot a way back.

"Sure look, we didn't win the Sam Maguire and you know the way that's going to be looked at in the south-west," quipped Fitzmaurice.

Belfast Telegraph

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