GAA Football

Kerry boss Peter Keane expecting a battle against free-scoring Derry

Kerry and Derry minor football sides are no strangers to each other having met in the quarter-final and semi-final in the last two Championships
Jason O'Connor

KERRY minor boss Peter Keane is preparing to face Derry for the second time after last year’s enthralling All-Ireland quarter-final meeting between the two counties which the Kingdom won at Headquarters.

People may be making a case for reigning champions Kerry being strong favourites in advance of Sunday’s renewal between the counties, but Keane doesn’t dwell on the past.

“I think that (recent success) bears no relevance to the situation,’’ he said.

“These players were 13 or 14 when the first All-Ireland was won and we all know that 13- and 14-year-olds are not thinking of an 18-year-old or what he has done or what has happened the three or four years before that. These young fellows are thinking here and now and they want to get their hands on an All-Ireland medal if they can.’’

Being in Croke Park this Sunday was not the grand ambition at the start of the year for Keane. In fact it was all about May in a ‘winner-takes-all’ Munster semi-final meeting with Cork.

“Well, you don’t want to get ahead of yourself really. At the start of the year our focus was on May 10 and solely on that date and believing it was going to be Cork. That is where our focus was,’’ Keane said of the night his side went to Pairc Uí Rinn to face the Rebels.

“You just cannot get carried away looking too far ahead because your summer could end there.” 

Kerry’s run of All-Ireland minor and, indeed, schools success has been complementary since 2014, but Keane feels the amount of times Kerry players have played in Croke Park is not an advantage here.

“You are hoping that from being in a Hogan Cup last year or this year, that will count for something,’’ he added.

“Even for the other lads who played in Croke Park in an All-Ireland semi-final against Cavan, that the experience will stand to them.

“Now, likewise, Derry have the same experience because they have been inside Croke Park in front of a full house against Dublin, and the Dublin seniors playing as well, so that will have been a big plus for them too.”

Keane isn’t buying the view that Derry will be overly defensive either in an effort to curb David Clifford or the Kingdom attack in general.

“Derry have had some stern challenges but they have also put up some big scores as well,’’ he stated.

“They kicked 0-17 against Dublin the last day; they put up 0-18 against a much-heralded Tyrone team.

“They posted 3-17 against Antrim, put up 1-22 against Cavan, 1-13 against Sligo, so that proves that they are a free scoring team,” he said of Sunday’s opponents.

When asked about where he feels the game could be won or lost, Keane feels it’s hard to answer in one line: “If you talk about storing things up, Derry were beaten by Kerry in an All-Ireland quarter-final and semi-final over the past two years and now they are meeting us in the final.

“They will want to win this game no question about it and they are fresh after beating the Dubs in the cauldron of a full Croke Park, so they will be a huge test and I am expecting a battle.”

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