Kerry to complete drive for five
All-Ireland Minor Football Championship final: Galway v Kerry (tomorrow, Croke Park, 1pm, live on TG4)
FIVE and four are the magic numbers for tomorrow's All-Ireland Minor Football final between Galway and Kerry at Croke Park.
The Kingdom are aiming for an unprecedented fifth Tom Markham Cup success in a row while Galway are aiming to become the fourth county to complete a minor hurling and football double in the one year after Cork (1967, '69 and '74), Dublin (1945 and '54) and Tipperary (1934).
While there may be two big stories heading into the game there's no doubting that Kerry's tale is the A plot.
Their achievements under Jack O'Connor and, now, Peter Keane are nothing short of sensational. To win four All-Ireland titles in a row at any level is a real triumph but to do so with an ever-changing team, a necessity of underage football, is even more significant.
Keane, who has been in charge for the latter two of their four wins, has denied that the ‘drive for five' has played any part in their preparations though.
“There's no talk by any of the players or us as a management team in viewing it that way,” he said. “These players were only 11 or 12 years old in some cases when this all began and all they want is their own medal, which is something none of them hold at present.
“Everything we have done this year has involved a different stage to it. Obviously the first night in Thurles (v Tipperary) when they put on the Kerry jersey for the first time and experienced playing in a major stadium and travelling to a game like it.
“The Munster semi-final in Tralee (v Cork) was another step with the stakes they were playing for and having a large crowd for it.
“Then when you take them to a Munster final in a new stadium (Pairc Uí Chaoimh v Clare) as a curtain-raiser for the first time that is new along with it being in front of a bigger crowd.
“The Roscommon game at Limerick was the first game at All-Ireland level while the Monaghan game was the first in Croke Park with a massive crowd supporting Monaghan to contend with as well.”
Kerry's first title in this remarkable run ended a 20-year wait, which makes their subsequent victories all the more impressive.
The two main men behind it are now in the conversation for some of the biggest jobs in football as a result, Keane being mentioned as a possible replacement for Eamonn Fitzmaurice in the Kingdom's senior job while O'Connor has been linked to the vacant Mayo position.
This is an excellent chance for Keane to further add to his CV but he knows that they are fortunate to be involved after nearly being nipped by Monaghan in the semi-final three weeks ago.
When Donnacha Swinburne put the Farney men ahead two minutes into additional time Kerry's 28-game unbeaten run looked set to shudder to a halt, but the brilliant Paul Walsh landed two late points to see them through.
“We were expecting questions to be asked of us by Monaghan in the semi-final.,” said Keane. “Obviously you don't ever really know if they are going to be answered until you see how it pans out for a finish but what stood out for me is how the lads stood up in that period in the last five minutes of normal time when the Monaghan supporters really got behind their team and there was that sense they could go on and beat us.”
The Tribesmen may be aiming to complete the double but there are no players aiming for a second All-Ireland success in as many weeks.
At the start of the year eight players were asked to make their choice and seven went with the hurlers and their decision has been vindicated. Cathal Sweeney, the odd one out, will also be hoping that he's chosen wisely.
He's certainly playing his part with the wing-back hitting the first three points in their excellent 3-13 to 2-9 semi-final win over a very strong Meath outfit.
That result should act as a huge confidence booster for Donal Ó Fátharta's side and it's clear that they are a team that can play excellent football.
Kerry can to, and they have also shown that they can win when the pressure is on – and that may be the quality that completes the five in a row.