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kingdom challenge The bottom line for Kerry boss Peter Keane is that he has a year to save his job and win an All-Ireland

Peter has impressive managerial cv but must accept some blame for Kingdom's failings


Kerry manager Peter Keane and former selector Donie Buckley

Kerry manager Peter Keane and former selector Donie Buckley

Kerry manager Peter Keane and former selector Donie Buckley

There are loads of similarities between Manchester United and the Kerry football team. However, the main one is that both are so successful that they are considered aristocrats of their sport.

Their fans are loyal, passionate, and hugely demanding. And they treat every result as a defining moment.

So, after a win they are certain this is going to be 'their' season, whereas every loss is treated as a crisis.

The two teams have been underachieving of late. United last won the Premier league title in 2013. Kerry's last All-Ireland win was in 2014 - and they have won just one in the last 11 years. Believe me, that's a famine down here.

Just as the Kingdom was emerging from the official 'period of mourning' after the Cork loss, somebody got up to a little mischief.


Former Kerry selector Donie Buckley speaks to his players

Former Kerry selector Donie Buckley speaks to his players

Former Kerry selector Donie Buckley speaks to his players

On Friday week last my phone lit up with calls and text messages. Numerous radio stations wanted to talk to me about an alleged mutiny by the players against team boss Peter Keane. Frankly, I hadn't a clue what they were on about.

Let me explain a few facts about the inner workings of the Kerry team. I'd have a better chance of discovering what North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had for his dinner than finding out what's happening inside the Kerry senior football squad.

There are four players from my own club Templenoe - two of whom are my nephews - and three from next-door neighbours Kenmare on the county squad. Occasionally I'd bump into these players socially.

Without fail, there's an undeniable scared look in their eyes when I chat to them. I've got the message at this stage.

They don't want to be asked anything about the Kerry football team. They're following the famous 'Circle of Trust' mantra from the movie Meet the Parents.

I have grave misgivings about this omerta. Of course, there is a need for some secrecy surrounding team tactics and form in training. But the secrecy code has itself become a burden.

I regularly meet Dublin players out socially - indeed, a couple of years ago I had coffee and a 20-minute chat with a Dublin player on the Friday before an All-Ireland final. The difference between them and the Kerry lads is striking.

The Dublin players are comfortable talking about football. There is a lesson there for Kerry.


Former Dublin manager Jim Gavin with forwards coach Jason Sherlock

Former Dublin manager Jim Gavin with forwards coach Jason Sherlock

Former Dublin manager Jim Gavin with forwards coach Jason Sherlock

Despite the secrecy in Kerry, I can confirm that there was no mutiny by the players and Peter Keane has not 'lost' the dressing room.

However, since the departure of Donie Buckley the relationship between the management and the players has been strained. Nonetheless, Keane will see out the final year of his three-year term.

Getting rid of him would be akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face - because, frankly, Kerry don't have a credible candidate to replace him.

But the rumpus has cast a spotlight on Keane, his management team, and the county board.

Aside from the fact that Keane doesn't get paid for doing what is effectively a full-time job, he has an impressive managerial CV.

He coached St Mary's Cahersiveen to win an All-Ireland junior title; he was at the helm when Killarney Legion reached their first county final in 69 years and he managed the Kerry minors to win a hat-trick of All-Ireland titles.

So, he was quite entitled to bring his existing management team with him.

And don't forget during his two seasons with Kerry they have won a Munster title, a league title and his team were runners-up in a replayed All-Ireland final. All to the good... however, the minus column has started to mount up.

Remember, however, in 2019 Kerry contested three national finals (two All-Ireland finals and a league final) but ended up empty-handed. In last year's replay against Dublin, management got the team selection and the substitutions all wrong.

There was no justification for not keeping Buckley, and it has to be said that, again, selection and tactics against Cork this year were a debacle.

In terms of expertise and experience, the Kerry management team is lightweight compared to other counties. Jim Gavin's crew included Jason Sherlock, Declan Darcy, Paul Clarke and Bryan Cullen, who oversaw their strength-and-conditioning programme.

Just look at the boys David Power has with him in Tipperary. It includes former Dublin captain Paddy Christie, Charlie McGeever, former Clare goalkeeper Joe Hayes and Robbie Cannon - who is also Shane Lowry's strength-and-conditioning coach.

Late last month Kerry had a post-mortem on the season. Down here, we'd all hope it went like Dublin's after the loss to Donegal in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final.

I'm told Gavin stood up at the start of that meeting and said he was taking full responsibility for the defeat - that he got the tactics wrong.

He promised he would learn from it. And, boy, how Gavin learned.

I'm not too sure whether Keane took responsibility for what happened against Cork.

But I think he must put his hand up and accept the blame. He has now got the dreaded vote of confidence from the county board who want him to bolster his management team.

It is not a ringing endorsement as Keane must eat a portion of humble pie, admit he made mistakes and make changes to his back-room team.

Yet the county board cannot wash their hands of blame either. By and large they have got their managerial appointments right down through the years.

However, there has been a growing tendency in recent years to cede too much power to county team managers at all levels.

The board's hands-off approach is not best practice either.

A successful businessman, Keane is aware of the need to adapt to changing needs. For starters, he needs to recruit more expertise and experience to his team. He cannot choose inside his own circle of friends. He must pick people who are strong enough to challenge his view of football.

He needs to listen more and take expert advice on board. If I were him, I would hop in my car early in the New Year, drive to Waterville, and have a chat with Mick O'Dwyer.

The bottom line is that he has a year to save his job and win an All-Ireland.

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