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'It's Hard To Get Into The Kerry Senior Panel, At The Moment It Is Only Jason Foley'

'It's Hard To Get Into The Kerry Senior Panel, At The Moment It Is Only Jason Foley'

Earlier this year, Eamonn Fitzmaurice agreed to chair a committee tasked with reviewing the situation which sees just one player from North Kerry - Ballydonoghue's Jason Foley - currently established in the Kerry senior football panel.

For an area which produced key Kerry players like Jimmy Deenihan, Tim Kennelly, Bomber Liston, Paul Galvin, and many others, it is a dismal position.

"I felt it was something I might be able to help with on the ground," said former Kerry manager Fitzmaurice.

"I think in North Kerry we have a good few clubs, there is an awful lot of good work being done on the ground but there are fellas making Kerry minor panels but not quite making the step to the senior panel, which is a challenge.

Éamonn Fitzmaurice, former Kerry Senior Football manager, pictured as EirGrid announced a five-year partnership extension for the GAA Official Timing Sponsorship. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"So we’re going to try to help those pathways and support the clubs and those players. If there are players that make your minor panel, how can we support them for the year or two until they're eligible to make the under-20 panel? If they don’t make a senior panel straight away, how can we continue to support them to continue their development?

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"I think part of that is having the Feale Rangers and Shannon Rangers teams in the county championships, and those players are getting the chance to play against the likes of David Clifford on a regular basis.

"Look, it's hard to get into the Kerry senior panel. At the moment, there is only one, it is only Jason Foley but that can happen and there can be swings and roundabouts and things.

"Myself and Paul [Galvin] were involved for a good few years, it was only the two of us, Noel Kennelly was there for a while.

"It hasn't even been that there's been 10 fellas involved from North Kerry but we want to make sure that there is a representation there, and as well, that the two county championship teams are very competitive at that level and also then that the other clubs are competitive at their level, be it junior, intermediate, that you're competitive across the board - if the standards are being raised, I think that's good for North Kerry."

Like Fitzmaurice, Kerry great Pat Spillane believes the situation is partially cyclical, but also feels it is due to a lack of work in the grassroots.

"I'll tell you this now about Kerry supporters: If Kerry could win an All-Ireland this year, and all 15 were from Valentia Island, they wouldn't give a tuppeny," said Spillane.

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"Times have changed. At one stage, it was North Kerry defenders, and townie forwards. In the 50s, you could draw a line from Killarney across, and there wasn't a county footballer from south of that line. Then Mick O'Dwyer came along, and then Mick O'Connell came along.

Former Kerry Footballer Pat Spillane in attendance at the launch of PwC's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the All-Stars at Croke Park in Dublin. Ireland's most prestigious sports awards were first presented in 1971. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

"At the moment on the Kerry panel, there are eight lads from our area. There's four from Kenmare, and four from Templenoe. Why are they there? It's because huge work was done at underage coaching these lads, working with them in schools, clubs.

"To develop football in a region, it's bottom up. You've got to be working at national school level, working in secondary schools, working in the clubs.

"The fact that Jason Foley is the only North Kerry player in the panel is because of neglect of coaching, particularly at primary schools and secondary schools."

See Also: Declan O'Sullivan Explains How Attitude Of Young Kerry Players Has Changed

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PJ Browne
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