The prin­ci­pled prag­ma­tist

Kerry mi­nor boss Peter Keane has a ten­ure of al­most un­par­ralled suc­cess since re­plac­ing Jack O’Con­nor, writes Damian Stack

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - SPORT -

THERE’S a steely de­ter­mi­na­tion to Peter Keane. He’s what a cer­tain type of per­son might de­scribe as goal-ori­ented. Most likely he’d de­scribe it him­self as a sim­ple de­ter­mi­na­tion to get the job done, to do it and to do it right.

If that gives the im­pres­sion that he’s all busi­ness – he is a busi­ness man af­ter all – then that’s not quite true either. If this is a labour it’s a labour of love. There’s a pas­sion that drives him.

Even as he holds his cards close to the vest in th­ese pre­match and post-match in­ter­views, you oc­ca­sion­ally get hints of the man be­hind the calm fa­cade. He’s got a dev­il­ish sense of hu­mour, dry cer­tainly, the man can dead­pan with the best of them.

When it comes to his foot­ball though the Ca­her­siveen man is deadly se­ri­ous. His record speaks for it­self. At ev­ery team he’s taken on he’s had a pos­i­tive ef­fect – St Marys, Le­gion and the Kerry mi­nors.

He stands on the cusp of do­ing some­thing no­body has ever done be­fore – lead­ing a county to their fourth All Ire­land mi­nor ti­tle in-a-row. He’s al­ready made his­tory by guid­ing them to a fourth suc­ces­sive fi­nal.

Keane, of course, would be the first to point out that one year of mi­nor foot­ball has noth­ing to do with the next or the last. He’d be the first to point out that Jack O’Con­nor led the King­dom for the two pre­vi­ous cam­paigns.

He’d be the first to point out the work done at un­der­age level with both the de­vel­op­ment squads and the clubs, but the fact re­mains, he’s had to de­liver the goods and so far that’s what he’s done.

One thing that stands out about his two years in the job is just how con­sis­tent the level of per­for­mance has been. His Kerry teams have rarely turned in a poor per­for­mance – bad patches here and there cer­tainly, but noth­ing ma­jor.

“You are al­ways wor­ried with mi­nors be­cause their en­vi­ron­ment is more fickle so var­i­ous things can hap­pen more so than a se­nior player,” he says some­what sur­pris­ingly, at least at first glance. Once he ex­plains what he means, how­ever, it makes to­tal sense.

“No mat­ter what you are at there are things you want to change. Some­thing you are tin­ker­ing with. Some guy you were banking on play­ing well did not per­form, but some­body else did. That is the ebb and flow of ev­ery panel, ev­ery team, ev­ery group that you are work­ing with and that is where you look at con­sis­tency.

“Out­siders may look at the over­all per­for­mance – yeah they did well, but I would be look­ing at say did num­ber 2 do well to­day? Could he be gone back or is he not or maybe the lad in the other cor­ner?

“So man­age­ment are never fully sat­is­fied we are al­ways look­ing for that lit­tle bit ex­tra and this group is no dif­fer­ent.”

Never sat­is­fied. Al­ways striv­ing. It ex­plains a lot about why he’s been so suc­cess­ful. You do won­der whether, as man­ager, he feels a cer­tain amount of pres­sure to de­liver the goods for the young men in his charge.

“Those young fel­lows want to de­liver for them­selves,” he says straight up.

“On a per­sonal level pres­sure does not ex­ist. The four in-a-row is a his­tor­i­cal thing, but you do get a kick out of deal­ing with the young lads. You just love the craic and ban­ter that goes on in a dress­ing room.

“There is plenty of ban­ter in our dress­ing room be­cause they are a great bunch of young fel­lows as were the guys last year and some great char­ac­ters among them. You also get a sense of en­joy­ment out of deal­ing with them, in­ter­act­ing with them, coach­ing them, bring­ing them on if you can.

“You also are go­ing through the jour­ney with them where they get an op­por­tu­nity to play in Pairc Uí Rinn and then they get the op­por­tu­nity to get to play here in the sta­dium on a beau­ti­ful day.

“A Mun­ster Fi­nal day with Kil­lar­ney hop­ping. They then got to play in Port­laoise in the quar­ter-fi­nal against Louth and then play­ing the semi-fi­nal in Croke Park. Now they have the op­por­tu­nity of play­ing in a fi­nal in Croke Park and push­ing on from there.”

In Derry the King­dom face prob­a­bly their most dan­ger­ous foe to date in an All Ire­land fi­nal. Galway pushed Kerry hard last year, but in the end they found a way. Done­gal and Tip­per­ary were seen off much more straight­for­wardly.

Keane is prob­a­bly what you’d call a prin­ci­pled prag­ma­tist. He won’t send his team out to play Derry with a naive game-plan, nei­ther will he aban­don his ba­sic phi­los­o­phy of the game.

“I like to play foot­ball sim­ple as that,” he says.

“We try and go out and score more than we con­cede, but we play foot­ball be­cause I be­lieve that fel­las would pre­fer to play on a team that plays foot­ball than a team that plays dour neg­a­tive stuff.”

There’s lit­tle chance Kerry will play dour neg­a­tive stuff in Sun­day’s fi­nal. There’s lit­tle chance Derry will either. It seems likely to be a good, tough game of foot­ball. A real bat­tle. No quar­ter asked or given. Just the type of chal­lenge the Kerry man­ager would rel­ish. What­ever hap­pens he’ll be ready for it and he’ll have his team ready too.

I be­lieve that fel­las would pre­fer to play on a team that plays foot­ball than a team that plays dour stuff

it’s as

Kerry mi­nor team man­ager Peter Keane at the team press brief­ing at Fitzger­ald Sta­dium, Kil­lar­ney on Wed­nes­day Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin

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