Kerry comprehensively defeated Laois on Saturday afternoon to maintain their status in Division 1B of the National Hurling League, and now look to push on this summer in the Leinster championship.
Limerick legend Ciarán Carey has taken over as manager, as the Kingdom surpassed everybody’s expectations by recording wins over Offaly and Laois (twice).
They had too much class for a poor Laois side in Tralee on Saturday, winning on a scoreline of 2-27 to 1-19. Forwards Shane Nolan and John Egan scored 1-9 and 1-6 respectively.
Speaking to Pundit Arena, Egan is not surprised by Kerry’s upturn in fortune.
“This group of players have been together for a long time. The Christy Ring Cup has given us a great platform to improve.
“This league has been great. It gave us the confidence that we can play against better teams and win.”
Egan feels that Carey’s arrival did not simply coincide with a positive league campaign.
“They [Carey and Mark Foley] were such super players. Our players grew up watching them play for Limerick. When they speak, you listen.
“We’ve changed our style a little bit, and things are going well. That was the difference this weekend and against Offaly.”
Hurling fever is sweeping the Kingdom, and their fortunes are capturing the imagination of the GAA public at large in the south west, rather than simply that of the traditional hurling strongholds such as Ardfert in the north of the county.
“Since we’ve qualified for Division 1B, we’re getting great support.
“People are taking more notice of the work that has been done in the last number of years with the team. There were over 2,000 at our game on Saturday, which would have been unheard of in previous years. We were clapped off at half time, and that was special.”
Next up is the championship, where they will face Westmeath, Offaly and Carlow in the Leinster round robin.
“We have to really push on, and build on our league campaign. We’d love to qualify for the quarter-final, and play another big team.
“It would be great to reach a quarter-final, which would be historic for a Kerry hurling team, and give us another craic at a 1A team, and see how it would go.”
Strangely, as the draw works out this year, the winners of the group will play Galway in the quarter-final, while the runners-up will face Laois, thus getting the easier game. However, Egan envisages that they will go out to win every match.
“Every game you go into you have to be trying to win it. I’m sure you’d be trying to win every game. It would be a big game if we were playing Galway, or if we were playing Laois again, it would be another huge test.”
These are exciting times for the small ball in the Kingdom, but people may be getting carried away when suggesting that they ought to be competing in the Munster Championship.
“At the moment, confidence is high, but the thing about Munster is that every one of those counties are All-Ireland contenders. It’s such a tough province to go back into. Going into Leinster, playing teams at our own level at the moment is definitely the way to go for us.
“Tipperary, Limerick, Clare, Waterford and Cork are all teams hoping to win the All-Ireland this year. It would be a massive jump to do it in one season, but we’re headed in the right direction.
“It would be lovely in the future to think we could bring a Tipperary or a Cork down to Tralee for a first round of a Munster Championship, and it would be fantastic for hurling people down here in Kerry.”