Dr Crokes have three or four players at best to offer a county team and Brian Looney is not one of those, according to Pat Spillane.
The former Crokes captain has been on the periphery of Kerry panels from as far back as 2010,but has yet to make the breakthrough.
“He just lacks something. I don’t know what it is. Physique or whatever but he’s just coming up short.”
Last Year’s AIB Munster Footballer of the year, Looney now 26, was again the standout performer in his side’s Munster Semi-Final victory over Loughmore-Castleiney two weekends ago.
Looney was Croke’s top scorer with 1-6 from play; restarting the debate over the classy forward’s omission at inter-county level.
“He’s very talented. I like him as a footballer. He’s very mobile, a lovely 45 kicker, a lovely point kicker. The trouble is playing with Crokes, particularly in Kerry, every game your winning easy. So the players in the team are looking better than they actually are.”
Looney’s stop-start career in the famous Kerry jersey began as far back as in 2004. Looney was an unused substitute in a successful Munster Minor Championship campaign. Only appearing from the bench in the All-Ireland semi-final, and again in the final loss against Tyrone.
Four years later in 2008 he won a Munster u21 title at right half forward, but was demoted to the bench for the semi final, and the final win over Kildare.
“He’s had a couple of runs. Last year in the McGrath cup and I think he played in the league. But it’s a hard one. There’s a big difference between club and being good enough for inter-county championship football.”
The exodus of the current Kerry footballing panel may not have yet begun, with only Tomas O’ Se retiring thus far. But if the activity across the border in Cork is anything to go by, Looney may have a few more openings in the coming year.
“Maybe he’ll improve. The thing about it is Galvin. I don’t know if he’ll retire but his best days are over and there’s a wing forward position going.”
Dr Crokes claimed their fourth Kerry senior championship in a row with a convincing victory over Austin Stacks in late October. They now go in pursuit of a third Munster championship in as many years.
They face Clare champions Cratloe in tomorrow’s Munster Final in the Gaelic Grounds.
Spillane though doesn’t see all this success having much of an impact on the Kerry Senior team.
“No. What I’m giving to Kerry (for their panel next year) is what they have really. What Crokes are is a very well-organized club side. They’re brilliant. They play to a system. They’ve been coached together from under 7’s and 8’s they’re a great club and a great team.”
“But for next year they don’t have much to give. Three to four would be the maximum they would have to give to a county side.”
The nine-time All-Star is fairly optimistic about the future of his native county nonetheless. Despite them failing to win a Minor All-Ireland since 1994. Only three years after his own retirement.
“Jack O ‘Connor has taken over the minors now. And there’s a very promising panel there, and with Jack, high expectations. The u21s are building and at college level I have a sneaky feeling that a Kerry side will win the All-Ireland colleges this year. So that’s not bad.’
“The big problem at senior level is your replacing a big number of great stars. It’s all rebuilding”
The rumored return of one player in particular could prove a key ingredient in bringing back Sam Maguire to Spillane’s homeland, sooner than expected.
“Funnily enough I was talking to his father about it yesterday. He has had trouble with injuries so this is his make or break year in Australia. It’s 40/60 really if he’ll be back.”
The 2008 Young Footballer of the year, Tommy Walsh, has been playing in the AFL since 2009. Initially with St Kilda, and now Sydney Swans.
“Would he be an addition? He’d be a massive addition. He’d be coming back leaner, fitter, stronger.”
“You’d have an option. Full forward because it’s where we’re struggling at the moment, Donaghy has slipped a bit. Or midfield. Or centre forward. Anytime you can bring a footballer, a long with his size and strength, you’d take those lads any day of the week.”
Kerry were beaten 3-18 to 3-11 in this year’s All Ireland semi final against eventual winners Dublin. “The game of the decade” according to Spillane’s Sunday Game colleague Kevin McStay.
Spillane though is in no hurry to compare this current crop of Dubs to the famous teams he faced in the seventy’s.
“The difference is they’re a young team on the way up now, and they look serious. But the key (to being a great team) is winning All-Ireland titles back to back and retaining the hunger and the commitment. That’s the key. So come back to me next year if they retain the title, and then I’ll say; here we have a serious team.”
Eamon Donoghue. Pundit Arena.