It’s 12 years since Kerry were relegated from division one of the National Football League, but the Kingdom are in danger of making the drop to division two again this year. After heavy defeats to Mayo, when they failed to score in the second half and to Dublin, when their total over 70 minutes was just four points, the men in green and gold are not looking good this year.
On Sunday, they travel to Newbridge to play Kildare, who have already beaten the reigning All-Ireland champions Donegal and the reigning League champions Cork. So worrying times for Eamonn Fitzmaurice, Kerry’s youngest ever manager and for Kerry supporters everywhere. Experienced Kerry supporters reckon that come the summer they will have a team able to challenge old Munster rivals Cork, but other pundits say that it’s obvious new talent is not coming through. It’s now 19 years since Kerry won an All-Ireland minor title and while Kerry has won four under 21 titles in that period, their last success was in 2008. So could the production line be drying up in the Kingdom?
Fitzmaurice has been missing big names like Colm Cooper, Eoin Brosnan and Paul Galvin, who have all been involved with their clubs. Also missing from the starting line ups against Mayo and Dublin were Declan O’Sullivan, Bryan Sheehan and Kieran Donaghy. Fitzmaurice knows that it’s going to be a scramble for points in what is a very competitive division, but is not giving up hope yet. He said: ‘‘At the moment three counties have zero points and we play the other two at home at the end of March.’’ With Dr. Crokes out of the club championship some of Kerry’s big names should be back for the trip to Newbridge on Sunday where they will be facing a Kildare team unbeaten in 2013. The Lilywhites have already won the O’Byrne Cup; they will be without Gary White is undertaking overseas service with the Defence Forces, but Dermot Earley is close to a return after a long lay off through injury.
Elsewhere this weekend, Mayo will head to Croke Park on Saturday night to see if they can beat the Dubs once again. When last they met at GAA headquarters last September, Mayo surprised Dublin in the All-Ireland semifinal. The Dubs also have full points, having beaten Cork and Kerry, so it should be an interesting contest. Tyrone are another county with maximum points from two games and on Sunday Mickey Harte’s team take on All-Ireland champions Donegal in Omagh. The final division one game is in Newry where Down and Cork will both be looking for their first points of the League campaign.