Listen to an interview with any Kerry player over the past few months and the infamous ‘Galway game’ is sure to crop up.
The disastrous encounter in Croke Park last July was unquestionably the low point of Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s final year in charge and the result and performance left Kerry stunned.
There was ample time to bounce back but the team never fully recovered from the shock, and neither did the manager.
It was surely the lowest point Kerry football had experienced in a number of years; the defeat ultimately meant that The Kingdom were dumped out of the championship before the semi-final stage for the first time since 2012.
Now, just seven months later, the outlook is infinitely brighter. After an encouraging start under new manager Peter Keane, there’s a degree of optimism about this team that hasn’t been felt in many years. If Kerry can make it four from four by defeating Galway (and laying some ghosts to rest in the process), they could well find themselves quite lonesome at the top of Division 1 come Sunday at around half past three.
Keane has stuck with the same back seven for his opening three games but the absence of Brian Ó Beaglaoich (suspended) will open the door for a new defender for the first time this season. Jason Foley (pictured) is back to full fitness and may be called upon to deputise, while Mark Griffin and Gavin Crowley, both of whom made an appearance in the Dublin game, are also in contention.
At midfield, David Moran will be hoping to earn his first start of the year with either Adrian Spillane or Diarmuid O’Connor likely to stand aside should the Rahilly’s veteran get the nod.
Keane will probably stick with Dara Moynihan, Seán O’Shea and Gavin O’Brien in the half forward line after all three performed admirably in their last outing, and with David Clifford and James O’Donoghue still a couple of weeks away from full fitness, Paul Geaney and Stephen O’Brien are expected to continue in the full forward line.
Kevin McCarthy is back training with Kerry following Kilcummin’s successful All-Ireland Intermediate Club campaign and the dynamic forward adds depth to an already strong-looking squad.
Kerry will naturally be without the services of Dr Crokes players Shane Murphy, Gavin White, Micheál Burns, David Shaw and Michael Potts, while Galway will also have to make do without Corofin stars Ian Burke, Liam Silke, Kieran Molloy, Dylan Wall and Bernard Power. Crokes face Corofin in the All-Ireland Senior Cub final on St Patrick’s Day.
There was some bad news for Galway manager Kevin Walsh this week as talismanic captain Damien Comer confirmed that he’ll be facing an extended period on the sidelines. The burly Annaghdown forward is due to undergo surgery on his ankle and is expected to be out of action for up to three months.
That would rule Comer out for the remainder of the league and also make him a doubt for Galway’s opening two games of the Connacht Championship, which kicks off on May 5.