KT

Thank you – not sorry – seem to be the hardest words

OPINION

SAY it and shut up. It’s a public relations tool in its crudest form but it appears to be quite acceptable to some in the Kerry GAA who have been quite economical with words, for want of a more apt description, in recent weeks.

The terse, one sentence statement issued on Friday night, confirming the appointment of a new management team, was very much in keeping with the ‘just tell them what they need to know’ attitude apparently adopted by those charged with the responsibility of spearheading the GAA in the county.

It followed a similarly bizarre, deliberately vague statement 10 days earlier when the board revealed the identities of the chosen ones, the famous five hand-picked to select the new senior team manager, before stressing that no further comment would be made until the process had concluded.

Peter Keane: Three years at the helm

Tell them what they need to know. The media, the supporters, the people of Kerry, could take it or leave it. Ask no questions and you’ll be told no lies. Say nuttin’ lads and they’ll go away.

And now that the process has concluded and a new era is about to get underway, the Kerry GAA administrators have, as I see it, failed to do the decent thing in terms of wrapping up in an acceptable manner.

Not a single word of thanks has been uttered publicly to Peter Keane and his management team for their wonderful service over the past three years. No press conference. No media interviews. No statement. Nothing. Not even the briefest of public acknowledgements has been heard for the hours put in, the effort made, the dedication shown, the passion shared, the roads travelled and the sacrifices made.

Whatever may or may not have been said behind closed doors – and we have no way of knowing if anything was – there has been no public acknowledgement of the Keane years and it is sad to witness. Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a gift and not giving it.

It was never the Kerry way. But it is now, it seems.

A simple tag-on line to Friday night’s managerial announcement would have sufficed. But it was either deemed unnecessary or unwarranted. Maybe we’re being a little too harsh here. It might have been an oversight. But, even so, that’s not acceptable either.

Maurice Fitzgerald
James Foley

When the Kerry GAA administrators, in their wisdom, opted to facilitate a request to delay the scheduled All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone, resulting in the utterly ridiculous scenario of Keane’s charges not having a competitive game for five weeks, the county board hopped into the limelight and bragged: “We dealt with it like men, like good Kerry men”.

The same can’t be said in the current circumstances, however, with a deafening silence marking the end of the 36 months of effort put in by Keane and his backroom team who, despite the havoc of the pandemic, led Kerry to a replayed All-Ireland final, two national league titles and two Munster Championship victories. Poor currency in a glory hungry Kingdom, it seems.

Despite the embarrassment of winning just one senior championship in the decade leading up to Keane’s appointment, there was an ultimate price to be paid, it appears, for not winning an All-Ireland title in three years under his watch – and that coming from an administration that has overseen a senior success starved five years at the helm. The buck can sometimes stop in strange places.

Let’s be frank here. It has been stated repeatedly – and never publicly denied by the county board – that Peter Keane had to actually reapply for the job he had filled for the past three seasons. Was that really on? If it’s not accurate then the board should say so. Otherwise, it’s taken as a given and it’s a dreadful state of affairs.

The Kerry supporters have questions and they should be answered

If the county board wanted Keane to continue surely they could have sat down with the Killorglin businessman, hammered out a deal, discussed terms, raised any issues that needed to be raised and just got on with it.

If, on the other hand, the board felt that his number was up, then the man should have been informed, at the very outset, that change was the preferred option and he should have been afforded the respect and dignity to issue his own statement, in his own time and on his own terms. It would have been the dignified way to do it.

But it’s not the Kerry way any longer, or so it would seem. Announcing a new management team without a simple acknowledgement of the outgoing one was unforgivable.

Another important question arises. Given that Tim Murphy’s Sam-less five years in the hotseat will expire in December, was it really fair to impose a new senior team manager on his successor who will have to live with decision that has been made by the famous five. Here’s the baton. Take it or leave it. But if the wand doesn’t weave the required magic there will be a price to pay.

Vice chairman Eamonn Whelan, who wants to succeed Murphy, was part of the five-man selection committee so he is obviously comfortable with the choice made but it expected that at least one other candidate will also be in the field and he – or she – might have different ideas altogether.

As he prepares for the dark nights of winter, meanwhile, Peter Keane, will be forgiven for wondering what might have been. What will become of the young and exciting team he moulded, successfully guiding many of them from minor to senior grade, and wondering where the journey might have ended if he was allowed to remain at the helm?

It’s worth remembering that the sharp knives were out for Mick O’Dwyer in 1977 but he survived and delivered seven of the next nine All-Irelands. Now not only Keane, but the Kerry faithful will be wondering what might have been?

This is the way out: Outgoing Kerry selector Tommy Griffin with manager Peter Keane

The word on the street – always pretty reliable in Kerry – is that Peter Keane had the backing of the players and they were happy for him to remain in charge. But were they consulted by the famous five? Do their views count for anything? Are they just expected to pull the green and gold jersey over their heads and hold their counsel?

Do the supporters who hand over their money at the turnstiles not deserve to be told what is really going on?

Did Peter Keane want the job? Was he offered it? If not, why not? Were backroom figures favoured by the board again being foisted upon him? Who else was interested? Who was interviewed? Why was Jack the chosen one? How close was it? We don’t know the answers and we probably never will. But we’ll ask the questions.

Former Kerry great Dara Ó Cinnéide put it well: “I find it kind of hard and sad to talk about the way we treat our managers here in Kerry.”

Former Dublin star and current analysis Ciarán Whelan went a step further when he said the process favoured by the GAA in Kerry was disrespectful to Keane.

“Simple basic respect, you go about the process in an appropriate manner. If they don’t want him as manager, at least deal with it in the right way,” he said.

And few would argue with that.

Right now, it is where it is. After witnessing more leaks than the Mid Kerry watermain, the famous five declared that Jack O’Connor was the chosen one and, like every other Kerry supporter, we wish the Dromid man every success in the months and years ahead.

We will support him. We will cheer him on. We will celebrate his successes. And, when it’s all over, we will thank him for his efforts as he endeavours to bring the team that Peter built to new heights.

But, as a matter of priority, we also express our gratitude and appreciation to Peter Keane, to Tommy Griffin, to Maurice Fitzgerald, to James Foley and to every other individual involved in steering the green and gold over the past three seasons and for leaving Kerry football in a better state than they found it.

They have done the county some service and they have earned the right to say ‘you’re welcome’ even if those who should have known better didn’t say ‘thank you’.

One day those involved might look back and realise that it’s the little things that are really the big things. And simply saying thank you is as good a place as any to start.