THERE IS something about hurling that keeps on bringing John Meyler back to the game time and time again.
s Wexford look ahead to their All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final with Kerry in Tralee on Saturday, who better to throw light on the challenge facing the Model county than our former player and manager?
Meyler has enjoyed quite a chequered managerial career, having been at the helm with Kerry, Wexford and Carlow along with Cork, whom he guided to an All-Ireland semi-final, only to lose out in a dramatic finish to the current Limerick outfit.
Born in 1956 in Our Lady’s Island, Meyler played both hurling and football for his native county, before moving on to study in Cork where he joined up with the great St. Finbarr’s club whom he captained to an All-Ireland Senior football title.
And a close affinity with Kilmoyley keeps Meyler involved in Kerry hurling, since he has brought the club on an incredible journey, coaching at one of the most progressive outfits in the county.
“I have been involved for 22 years with Kilmoyley,” he said. “They are doing so much for hurling in the county, but demographics are currently affecting such rural clubs, with people having to build or buy houses outside their areas.
“The club is confined with numbers, they have to amalgamate with another club for under-age.
“That’s the reality of the situation. It’s a huge issue when it comes to determining numbers in clubs,” Meyler added.
In the recent book, ‘Meyler: A Family Memoir’, John explained the appeal of Kerry hurling and Kilmoyley in particular.
“I have my favourite pitstop just outside Tralee and on summer afternoons will head to Banna Strand,” he wrote.
“A walk on the beach followed by a swim in the sea, dive around in the waves for ten minutes and when I come out of the water, I am energised for the evening.
“When I get to the pitch for training, I can unwind in a place where no one is going to pester me over the match the previous weekend, and I get to work with a group of willing people.
“It’s the only job in hurling I’ve totally enjoyed. No matter how bad things got, I always wanted to keep coming back to Kilmoyley. It feels like home.”
From this extract from an excellent book, that also details the soccer career of his son David, readers can understand why Meyler kept on returning to Kerry hurling and Kilmoyley in particular.
“On a general level, hurling in Kerry appears to be in a progressive place right now,” Meyler said.
“Traditionally hurling is confined to north Kerry. There are eight clubs there along with Kilgarvan down south, while in more recent years, the bigger population areas in the county of Killarney and Tralee Parnells have generated a strong interest.
“There’s also great work in Kenmare and Dr. Crokes in Killarney. They are achieving a lot.
“I have been 22 years with Kilmoyley. We defeated the Cork side Courcey Rovers last year to become the first-ever Kerry club to win the Munster Intermediate hurling championship.”
Given that hurling means so much to those involved, Meyler feels they will bounce back from their Joe McDonagh final disappointment.
“This will be a third week in a row for Kerry, having played Antrim over the past two weekends, enjoying a victory up north followed by that final defeat.
“But still it has all been positive with manager Stephen Molumphy doing so much for the team. This is a project so you can expect them to put up a serious challenge.
“This is a once-off game for Kerry. They have been in those situations in the past. I can go back to May 1993 when I managed the side to that shock championship victory over Waterford in Walsh Park.
“I can recall the day. Waterford were there in their suits, getting their photographs taken, but we had other ideas and pulled off a huge shock.
“It was massive for Kerry hurling despite losing our next game with Tipperary in Thurles.
“That’s the way Kerry will approach Wexford. It’s a once-off and they’ll have a right cut at it. Once they return to training this week they will look more towards recovery, and prepare for the game ahead.
“They have proved against Antrim they are capable of mixing it up there. For Kerry, the longer they are left in the game the more dangerous they can be.
“They got off to a dreadful start against Antrim but made an amazing recovery. Little calls went against them that could have seen them force extra-time. It was small margins in the end.
“The start against Wexford will be crucial. Wexford will try to gain early control as it will have become apparent to them that Kerry will not go away should they be left in the game.
“Wexford kept their championship alive with a victory over Kilkenny so they will be determined to deliver a repeat display. Lee Chin was back in top form, a huge plus, while Damien Reck has been dominant in defence in all games,” Meyler said.
“But the two recent games have shown the character of this Kerry side. While no doubt disappointed with a third McDonagh Cup final defeat in a row, they will still make Tralee a difficult venue for Wexford.
“Look, Kerry hurling is coming off a much smaller base than Wexford given the number of hurling clubs. However, the small group of clubs have put Kerry hurling on the map.
“As I’ve said, it’s a once-off and I expect Kerry to give it a real lash. We’ll see where that takes them.
“I expect a big north Kerry following in Tralee so the players will be determined not to disappoint them. The visit of Wexford is huge for the game of hurling in the county.”
As I spoke with Meyler on Monday morning, he had just completed a training session with Cork’s Under-15 hurlers.
“I am still involved at under-age level in Cork, still looking forward to Saturday and Tralee. I hope to meet up with you there for what could be a marvellous evening of hurling,” he said.