Kerry U17 go from strength to strength on and off the pitch

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Kerry District League have two games to go before the mid-season break, and face the prospect of beating their entire points tally in their inaugural campaign.

Competing in the U17 Southern Elite Division, Kerry are beginning to look like a real success story having already built up seven points this season, beating Cabinteely and Limerick.

When you consider the Kingdom only amassed ten points last season, their first season in the SSE Airtricity U17 League, it seems elite level under-age football is beginning to thrive in Kerry.

Head Coach Darren Aherne admits the team struggled in the first two games but since a change of defensive shape, the team have only lost one game in five matches.

Aherne said: “We struggled in the first two games, we lost against both Galway and Waterford. We looked at our defence and system after those results, and we’ve been much better.

“We had a draw against UCD which was a big result for us considering the strength of their underage section. It was big for the players as well as it shows that the system is working and they grew in faith with it.

“We went on to beat Cabinteely and obviously, last Sunday, claimed a 5-1 win over Limerick. It was fantastic, we didn’t expect to win like that but on the day, it was a fair reflection of our dominance.”

Kerry was accepted into the league following the success of the District League in the Kennedy Cup and the Galway Cup in 2015, and now line up against the top under-age sides in country.

Having had a difficult first season in the U17 League, Aherne believes the experience gained last season and the increased fitness of the players has had a great impact.

He continued: “More or less, all the players which could stay on have stayed on with us this year and you can definitely see the benefit of the experience they had last season.

“We had a good pre-season, for a good five weeks and got them up to the fitness level we needed to get to. The lads who have just joined have really embraced the challenge and that definitely helps.

“You can tell we’re definitely fitter this season and the players have tasted that winning feeling now and want to keep it going so it is great for us.”

Not only are things improving on the pitch, but off it as well. Kerry have began to attract good crowds down to their home games at Mounthawk, partly down to their increased activity on social media.

With local interest growing, Aherne says the promotion is crucial to attracting local players to the side in the future and believes the players benefit from the crowds.

Aherne added: “The league has been fantastic in terms of social media and spreading the word. For me, on the pitch comes first but the second most important thing is the promotion.

“I suppose we’re like the first people up Everest in regards to elite national under-age football in Kerry so we’re determined to make it a real success and using social media will only help us target players who could potentially play for us in the future.

“We had a local Under-13s side come up and watch us at the weekend. They would be the type of team who could be with us in a few years time so for them to see what we’re doing is great.

“There is a great buzz around Kerry and we’ve been getting great crowds. We’ve got Wexford and Shamrock Rovers at home to come before the break. There should be lots of people in Mounthawk for the Rovers game which will be great for the players.”