Former Kerry manager Peter Keane says he had the support of the players before he was replaced last month.

Keane had been in charge of the senior footballers from the Kingdom for three seasons, bringing them to the All-Ireland final in his first year where they were beaten by Dublin after a replay.

But their failure to take the next step in the subsequent two seasons cost the Chaersiveen man his job, with Jack O'Connor reappointed for a third stint last week.

"All the players communicated to the County Board sub-committee their strong preference for the present management to be retained," Keane said in a statement.

"It's most disappointing that their wishes do not appear to have been considered in the decision-making process."

Early in his reign momentum appeared to be building for the man who had brought the Kerry minor footballers to the last three of their five-in-a-row of titles in 2018.

Covid-19 brought disruption to the inter-county game in 2020 but Keane still guided the Kingdom to the Allianz League title in October. They looked to be heading for the Munster final, leading Cork late on during a miserable afternoon at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

But a late Mark Keane goal saw the Rebels beat their neighbours for the first time in eight years championship and the compacted season, as a result of the pandemic, meant Kerry's year was over.

McShane's goal was critical in Tyrone's victory over Kerry in this year's semi-final

This year started well as they went through the league unbeaten and shared the title with Dublin. There was no repeat of the hiccup of last year in Munster as they dispatched Clare, Tipperary and Cork to claim an 81st provincial crown.

Kerry then facilitated a change of date for their All-Ireland semi-final clash with Tyrone after a number of cases of Covid-19 in the Ulster champions squad.

There were echoes of 2020's defeat to Cork in their All-Ireland semi-final loss to the Red Hand as they led heading down the home straight in normal time, only for a late Cathal McShane goal to force extra-time.

Tyrone went on to claim the narrowest of victories, before beating Mayo in the decider.

"Unfortunately, losing the semi-final by one point in extra time to the eventual All-Ireland winners, led to a decision to end the work we had started and the momentum we had built," Keane's statement continued.

"I know the players very much wanted us to continue with our project. They were the reason I wanted to stay. We were a united Kerry team with a great sense of purpose and ambition."

Kerry GAA have been contacted for comment on Keane's statement.

Peter Keane's statement in full:
It has been a real honour for me to be have been involved with the Kerry county set-up over the last decade – from Development Squad level, to managing both the minor and senior football teams.

It was great to work with so many of our talented young footballers. To watch their progression - showing potential from young players in development squads was a privilege. To be able to guide them to make the step up to minor level and then onto senior level has been hugely rewarding.

Unfortunately, losing the semi-final by one point in extra time to the eventual All-Ireland winners, led to a decision to end the work we had started and the momentum we had built. I know the players very much wanted us to continue with our project. They were the reason I wanted to stay. We were a united Kerry team with a great sense of purpose and ambition.

All the players communicated to the County Board sub-committee their strong preference for the present management to be retained. It's most disappointing that their wishes do not appear to have been considered in the decision-making process.

The players are a credit to their families, partners, clubs, and communities. I wish them every success in the future as they start out again.

It has been a very tough time for everyone over the last while. During my term, we had two very unusual GAA seasons. It was fantastic to start seeing fans back at games again. I will now re-join the Kerry supporters in the stands and the terraces, and I want to thank all the wonderful Kerry supporters who have given us such fantastic backing over the years.

I would also like to pay tribute to all those who have been involved in the backroom teams at minor and senior level over the past six years – especially James Foley, Maurice Fitzgerald, and Tommy Griffin. There are too many others to mention but they all know how much I appreciated their input and friendship.

I'd especially like to thank my wife Siobhán and my three boys for giving me their unwavering and unbelievable support over the years.

Ciarraí Abú.

Peter Keane