HomeFootballJack O'Connor says All-Ireland draw is a ‘distraction’ but Kerry's focus remains...

Jack O’Connor says All-Ireland draw is a ‘distraction’ but Kerry’s focus remains firmly on Clare this week


Related stories


The consensus view is that Kerry will retain their title with back to back wins over Clare in the provincial decider, and therefore be ranked as a no.1 seed in whichever group they are assigned to.

The Kerry manager might or might not – privately in any event – allow himself a thought or two on the opposition that awaits Kerry in the Group Stage, working on the assumption that Kerry will be top seeds, but O’Connor admits that the timing of the draw is a distraction for all the provincial finalists.

“Of course it [is], yeah. Purely from a psychological point of view you’d prefer if it wasn’t done until after the weekend, but sure look, the GAA are in the sales game and they want to hype stuff up. But yeah, obviously we’ll look at [the draw] but we’ll be parking it until after the weekend and putting it aside because you can only play one game at a time. We’ll be looking for all our attention to be on the Clare game in Ennis and start thinking about the round robin series then from Monday morning maybe,” O’Connor said.

For O’Connor – who is facing into his 10th Munster final as Kerry manager, and 20 years on since his first – the business at hand is Sunday’s rematch with Clare, almost a year to the day since Kerry’s 5-15 to 0-15 demolition of the Banner in Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds.

This time Kerry go right into the lion’s den – Cusack Park in Ennis – which was decided on a coin toss with Limerick unavailable, and neither finalist hot on the idea of a neutral venue.

Today’s Sport News in 90 Seconds – 29th April

“We had no issue really [with the toss]. What’s the alternative? Go to somewhere like Thurles or Pairc Ui Chaoimh, where you won’t get a great crowd from either county, and you don’t have a great atmosphere.

“Our fellas like playing in a good atmosphere, and you’ll get a better atmosphere either in Ennis or Killarney, so it was just one of those things. I think it made sense, and you were going to get a game in the future at home if you lost the toss. It made sense on a lot of fronts,” O’Connor said of a venue he has little experience of.

“I don’t have any big history in Cusack Park. It probably goes back to the days when I was a selector with Páidí Ó Sé that I went up there last with a Kerry senior team. I’m not quite sure what year it was, but it was somewhere in the late 90s. The last time I was up there with the [Kerry] 20s, we got beaten by Galway in an All-Ireland semi-final, so let’s hope for a better result on Sunday.

“I suppose the atmosphere depends on the crowd, and there mightn’t be a huge Kerry crowd there, but I’d say there will be a good Clare crowd there. The way we look at it, we just try to prepare professionally for the game.

“I’m not sure what Clare will bring. Obviously Mark Fitzgerald and James Costello [two Tralee men] have done a lot of good work with them, they were unlucky not to get promotion this year. A controversial enough decision against Westmeath cost them. Replacing a man like Colm Collins was never going to be easy, but Mark has done a great job there.

“From our point of view, we’re trying to get a professional performance from our boys, and tidy up a few things that we were slack in the last day against Cork. That’s the way we’ll look at the game.

“I know we have a few younger lads in the team this year but, in general, we’ve a pretty experienced team at this stage. A good share of our fellas have played in maybe three All-Ireland finals, four if you count a replay, so going up to Ennis shouldn’t faze them.”

Reflecting on Kerry’s “untidy” three-point win over Cork to reach the Munster final, O’Connor spoke of his team being “rusty” and giving up “unforced errors”, which he was happy enough to put down to the team’s four-week lay-off after the League.

“The thing that pleased me was that the lads were able to make that adjustment on the field. Lads kind of realised what was happening, and kind of fixed it themselves.

“The other thing was that we showed a lot of experience and composure in the second half by eking out scores, not turning over ball like they were in the first half. It was just a pretty professional performance in the second half, it wasn’t a fantastic performance, or anything like that, but professional.

“I thought fellas showed their experience, that they had been there before, and were relatively comfortable in a two or three-point game, which is a change for us. Traditionally Kerry haven’t been great in tight games.”

It remains to be seen if Sunday’s Munster final will be a tight game, but the gap in standard between Kerry and Clare suggests it won’t be.

One year ago David Clifford accepted the Munster cup two days after his mother, Ellen, passed away, with the then and still Footballer of the Year and his brother Paudie showing tremendous courage to honour their mother’s memory by playing in the final.

A day short of the first anniversary of her passing, it seems likely that Paudie, now the Kerry captain, will accept the provincial silverware on behalf of the team.

At that stage, Jack O’Connor, the Clifford brothers et all will know who and what awaits them in the Sam Maguire Cup Group Stage that begins a fortnight later.

Meanwhile, the Kerry manager will select his team from almost a full hand, with Jason Foley back in full training and available to play.

“Brian and Jason are back training, Brian O Beaglaoich played a game with his club the weekend of the Cork game, as did a few more lads who didn’t get game time. Most of them, along with Jason Foley, are back training. Anyone that’s training, we’ll assess them during the week, there are two more training sessions to go this week, and take it from there.

“Dylan Geaney picked up a bit of a knock in the county league game, he’s just a bit unlucky, but it’s a minor injury. We’ll have a look at him this week, and see how it goes.

“We’ll have a look at them all this week, and just see who you think is ready for action and take it from there. Everyone [involved in the Cork game] seems fine, they had no reaction, so that’s promising.”

- Never miss a story with notifications

- Gain full access to our premium content

- Browse free from up to 5 devices at once

Latest stories