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Dublin: 16 °C Sunday 22 July, 2018

Jack O'Connor's All-Irelands: 'I did it back to front, like the wedding after the honeymoon!'

O’Connor yesterday collected an All-Ireland minor title to add to previous U21 and senior wins.

Jack O'Connor celebrates Kerry's victory with Alan O'Sullivan.
Jack O'Connor celebrates Kerry's victory with Alan O'Sullivan.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

JACK O’CONNOR ADMITTED his All-Ireland managerial grand slam with Kerry came ‘arse ways….like the wedding after the honeymoon’.

By guiding Kerry to All-Ireland minor success, O’Connor joined an elite crew of managers to have won titles at minor, U21 and senior level.

But it wasn’t the likely route to such success with his first All-Ireland coming at U21 level in the 1990s, followed by senior All-Ireland wins in 2004, 2006 and 2009 and, finally, yesterday’s minor triumph.

To make it even more special, the minor win ensured he has managed All-Ireland winning teams in three different decades.

“I did it arse ways!” said O’Connor. “I did it back to front, like the wedding after the honeymoon! It’s great. I always enjoyed coaching at this level.

“I cut my teeth with the colleges for eight or 10 years and I’m delighted for these guys because they’re young and they’re raw and they take advice. These fellas did everything for us all year, their attitude is fantastic.”

First Win

It was Kerry’s first win at the minor grade since 1994. That ’94 side spawned players like Mike Frank Russell and Barry O’Shea and O’Connor is optimistic about how far the current minor players can go.

“In the 90′s, we won the minor in ’94 and we won three U21′s between ’95 and ’98 and that fed the Kerry team for 10 or 12 years after that,” he said.

“We’re just hoping that the same happens now. Kerry needs young players coming through. There’s a lot of good work done in Kerry and just for whatever reason it hadn’t come together before now. I’m just delighted that I played a small part in it happening.”

Eamonn Fitzmaurice celebrates with Jack O'Connor Jack O'Connor celebrates Kerry's senior success with Éamonn Fitzmaurice. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Like the senior final, Kerry were the better side throughout but could have let victory slip when Donegal rallied late on. They saw a six-point lead reduced to just one at a stage late on but held firm to win by four.

“The lads’ character was tested all year and they were right in the battle there again,” said O’Connor.

“Below in Pairc Ui Chaoimh (against Cork) we were only a point up at one stage. Against Mayo, whenever we got a point they got a point, so we’ve been through this before. But to do it on the big day is special.”

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Paul Keane

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