Kerry's Marc Ó Sé and David Moran feeling the pain after their league final loss.
Life In The Kingdom

'I thought it was ridiculous, blown out of proportion' - ex Kerry coach on league criticism

Cian O’Neill doesn’t buy any talk of the Kingdom’s demise.

HIS CURRENT ROLE sees him managing Kildare and his previous role saw him coaching Kerry.

It all means Cian O’Neill is well placed to judge the Dublin football juggernaut which stormed to a fourth consecutive football league title last month.

He has no qualms in paying tribute to Dublin’s success but O’Neill had a problem with the obituaries being written about Kerry football following that loss.

“I thought it was ridiculous, blown out of proportion. On any one day, a team can underperform.

“I know the Kerry boys, I know them well. I know Éamonn and his management team. They’re a serious operation.

“You don’t win an All-Ireland with the challenges and obstacles that were in force in 2014 without having a really committed group of players and an outstanding manager and management team.

Kerry will just take that as a learning and they’ll go back and see where they can improve.

“You can be damn sure they’re going to be back at the top table in the next few months.”

“They (Dublin) are blazing a trail there but it’s up to the other counties, ourselves included, really to focus on what we’re doing and hope we can get better at it.

“Whoever plays Dublin, you know what you’re up against and in fairness it’s a credit to Jim, his management team and the players because they’ve done it consistently.”

Cian O'Neill Kerry trainer Cian O'Neill with the Kingdom players before last year's All-Ireland semi-final Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Kerry lost that game and the following week lost the services of Tommy Walsh. He departed their squad, frustrated after a return from the AFL to the Kerry ranks had just not quite worked out.

O’Neill worked closely with Walsh on the training ground and felt a sense of disappointment after hearing of the 2009 All-Ireland winner’s decision.

“I’m just disappointed for Tommy. I’m not part of the setup, I wouldn’t know his thoughts. I haven’t spoken to him.

“He’s worked incredibly hard since he came home to try and get himself back in the frame. Hopefully, he’ll go back to his club and put in a huge shift there.

“The way things are, every top panel is fluid and he might need that break and come back in and play the best football of his career. Who knows?

“But he’s a top guy and a top pro. He was always great to work with as part of the management team.

Tommy Walsh Kerry footballer Tommy Walsh Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

“I don’t know what Tommy’s reasons were or how he felt that injury was impacting him. It’s an incredibly serious injury, the one he suffered.

If that was the root cause, it would make perfect sense.

“The key thing is he gets back to enjoying his football, so hopefully that will happen with the club and I’m sure Éamonn will be keeping a close eye on that too.”

O’Neill’s primary focus now is getting his Lilywhite charges ready for their Leinster opener against Wexford on 21 May.

They achieved their objective at clinching promotion from Division 3 but the final loss to Clare stung.

“We were very disappointed, more than a little bit,” admits O’Neill.

“We went in to win the match, we prepared well and underperformed and came up against a team that was really on their game. We conceded two goals at crucial times of the game and that is ultimately what cost us.

Cian O’Neill Kildare manager Cian O'Neill Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

“It does help to refocus the mind, we were skating on thin ice during the league until we got caught by Sligo and I thought the training period between the next period and Tipp and Clare really refocused us.

“So you would like to think that what happened in the league final will do the same for championship now.”

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