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Two Kerry football icons are inspiring the next generation of Kingdom superstars

Jack O’Connor and Declan O’Sullivan are a formidable double-act.

Declan O'Sullivan and Jack O'Connor celebrate All-Ireland senior glory in 2009.
Declan O'Sullivan and Jack O'Connor celebrate All-Ireland senior glory in 2009.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

JACK O’CONNOR and Declan O’Sullivan have plenty in common.

They’re Dromid Pearses clubmates, both know what it’s like to taste All-Ireland senior football glory and both are fiercely-driven men with a winning mentality.

When O’Connor managed Kerry, O’Sullivan was one of his main stars and Sam Maguire Cup winning captain in 2006 (again in 2007 when Pat O’Shea was in charge).

Now, the duo have teamed up again with the Kingdom’s All-Ireland minor football finalists, O’Connor as manager and O’Sullivan as an emerging coach who has played an increasing role behind the scenes in recent times.

Jack O'Connor Kerry minor football boss Jack O'Connor. Source: Andrew Paton/INPHO

“Declan came in originally just to give a hand for two or three sessions, just to go through bits and pieces with the forward line,” says selector Eamonn Whelan.

“The two or three sessions has turned into every training session since, he hasn’t missed a training session.

“I suppose Declan was a serious, serious footballer himself, one of Kerry’s greatest footballers of the last 20, 30 years.

“Playing up until last year, he had a huge influence on the senior team.

“Declan’s enthusiasm is outstanding, he just seems to be a man who is going to have a big future in coaching in my opinion.

“From what I’ve seen of him, I think he has all the attributes of being a great coach in the future.”

Declan O'Sullivan celebrates at the final whistle Declan O'Sullivan celebrates All-Ireland senior glory last September. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Whelan believes that O’Sullivan has picked up some invaluable coaching tips from O’Connor, dating as far back as the days when O’Connor was a coach and O’Sullivan a player at schools level with Coláiste na Sceilge.

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“Jack would have done a huge amount of coaching with Declan through the schools, they were in Hogan Cup finals,” says Whelan.

“I’d say a lot of what Declan would have learned would have come through Jack and outside of that Declan would have worked with the likes of Páidí (Ó Sé), Éamonn Fitzmaurice, Cian O’Neill.

“Declan would have brought a lot of things that he and Jack were comfortable with but he would have brought a lot of other coaching techniques with him as well.

“Declan has been very influential and we were delighted for him to be involved.”

On Sunday, O’Connor is hoping to mastermind a second successive All-Ireland minor crown for Kerry.

And Whelan has been impressed with his work in the underage ranks.

“He’s brought huge experience, both Jack and Alan O’Sullivan.

“Alan was also involved with Jack at senior level and he’s come back down as one of our fitness coaches and conditioning coaches.

Declan O'Sullivan hugs manager Jack O'Connor 17/9/2006 Jack O'Connor and Declan O'Sullivan on the Hogan Stand podium with Sam Maguire in 2006. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“Jack’s experience was huge in terms of the buy-in from clubs and players.

“I think that his knowledge of how to deal with the schools situation because being a teacher himself, he knew how to deal with that.

“You can’t buy that kind of experience. We’re just extremely lucky that a manager of his ability and his stature was willing and anxious to take a step back and move into coaching underage teams.

“I think any county in the country would love to have it.”

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