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Jack O'Connor: 'The people that are dishing out the abuse don’t understand that'

The Kerry boss is getting set for next Sunday’s All-Ireland final.

Kerry boss Jack O'Connor.
Kerry boss Jack O'Connor.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

IT IS 18 years since Jack O’Connor first took the managerial reins at senior county level, he’s currently in the midst of his third spell overseeing Kerry, has guided Kildare and filled an assortment of other roles as well.

That means he has accumulated plenty managerial experience to steel him but even reaching the All-Ireland final next Sunday does not make him immune from the pressures of the job.

The rising demands placed on managers and the accompanying criticism, particularly in the sphere of social media, strikes him as he surveys the changes in the GAA landscape.

“We are lucky enough that there isn’t too much flak coming our way this year, but in the context of the demands of inter-county management, it’s very unfair to give inter-county managers flak. You look at what Andy McEntee (former Meath boss) had to put up with.

“As a fellow inter-county manager, you really would feel for people like that.

“They are putting monumental effort into it and personal sacrifice, so maybe the people that are dishing out the abuse don’t understand that, but it’s just not something that’s acceptable.”

Last time out for Kerry was a win achieved in dramatic circumstances, secured by one of the great points witnessed in Croke Park and achieved against a team that they had found too tough to overcome across the last decade.

For the Kerry football fraternity, the success against Dublin last Sunday week felt momentous, reflected in the post-match scenes of jubilation.

But the setting was an All-Ireland semi-final.

The final hurdle against Galway looms large next Sunday and Jack O’Connor admits he is conscious of the spike in local expectations after the Dublin victory.

jack-oconnor-celebrates-after-the-game-with-tom-osullivan-and-jack-savage Jack O'Connor celebrates after Kerry's win over Dublin with Tom O'Sullivan and Jack Savage. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“Of course, there is that danger. I mean, look, that’s why you have to insulate the players as much as possible from the public. They all want a piece of the lads but I’ve been in this situation a good few times. I think this is my eighth or ninth final and I know the pitfalls that are there, players are in a different bubble to supporters.

“Supporters see All-Ireland finals as occasions with razzmatazz whereas players have to divorce themselves most of the time from that. They have to enjoy the build-up, of course, they can’t go into a cave for two weeks, but they have to understand that this is about performing on the big day and not getting carried away with any sideshows. You have to absolutely park all of that stuff and concentrate on the performance because like I said the Dublin performance will be well forgotten about if we can’t get over the line now.”

There has not been much time for Kerry to dwell on that Dublin display.

Conquering the side that caused them so much pain in recent years, naturally required a huge amount from the Kerry side.

The comedown is not easy.

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“There’s a huge emotional toll that a game takes on you, a game of that proportion,” says O’Connor.

“There’s a huge build-up to a game like that and obviously the game itself was very intense and then it’s just mayhem afterwards.

“And then you don’t sleep well the night of a game. Well, I don’t anyway. Normally I sleep alright the night before a game but the night of a game, and the players would be the same, you’d be wired.

“So you go into the following day and you’re tired and you’re still trying to catch up for three or four days so, more than anything, it’s just getting the tiredness out of your system.

“Obviously along with recovering physically, you then have to start switching your mental focus. I wish there was a switch you could flick but it doesn’t work like that.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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