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'This thing that I left Kildare because I was asked to manage Kerry is absolute nonsense'

Jack O’Connor was officially unveiled as the new Kerry manager this evening.

Image: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

JACK O’CONNOR HAS described as ‘absolute and total nonsense’ reports that he departed his post as Kildare manager last month because it was ‘a done deal’ that he was going to take over as Kerry boss.

O’Connor was officially unveiled at the helm of the Kerry senior team at a press briefing this evening in Austin Stack Park in Tralee, after being ratified for the post last Monday night.

It is the third time that O’Connor, who has guided Kerry to Sam Maguire glory on three occasions, has taken charge of the Kingdom and he confirmed that Paddy Tally, the former Tyrone coach and Down manager, will be assisting him as part of the Kerry management team in 2022.

Before that the Dromid man sought to set the record straight on the chain of events that saw him leave Kildare before assuming his new position.

He insisted his Kildare management team from the 2021 season had broken up, as members were unable to commit for a new campaign for various reasons, and that it was not true to say that he had agreed to a third year in charge of the Lilywhites.

“You see there’s a bit of a misconception there. If you want I’ll clarify that.

“The situation in Kildare was I more or less had my mind made up when we were beaten in the Leinster final. In fact if you’re reading body language in the dressing room after the game, you would say I was quite emotional in the dressing room because I’d a fair idea it was my last time meeting that bunch of players or addressing them.

“I was very well treated in Kildare, I had a great time up there. The people couldn’t have been more welcoming, the people I worked with, the county board, the players and we’d a right good time there and so on.

“But I was finding the almost nine hour round journey was taking a huge toll on me and even people close to me would have remarked around that time that I’d lost a lot of weight and so on, that I couldn’t afford to lose, I’m fairly skinny as it is.

“But I had such respect for the people up there that I said I’d give it a couple weeks just to make sure I was making the right decision.

jack-oconnor-and-neill-flynn-celebrate-winning Jack O'Connor and Neil Flynn after Kildare won in the Leinster SFC this summer. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

“The other thing that people don’t realise actually is, and this hasn’t come out, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to bring it out, I didn’t have a management team any more up there. 

“Ross Dunphy the S&C guy was going abroad with the Army for three years. Brian Murphy was going abroad three days a week due to work with Dawn Meats. My coach Emmet McDonnell had just got a principal job in (St) Mary’s Edenderry which is a big school and he was going to find it difficult to commit, even my physio was opting out because of family reasons. So I literally didn’t have a management left except for Tom Cribbin, one of my selectors.

“That was going to be a huge factor. I didn’t feel I had the energy to go putting another management team together, a couple of hundred miles from home, with that facing that journey.

“You have to remember as well that last season, for me anyway was four months, April to August. I found that tough. The other thing people mightn’t realise is I had a big incentive to go to Kildare in the first place because my two sons were up there, they were playing with Moorefield. That is why I went in the first place, I got involved with the Moorefield club.

“They had a good time during the lockdown down at home with their mother so they decided to cut their ties with Kildare and come home. So that link was gone, as well. So I had a load of reasons, personal reasons, for not continuing [with Kildare].”

Kildare had stated in the press release when O’Connor exited that he was at ‘an advanced stage’ in planning for 2022 but the Kerry manager disputes that.

jack-oconnor Kerry's Jack O'Connor. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“How could I commit if I hadn’t even a management? I know there have been a lot of stories, a lot of conspiracy theories going around. If you want to check any of the stuff out, go and talk to the chairman of the Kildare County Board, he will tell you exactly where I was.

“It is well known that the county board were hoping I’d stay on. They had their own reasons for putting out that statement that I can’t really get into, if you know what I mean. To say that I had a management team in place and that was I committing to 2022 was a big stretch because I didn’t have a management team in place. That is the God’s honest truth.”

O’Connor also addressed his appearance on the Irish Examiner GAA podcast in late August after the Kerry-Tyrone All-Ireland semi-final and rejected suggestions he was touting for the Kerry job when analysing that game.

“It was a question I was asked at the end of the podcast. The podcast was about analysing the Kerry-Tyrone game. I think Paul Rouse asked me something along the lines of, kind of compare managing Kerry to managing Kildare. I think that was the question. I said, ‘Sure of course there’s an attraction in managing Kerry but you’d be better prepared for plenty flak because there’s huge pressure in the job.’

“And I gave the example of myself in winning three All-Irelands in four years and still getting plenty grief. I said managing in a place like Kildare is an easier job because the expectations are lower. But sure look people take what they want out of your comments. I wasn’t overly happy the way it was portrayed in the paper.

“In fact I wasn’t happy at all and I think the editor of the paper is present and he knows about that. He got the brunt of my ire a day or two later and his ears are still ringing.

“But look that’s fair enough. Maybe I was a bit naive to make the comment I did but people interpreted that as me advertising myself for the Kerry job. There wasn’t the Kerry job there to be advertising for at the time. To say that there was conspiracy theories out there is an understatement.

“You’re not asked on a podcast to be a cheerleader. You’re asked on to analyse a game. I was out playing golf the evening before when Paul Rouse rang me and asked me on. If I’d a splink of sense I’d have said no, but of course I haven’t. I went on with him the following morning and along with Oisín McConville and Kevin Walsh, we were analysing a game.

“My wife is always telling me I talk too much and maybe I do. I don’t weigh up every remark and wonder if some fella is going to take a certain interpretation out of this. I was asked all these questions about the game and where Kerry could have won.

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sean-oshea-and-diarmuid-oconnor-dejected Dejected Kerry players after their loss to Tyrone. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I picked out a couple of areas. I didn’t think I was overly critical of Kerry management high up or low down. I said they were extremely unlucky and two of the Tyrone goals were extremely fortunate. I said it was an extremely difficult situation for the management approaching the game given the uncertainty.

“But to be honest with you, that’s done and dusted as far as I’m concerned. I just want to be positive and move on.”

O’Connor explained how the addition of Tally to his management setup came about. He also revealed S&C coach Jason McGahan will remain in place, assisted by Arthur Fitzgerald, while selectors Mike Quirke and Diarmuid Murphy had already been confirmed.

paddy-tally Former Down manager Paddy Tally. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“You know when you are in the game what coaches are good, what coaches is average and I would have admired Paddy for a while. I have got to know him better over the past couple of years because we (Kildare) have played Down about four times. They have come down and we have travelled up.

“Paddy is just a very clever coach and he has a lot of experience. He has been to three or four different counties, he just happens to be available because he is on a work sabbatical. I think we are very lucky to have him on board because he is just a very intelligent clever, organised guy who will bring something to Kerry that we haven’t got.”

O’Connor also expressed his gratitude to those he had worked with in Kildare for the past two seasons.

“I want to put on record how appreciative I was to get the opportunity to manage Kildare. It is a great footballing county. There is a latent support that maybe wasn’t apparent, and maybe that was because of the lockdown and Covid.

“I will forever have fond memories of the way I was treated in Kildare and my dealings with the Kildare players and county board and the people I worked with up there. They have a good management now in place who can bring that support back because they are four legends of the game in Kildare from Micko’s time.

“That is my fervent wish that Kildare get back to the top table and stay at the top table.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole  / Reports from Tralee

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