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'He's a proven winner' - Ex-Kildare star backs Kerry's O'Connor for manager position

The former Kerry boss has been proposed for ratification by the county board next month.

FORMER KILDARE STAR Tadhg Fennin has backed Kerry All-Ireland winning boss Jack O’Connor to take over the Lilywhites, saying he is “a proven winner.”

Tadhg Fennin Tadhg Fennin in action for Kildare in 2003. Source: INPHO

O’Connor looks set to become the new manager after it was announced this week that the management committee of Kildare GAA put him forward for ratification by the county board next month. 

O’Connor has enjoyed plenty of All-Ireland success in management, including three All-Ireland SFC titles with Kerry.

The appointment might not be confirmed yet but Fennin would be happy to see the Dromid Pearses man succeed Cian O’Neill. 

“I think it’s a good appointment,” Fennin tells The42.

“If you look at the amount of All-Ireland winning managers that are available to coach another county – Éamonn Fitzmaurice, Jack O’Connor and Jim McGuinness is probably about the height of it. You don’t get these winners that often.

He’s a proven winner and his CV speaks for itself. The amount of times he’s gotten teams over the line at this grade.

“I know he’s been dealing with the cream of the crop as regards players in Kerry but still, they have to be blended together, have a game plan and they have to have organisation.

“A lot of people would say that there’s talent in Kildare but you have to harness that and get a formula of where they are competitive on a yearly basis. It’s probably something that someone like himself would be in a best position to do.”

The Moorefield team celebrate The successful Moorefield team after winning the Kildare county final in 2018. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

O’Connor would be seen as an outside appointment for the Kildare job but he has developed a connection with the club scene through his sons Eanna and Cian.

They play with the Moorefield club that claimed back-to-back Kildare senior titles in 2018 as well as winning the Leinster senior title in 2017.

O’Connor was part of the coaching team there as he assisted Moorefield manager Ross Glavin.

“In a way, he was always going to be linked because of his links to the lads in Moorefield GAA,” Fennin explains.

“He probably would have been more involved with Moorefield when they went into club championship and Leinster championship. But he would have been at the matches for the other club teams and would have an idea through the two lads.

Having come across Kildare minor and U20 teams, he wouldn’t be totally in the dark as regards what’s available to him.”

It was reported today that other candidates had expressed interest in becoming the next Kildare manager. 

KFM Sport claim that former Kildare captain Glenn Ryan, along with Tom Cribbin, Niall Carew and ex-Kildare U20 boss Davy Burke communicated their interest over the phone, but allege that none had been interviewed for the position.  

Fennin suspects that O’Connor was the key target to fill the vacancy from the outset.

“There’s been a bit of talk at local level regarding the procedure and how the county board went about it. But I suppose the long and the short of it is [that] they probably targeted Jack from an early stage.

“I suppose the question is did the other few candidates make it known that they wanted to be involved or did the county board ask them of their interest?

“It’s a little bit up in the air, but I think all in all, I probably don’t see a real issue with it. It’s just, they kind of had an idea about Jack and settled on it and went for it.”

Looking towards the 2020 season, Fennin suggests that an important target for Kildare should be qualifying for the Super 8s.

They featured in the inaugural competition last year, finishing at the bottom of Group 1 after a winless run in the round-robin series.

“It’s a place to learn,” says Fennin.

“To be in the Super 8s on a regular basis would hopefully lead to something more.

“You need to be back there, you need to be playing those big teams and mixing it with the best.”

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