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'Kerry's loss will be someone else's gain' - coaching change, Kingdom defence and club career

Aidan O’Mahony on the outlook for Kerry football.

Donie Buckley before Kerry's All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone.
Donie Buckley before Kerry's All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

KERRY ALL-IRELAND winner Aidan O’Mahony admits that he was caught by surprise at the departure of coach Donie Buckley from the county’s managerial setup and believes ‘Kerry’s loss will be someone else’s gain’.

It was announced on Saturday that Buckley is no longer part of Kerry’s senior management team. A highly-rated coach after his work with Limerick and Mayo amongst other teams, Buckley then linked up with Kerry when Peter Keane took over.

O’Mahony worked alongside Buckley during his own Kerry playing career. He does believe that Kerry’s players will move on from the change in their coaching team and that there are enough personnel working alongside Keane for last year’s All-Ireland finalists to cope.

“Yeah I was surprised alright. Look I’d know Donie well. I haven’t been talking to him or anything, I don’t know the ins and outs of it but obviously when someone leaves the panel like that, it’s a loss. Kerry’s loss will be someone else’s gain, whether he’ll get involved with another county or not, it’s yet to be known.

“I’d have found him from my own playing career when I worked under him, he was very good tactically for defensive setups. As a player when you’re going out marking marquee forwards, he was very good knowing their games inside out. So I think he’s a loss and the players will find his loss as well.

“But look like everything I think there’s a big managerial panel inside there. You’ve the likes of Peter and Tommy Griffin and Maurice Fitz and these guys. They’ll look forward to this weekend that you’re playing Monaghan and Banty has them flying, I think that’ll settle the minds of players, I think they’ll kind of move on from it. Obviously there would be a bit of surprise last weekend but you’ll find they have moved on no doubt by the weekend.”

Kinetica-Night-Run-4 Aidan O'Mahony (left) with Phil Healy, ambassadors for the 2020 Kinetica Night Run which takes place on 26 April.

Buckley was viewed as key to shaping Kerry’s defensive strategy but O’Mahony argues against the theory that it is a root problem in the side.

“A lot of people are talking that Kerry’s defence might be an issue but I don’t think it is. I think these lads are only back training a while collectively. They’re winning games. I think come championship you bring in the likes of Peter Crowley and Jack Sherwood to come back in there and David Moran probably to come back into midfield.

“They’re big players for Kerry. Peter Crowley was a player they didn’t have last year, he’s a teak tough defender. I think collectively they have to change their game with every team they play but come championship they’ll have all that sorted out.”

He has been impressed by Kerry’s start to the 2020 campaign after the crushing disappointment they experienced in last September’s decider.

“I think the most enjoyable aspect I’ve seen from their game is you look at the Galway game and the Mayo game and Meath game, they’ve really closed out games. They seem to have the bit between their teeth now. I think it’s early days yet in that they’re only back training and their big focus obviously this year is going to be on winning the All-Ireland.

“The Tuesday morning after losing an All-Ireland is a very bleak place. You’re at home and there’s no one ringing you or tapping you on the back and you’ve a lot of time to yourself which you probably don’t want. As the weeks go on, you go back with your club and it kind of starts to peter out. Then I think the hardest thing is you have to watch it back. I know that from our time the group would come together, you’d go through what you did well, what didn’t work in the game, you put it to bed and you move on.

“They’d have seen last year how close they got in the first game and it’s probably just trying to unearth a few new players. I think for Peter, he’ll know a lot about his team and his panel come April, there’s a big game then obviously, Cork in May is a huge game.”

Kerry football received another boost last week with the collection of a Munster U20 title, a game that O’Mahony had more than a passing interest in.

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the-kerry-team-celebrate Kerry players celebrating at Austin Stack Park in Tralee last week. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“I was at the game myself, my nephew was playing full-back for the opposition Cork, Daniel O’Mahony, he’s a good bit of stuff. It was a strange one. I thought the Kerry management team were fantastic on the line, they made some great changes, putting Sean Horan to centre-back and bringing in Eddie Horan and Sean Quilter.

“For Kerry the U20 is a grade that we haven’t done too well in and John coming into it has brought something new to it. I’ve no doubt a lot of those players would have an eye on the Kerry senior. They’ve Galway up next, they put a massive score the weekend against Roscommon, that’ll be another test for them.”

In January 2017, O’Mahony called time after a Kerry football career that had yielded five All-Ireland senior medals. A community police officer in Tralee, he also leads AOM Fitness where he offers his expertise on S&C and general fitness.

For the last two seasons he has been coaching Cork club Millstreet but his 2020 focus will still be on the playing side with his native Rathmore.

“It’s very enjoyable. I’m a community police officer in Tralee so I work six days, I’m off four days. My four days off are at home with my two young girls and I get a bit of time to study and into the strength and conditioning side as well. I still play with my club and took a step back from coaching this year. I enjoyed the last two years, it was different.

“The time is the biggest thing. I’m probably fortunate enough with the days off, then I try to train usually every day myself. Lucky enough we’ve a gym in our station in Tralee. I try to get out training with the club once or twice a week. At this stage of my life I’m really enjoying it and as long as I am I’ll keep going.

“Last year we got relegated to intermediate after 20 years. I think for the club we’re going to give it a big push this year, we’ve a lot of young lads coming through. I suppose being part of the team that probably got us relegated, it’s important for me as well that we all put our shoulder to the wheel this year and try to really push on and get up to senior level again. We know that won’t be easy, there’s lot of big teams in intermediate. We’ve a lot of work to do, the championship is run off in Kerry in April.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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