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'Páirc Uí Chaoimh is a very hard place for a Kerry team to win' - and Jack O'Connor should know

O’Connor promises that his Kerry minors will have “a right cut at it” when they take on Cork in the Munster football final.

O'Connor: won with the Kerry seniors in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 2005 and 2010.
O'Connor: won with the Kerry seniors in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 2005 and 2010.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

JACK O’CONNOR RETURNS to Páirc Uí Chaoimh this Sunday in charge of a Kerry team for the first time since 2010. This time he’s not there for the main event, he is on the undercard.

Now coaching the Kerry minor side, he knows his much-fancied outfit face a tough task. He has previous when it comes to facing the Rebels in their own back yard. His record in Páirc Uí Chaoimh with the Kerry seniors is: won two, lost two.

When his Kerry senior side lost by the Lee, they regrouped to win the All-Ireland. That’s partly why he is going down to have “a right cut at it” on Sunday, safe in the knowledge that the losing side gets a second chance. The occasion, he hopes, won’t affect his young charges too much.

“The occasion is there for both teams, we both have to deal with that. All I know is that down through the years Páirc Uí Chaoimh is a very hard place for a Kerry team to win.

“I have been down there with the seniors: we won in 2005; well beaten in ‘06; well beaten in ‘09 and won after extra time in 2010. There were my four experiences in Cork with the seniors.

“So it’s a tough place to win for any Kerry team.”

He was appointed Kerry minor manager – succeeded Mickey Ned O’Sullivan – back in October. Since then he has watched on as Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne collected a Hogan Cup title. The Kerry minor team that takes on Cork at noon on Sunday will feature seven of that side in the starting XV (Cathal Ó Bambaire is also involved but currently rehabbing from injury).

Two comfortable wins against Clare (2-16 to 0-7) and Tipperary (2-18 to 0-7) have also been secured. O’Connor is enjoying being involved at minor level for the first time.

“I’m finding it good. I have always enjoyed coaching at this level with the school [Coláiste na Sceilge].

“It is an age where you can mould fellas; sometimes seniors can be a bit set in their ways. They are, maybe, not as open to coaching as minors are. Minors are full of the joys of life and mad to learn, so far it has been go.”

He has noticed that it is harder to gel a minor side together.

“You don’t get as much time with minors as you do with seniors. You don’t have the same opportunities for bonding weekends – or training camps – that you would with seniors. You have to get people to realise – quickly – that they are not individuals and that they are part of a team.

“Our job is to try to get them to play our way and sometimes that can be difficult because you can have cliques – you know guys from the same areas, clubs or schools – but as much as possible we try to get fellas to play as a unit, as one team.”

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JP McCarthy

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