©INPHO/James Crombie
All-Ireland Final

Manager focus: Kerry's Jack O'Connor gears up for another All-Ireland Final

As he prepares for his fifth All-Ireland final as Kerry boss, Jack O’Connor refuses to abandon the principles that have made his county so easy to watch.

FACING INTO HIS fifth All-Ireland final as manager, seeking his fourth victory, Jack O’Connor is no longer the ‘outsider’ that quit as boss of The Kingdom for personal reasons in 2006 (he would return two years later).

Another title would bring to half the number achieved by the great Mick O’Dwyer, and the savvy O’Connor is hoping that some kind words towards his opponents in the media now will have a destabilising effect come Sunday.

“I think Dublin have improved dramatically,” he declared on Kerry’s recent press day. “I mean, (Pat) Gilroy and (Mickey) Whelan have done a serious job with the team.

“They dismantled the team from 2009 and there are very few of the same players playing the same positions. What can I say? They are a tough nut to crack and a hard team to break down at this stage, because they have a great defensive system in place.”

If O’Connor can afford to be magnanimous, it has much to do with that day in 2009 when his Kerry side dismantled Dublin, winning by 17 points. It was one of a number of fine performances from his charges that year, and they went on to secure victories over Meath and Cork that helped them to a title that many thought was beyond them.

The modest O’Connor knows that Sunday’s match is different from any other, and that the level of interest on it can lead to burn-out before a ball is even kicked. He will shield his players as best he can before coming up against Gilroy and company, and ensure that they stick to the footballing principles that have been the hallmark of the great Kerry sides – both before and during his reign.

“If Kerry went ultra-defensive the fans just wouldn’t like that type of football,” he said recently. “We wouldn’t have the goodwill of the people, and sure if you don’t have that, what are you playing the game for?

“All I know is that if we try to play as defensive as that it’s not the opposition that would be booing us, it’s our own fans that would be booing us so it wouldn’t be a runner in Kerry, let’s put it like that.

“I’m not disrespecting the football that any other crowd are playing. I’m just saying that the tradition in Kerry is to play attractive, attacking football for the most part and that’s what the fans expect and that’s for the most part what we try to do.”