Closed doors no issue for O'Brien 1 month ago

Closed doors no issue for O'Brien

Some players thrive off the atmosphere.

The roars of the crowd get them going, the hum in the air gets the hair standing. Having been on edge all week, the appreciative cheers of their supporters can boost the confidence, help them settle into a game.

But for others, much like a training session, it's tunnel vision. All eyes are on the ball and their only focus is on the next play. The fact that we're even talking about a potential inter-county championship taking place behind closed doors later on this summer is a sad reality, but to Kerry's Stephen O'Brien, the lack of spectators wouldn't make all that much of a difference.

"I'm of the opinion that we usually train during the summer in Fitzgerald Stadium, which is a very big stadium and there's no-one there..." he said at an Allianz event.

"So we're used to playing in stadiums with no crowd there. The few challenge games we've played over the years have been behind closed doors as well. So from a players' perspective, once the ball is thrown in it doesn't bother you too much. Now I don't know if it's feasible to play games behind closed doors. For the people who can't go to matches to see them in person it's a huge thing. As a player I'd be okay with it but I don't know if it's feasible.

Whether the closed doors championship is a runner remains to be seen but if it was to go ahead, knock-out championship would be the formula and O'Brien nods that it would be hugely exciting.

"It would be a throwback to the old times before the qualifier system. For a player it would be different from the very first round of the championship if you're coming off such a long lay-off, it's going to be impossible to even pick the team. But if teams are given enough time to prepare for that it would be a hugely exciting thing going back to straight knock-out..."

As for the last few weeks, O'Brien has said that the Kerry squad are ticking over with their own individual programmes while the odd classic game on TG4 keps the appetite whetted.

"It's different to the game now, but it's been cool to see, TG4 have done a good job of that on the weekends. I saw a couple of the games. It's like live sport now you see when there's a game on and the reaction on social media, people are talking about the game like you'd see with live sport.

"There’s a lot less hand-passing, a lot less longer kicking but yeah while it’s unrecognisable in a lot of ways, you can get nostalgic looking back on it..."

As for his own game, certain similarities are evident between O'Brien and former Kerry half forward Darran O'Sullivan, between pace, position and stature, and the 29-year-old takes that as a huge compliment.

"Darran would have been a player I looked up to. When I started playing as well, our clubs would have been at the same grade so we ended up playing them a lot. This was before I got into the Kerry set-up now so it was cool to play against him at different times. I’ll take that as a compliment anyway that you’re comparing me to Darran because he’s a brilliant player that always gave his all for Kerry.

"The pace is not something that I’d have done specific work on or drills for. I suppose I’m lucky to have it and I’ll hopefully hold onto it for as long as I can. I’m lucky that I’ve always been naturally quick but yeah, I can’t say there’s any specific drill or gym exercise I’ve done for it..."

Stephen O'Brien at a recent Allianz League event.