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25th Jul 2022

Darran O’Sullivan on the post-match gesture that shows what Jack O’Connor means to Kerry

Patrick McCarry

Jack O'Connor

“Going back to Kerry… “

You could easily forgive Darran O’Sullivan for wanting to pore over every detail of Kerry’s 38th All-Ireland success, and the impact made by his old boss, Jack O’Connor.

Eight years is a GAA life-time in The Kingdom but, inspired by David Clifford, Kerry are kings of Ireland again.

O’Sullivan won three of his All-Ireland titles under Jack O’Connor and, when his old manager returned to take over the senior footballers, late last year, he felt their chances of claiming another Sam Maguire immediately improved.

On the latest episode of The GAA Hour [LISTEN from 34:30 below], O’Sullivan shared some tales about O’Connor, with guests Eamon McGee and Finian Hanley, that help explain the 61-year-old’s winning mentality.

David Clifford of Kerry with his son Ógie, left, manager Jack O’Connor, centre, and Paudie Clifford. (Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile)

‘To be fair, it wasn’t the most popular decision’

Darran O’Sullivan was paying close attention to the reactions, takes and headlines after Jack O’Connor replaced Peter Keane and came back for his third stint as senior football manager with Kerry.

“It wasn’t the most popular decision,” noted O’Sullivan, “but what I always would have said about Jack is, ‘He’s a winner, he’s a winner. He doesn’t care how he does it’.

“I don’t think he gets enough credit. This is his third stint as Kerry manager, his fourth All-Ireland medal. They won the McGrath Cup this year, the National League, the Munster championship and the All-Ireland. We’re nit going to call it that quadruple!

“He comes in, and it doesn’t matter what he does, it’s habit. Winning is a habit.

“When it came down to the last 10 or 15 minutes, it was probably the only time I started thinking of it – they’ve learned how to win under Jack. He does bring this stubbornness as well.

“Whenever I hear about Jack, people are saying he’s rough, ready and raw. But that does not give him the credit he deserves. Both managers got it tactically right, on Sunday, but I still don’t think Jack gets the credit he deserves, down in Kerry.”

Kerry manager Jack O’Connor and his squad celebrate with the Sam Maguire trophy after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final. (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile)

‘You feel even more involved’ – O’Sullivan on Jack O’Connor

Eamon McGee, an All-Ireland winner with Donegal, admits he was critical of how Jack O’Connor left Kildare, after only a year at the helm, to head back to Kerry. “The results speak for themselves, though,” he stated, “and he has won everything that has been put in front of him.

“That’s what it is all about. That is what Kerry needed to get over the line and get an All-Ireland into David Clifford and Sean O’Shea’s pockets. That’s what it’s about.”

O’Sullivan points out how the current Kerry stars lifted Jack O’Connor into the air [pictured above] after their triumph over Galway.

“I did hear from fella this year,” he says, “that it was the personal touches that made a difference. The little chats with fellas.

“I remember when I was playing with him, he could ring you there to go for a coffee. Now, you’re only talking football but it’s personal then, as well, and you feel even more involved. He’s asking you questions and just discussing football, because that’s what he is obsessed with… you could see the connections he had with the fellas, after the game.”

Hanley also recalled a conversation with O’Connor, when he learned the 61-year-old often tuned into local radio broadcasts and sourced local papers and websites to find out all the nuggets he could on upcoming opponents. Every little helps.

Coffees, chats, a stern word when it is required, gobbling up the opposition research, a strong team and backroom team around him and that winning mentality.

Stint number three may yet produce more All-Irelands to add to an already wonderful legacy.

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