"In Kerry, it's nearly like a religion." 4 weeks ago

"In Kerry, it's nearly like a religion."

Sean O'Shea isn't even entertaining the notion that this championship could somehow be stopped in its tracks.

With Cork on the horizon, the Kenmare man has tunnel vision and while the dreaded 'C' word has darkened all around us, his only focus is on the light.

"I'd be confident that it'll go ahead," he says when asked if he has any worries about a Covid-19 shaped spanner upsetting this year's Championship.

"It's tough for everyone around the country. The town of Kenmare is quiet now at the moment. There's very few people around..."

But the buzz is building. The minds are concentrating. The mood is lifting.

"That's what football does, that's what GAA does," he says at AIB's launch of the Championship.

"In Kerry, it's nearly like a religion. Sometimes you can forget this, and take it for granted, but we're very lucky and privileged to be able to go out on the weekend and do something we love, put on the Kerry jersey and represent our towns, our clubs, our families and the people of Kerry..."

O'Shea in action for his college UCC.

With little else in the way of excitement these days, O'Shea is both honoured and excited to be in the middle of the biggest show in town.

"Hopefully, we can give people something to look forward to. Level 5 will be tough with the nights getting dark and people stuck at home. If we have match on the weekend, people will probably start on a Tuesday or Wednesday talking about it, ringing their friends and finding out about the game. After the game, they'll be talking about it until Tuesday or Wednesday and then looking to the game the next weekend..."

That includes O'Shea, who despite not having a game this weekend, will be immersing himself in the contests that are taking place all over the country.

"They'll have loads of games on TV to look forward to. This weekend, I was just looking at the schedule, I don't think I'll leave the couch. It's going to be unbelievable. It's great to have that to look forward to. Hopefully, it'll give people a lift."

The schedule he's talking about - that includes knock-out Ulster and Leinster football quarter finals. It includes the clash of Donegal and Tyrone, the meeting of Cavan and Monaghan. There's hurling, soccer and thankfully, there's something to look forward to again.

All through the lock-down, O'Shea's motivation never weaned though, driven on by the pain of last year's near miss.

"During the lockdown, more than anything else, you were at home and there wasn't much to do. You were looking for things to do to keep yourself busy, out practising skills or keeping on top of things in the gym.

“I suppose there are always learnings from every game you play be it a club game, county game, college game. I think it’s important to try and keep learning all of the time. This year has been broken up as well so in the middle of the year we had a couple of months off with no club action or county action. Maybe it was a time when you could have looked back on last year and areas where you might feel you can get small improvements. It’s trying to get constantly better in every aspect which is important..."

As for the surreal nature of last Sunday's Allianz League victory, O'Shea says that while the logistics and the pageantry of the game has changed, the in-match focus remains the same.

"It was different to what you would usually associate with winning. David went up and lifted the cup and couldn’t bring it down to the pitch after. That’s the way things are at the moment with the precautions in place but it was nice to get the win.

“Yeah, obviously with all the precautions in place, the management and the county board have been excellent in everything they have done. They have been really professional about it and are doing everything they can to make sure we stay safe and we’re staying compliant. Obviously, it has been different. We usually have a bit of craic going up in the bus or going to training there is a good gang of us coming from Cork. This year we’re travelling alone and the best you can do is call somebody on the hands-free in the car and that’s the only conversation you’ll have.

"It was my first time on the M50 as well," he says of the recent trip to Monaghan, "so I don’t think I’d be liking to do that every day, it’s a bit of a challenge. It’s different driving around the Kerry roads here!"

It'll all be worth it if there's a championship coming home...

27 October 2020; (EDITOR'S NOTE: This image was created using a starburst filter) Pictured is Kenmare and Kerry Footballer Seán O’Shea at AIB’s launch of the GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. Now in their sixth season sponsoring the football county championship and their 30th year sponsoring the club championships, AIB are proud to support some of #TheToughest games there are. In addition to the launch, AIB will soon be releasing their new TV Ad, a fast-paced and upbeat celebration of the 2020 GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. For exclusive content and to see why AIB are backing Club and County, follow us on @AIB_GAA on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile