Wednesday 26 October 2016

Alan O'Connor: Kerry will come with a more aggressive approach

O'Connor's return could change Cork's season

Alan O'Connor, Cork, in action against David Moran, Kerry. Munster GAA Football Senior Championship Final, Kerry v Cork. Fitzgerald Stadium
Alan O'Connor, Cork, in action against David Moran, Kerry. Munster GAA Football Senior Championship Final, Kerry v Cork. Fitzgerald Stadium
15 July 2015; Pictured at the launch of the GAA Dynasties exhibition at the GAA Museum are Dublin's Bernard Brogan Snr and his son Alan. The exhibition, housed on the ground floor of the GAA Museum, which runs until May 2016, is a celebration of the unique sporting achievements of some of the GAA's most famous families and includes items from the Cannings, of Portumna, and Galway, the Kernans, of Crossmaglen and Armagh and the McHughs of Donegal. GAA Museum, Croke Park

AS managerial stunts go, it wasn't quite the same as taking Jimmy Keaveney off Hill 16 and dropping him into the Dublin team for their very next game, a la Kevin Heffernan.

But for traditionalists, and particularly those of a skeptical disposition towards football's accelerating modernisation, there was something more than a little refreshing about Alan O'Connor in Killarney a fortnight back.

Most everybody on the pitch started their preparations for the drawn Munster final somewhere between early December and late January.

Or 'the slog,' to which it's habitually referred.

Then there's the League, the examination of form therein, and the endless fitness, nutritional, tactical and psychological preparation we're reliably informed it takes to get an inter-county footballer to the levels required come summer.

Alternatively, there's the Alan O'Connor method.

"Owen Sexton (Cork selector) gave me a call the week of the league final against Dublin and it caught me off-guard," he admits now, the benefit of a herculean Munster final performance against Kerry behind him.

"Initially, I was leaning towards not coming back because I was happy out as I was.

"Then, thinking about the positives and negatives of the whole lifestyle and day-to-day of it, opportunities to play in Killarney and Croke Park in big games are things that stay with you from the past.

"That feeling lasts with you a long time and I felt if I got the chance for more of those feelings of performing in the likes of Killarney that it would be worth it."

The aforementioned - and from a Cork perspective, ill-fated - League final was on April 26th.

The Munster final was played on July 7th.

That's about 10 weeks of preparation to go from inter-county idleness, which O'Connor had embraced for around 18 months since his retirement at the age of 28, to Fitzgerald Stadium.

Not a venue known for its facilitation of such transformations.

But retirement aside, you wouldn't have pegged O'Connor for a layabout either.

"I suppose I just keep my general shape fairly good," he explains.

"Thankfully, I'm in good shape and had a decent basis to build on.

"I wouldn't be out socialising often or anything like that.

"I had six weeks of hard, intense training before the Clare game.


"And I think experience was a big plus for us against Kerry," he adds.

"Going down there to Killarney, no matter what position, we said we'd try and set the tone and win our own battles. And we did that."

Of all the compliments paid to O'Connor - and there were many - for his display in an area where Cork were destroyed a year ago in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, perhaps the most telling was his former sparring partners, Darragh Ó Sé's, assertion that he had "bullied" Kerry on their own patch.

"Darragh will talk things up as he does," O'Connor reckons.

"Kerry will come the next day with a more aggressive approach but we have to focus on ourselves and what we can do.

"Kerry will bring something different and be more aggressive."

"We'll bring a new dimension to the mix ourselves and relish the chance to win in Fitzgerald Stadium again."

If they do it's a 20-year gap breached but the commentary of the draw suggested that Kerry wouldn't be so careless again. Chance lost?

"Ah yeah, but equally it could have been a disappointed dressing room," O'Connor points out.

"We could have won. Kerry could have won. Maybe the fairest result was the draw.

"We just had to keep heads up and not get too disappointed about it because there is another day there for us."

Munster final

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