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Saturday 18 November 2017

O'Connor makes his case for second shot with Kildare

Moorefield ‘Man of the Match’ Éanna O’Connor is congratulated by his mother Bridie after the win. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Moorefield ‘Man of the Match’ Éanna O’Connor is congratulated by his mother Bridie after the win. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

It was obvious, from his post-match words in Portlaoise, that Éanna O'Connor would relish another shot at the big time with Kildare.

It was equally apparent that he'd like Moorefield to delay any such Lilywhite recall by continuing their eventful march in pursuit of Leinster club glory.

The Kildare champions qualified for the semi-finals the hard way, coming from three points adrift to pip Portlaoise in injury-time.

They wouldn't have done so without O'Connor, whose five first half points (three from play) kept Moorefield in contention before his equalising goal, on 55 minutes, turned Sunday's quarter-final on its head.

For much of his playing career, he has been tagged with the label 'son of Jack' - as in offspring of Jack O'Connor, the man who led Kerry to three All-Ireland SFC titles in the noughties.

O'Connor Jnr played underage for his native Kerry but, having relocated to Kildare and joined Moorefield in early 2014, his relatively brief senior county career has been confined to a spell with the Lilies in 2016.

That was Cian O'Neill's first season in charge. "I was there for the league but I didn't really make any championship panel," O'Connor explained. He was not involved this year; nor was any of his Moorefield colleagues.

Asked if he would fancy another opportunity in 2018, the 25-year-old teacher replied: "That's not my call, it's Dr O'Neill's call!"

It's clear that his club manager believes he is good enough. "He's a real footballer. He's county material so we're privileged to have him within our club," said Ross Glavin. But he added: "I've full intentions of keeping my squad together anyway until Paddy's Day so we'll talk about that hopefully after then."

O'Connor joined Moorefield along with his brother, and fellow teacher, Cian. They have won two county titles in their first four years.

Éanna offered an intriguing take on the differing football styles of Kerry and Kildare. "I've really bought into the Moorefield way of playing and thinking," he explained.

"I've really had to up my physical ability and my skills, because it's a different type of football up in Kildare compared to Kerry."

Physicality

The most striking difference? "Athletically, Kildare usually are superior than Kerry," he suggested. "In Kerry, skill is placed before physicality, and then we hope the physical side comes with age ... whereas in Kildare, some would say it's tighter, it's more of a running game.

"But Kildare are on an upward curve so we can't be complaining about that."

As for Moorefield's provincial prospects, O'Connor pointed out: "There's an opinion around our own county especially that we don't have the best team, but I feel we really showed our battling qualities (against Portlaoise).

We pride ourselves on honesty and workrate; and as long as we outwork our direct opponents, we're happy with that.

Of course we're delighted with the result but we're happy with the performance as well."

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