Jack O’Connor says Kerry ‘have to tidy things up’ ahead of showdown with Dublin

Kerry boss identified areas to improve upon after ho-hum display against Mayo in Croke Park quarter-final

Damian StackKerryman

Jack O’Connor isn’t one to give a huge amount away in a post-match situation.

Don’t get us wrong, he’s always straight-up and will answer any question asked of him. By the same token, though, he has a fairly mean poker face. If he was over-the-moon with the Kingdom’s performance he wasn’t showing it. Neither was he showing much dissatisfaction with it either.

No, instead it was a fairly stoic Dromid man who greeted the press. Something tells us, however, that he’ll be far more satisfied than not, although maybe because of the things he wasn’t satisfied with if you get our meaning.

After waiting for the last month to get a decent impression of where his Kerry team are at, he now has something to go on. Work-ons and learnings in the dreaded corporate speak so fond of many managers. O’Connor, we hasten to add, isn’t one of those.

“Look it was the perfect storm in a way,” he began in assessing Kerry’s victory over Mayo.

"We were four weeks without a game and Mayo had played two games in the interim, plus the slippy conditions made it difficult to get up to the pace of it. Not to take away from that I thought we were rusty in the first half, gave away a lot of ball.

"I don’t the stats at hand, but we must have given away nine or ten possessions in our forward line that allowed Mayo to counter-attack and we can’t afford to do that the next day because with the running power Dublin have they’d punish you.”

If the four week gap was an issue for Kerry’s somewhat subdued first half performance, O’Connor was quite clear that the one hour delay to the second match because of the extra-time and penalty shoot-out between Armagh and Galway wasn’t.

“Ah sure look it wasn’t ideal obviously,” he continued.

"We were here at 2 o’clock and the game didn’t start until 5 o’clock and as it was it was a long enough morning. It wasn’t ideal, but sure it was the same for Mayo. It’s just one of those things, what can you do?”

That David Clifford seemed to jar his ankle in the first half – it wasn’t, O’Connor stressed, a reoccurrence of the calf injury that kept him out of the Munster Final – is bound to be a concern in the weeks leading up to the Dublin match.

“Obviously David was struggling through much of the first half and the lads worked on him at half-time, but obviously he has an injury, and we’ll have to get it scanned and see what the story is.

"We did, absolutely yeah [consider taking him off], but he’s the kind of a player you’d nearly give the benefit of the doubt most of the time. He’s not just an ordinary player and he showed it with the goal he scored, which was a serious goal, it came at a time when we were struggling for scores and get a foothold in the game. That’s the class of the game. That’s what he can do.”

O’Connor confirmed that Jack Barry was suffering a calf strain injury, while Adrian Spillane suffered a hamstring injury last week. Both men will be “in a race against time” for the semi-final he noted.

The positives from the game were mainly the very fact of having played a game of competitive football for the first time in four weeks and, arguably, longer if once considers the Munster championship sub standard fare.

“I think we’ll get benefit from the game itself, whatever about the gut-check [from Mayo],” O’Connor noted.

"We needed a game like. It’s ridiculous like we were sitting for four weeks watching our opposition playing games. It’s almost like you’re penalised for winning the provincial championship, thankfully that changes next year, but it’s a crazy system.

"You’d agree with that yourselves wouldn’t ye? So what do you do? You try to make training as intense as possible and hope for the best and for much of that first half I thought we were a fair bit off the pace.”

Another big positive, and one that will carry with it one of those first world problems managers are so fond of, is the performance of David Moran who played a full game, and will now be in contention for a starting berth from here on out.

“Huge,” O’Connor enthused.

"He’d a huge game. He kicked at least two points and really, you know, rolled back the years in a way. We didn’t think there was seventy minutes in him. He thought so himself by the way and he proved it out there.

"Look, we’re going to need everyone against the Dubs because they have huge running power, huge pace, all over the field and we need everybody.”

Where Kerry need to improve upon was clear to the Dromid man too. Considering the riches Kerry have up front, interestingly it was that department he highlighted more than any other.

“We have to tidy things up, tidy up our play up front. I thought we gave away a lot of ball that was probably a lot to do with the conditions as well. Mayo have tough pacy backs and they were contesting the ball, but I think we need to be a bit cleverer with the ball going into the forwards. We were forcing it a bit and in those conditions any sort of a hand in the ball is going to spill and we spilled a lot of it in the first half.”

Next up are the Sky Blues. A first championship clash between the old rivals since the All Ireland final two years ago, something that’s sure to be in the forefront of Kerry minds in the weeks ahead.

“The bottom line here is that these Kerry players, I’d say, have been yearning to get a cut at the Dubs going back as far as three years ago,” O’Connor commented.

"They lost an All Ireland out here that they’ll feel they could have won. So we certainly won’t be lacking motivation, but neither will Dublin. Dublin will want to show that they’re back as good as every, the team that won the six in-a-row.

"They had a blip last year and they looked to have rediscovered the hunger and the drive that got them to that six in-a-row.”

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