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kingdom come Pressure is on Kerry's Jack O'Connor and only All-Ireland glory will suffice - Liam Kearns

Kerry native believes Kingdom face ‘difficult job’ in 2022 despite addition of Tally.

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Clann na nGael manager Liam Kearns before the recent Roscommon senior football final against Pádraig Pearses at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Clann na nGael manager Liam Kearns before the recent Roscommon senior football final against Pádraig Pearses at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Kerry u21 manager Jack O'Connor, left, and Tipperary manager Liam Kearns exchange a handshake after the McGrath Cup Round 1 match between Kerry and Tipperary at Austin Stack Park in Tralee, Co. Kerry. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Kerry u21 manager Jack O'Connor, left, and Tipperary manager Liam Kearns exchange a handshake after the McGrath Cup Round 1 match between Kerry and Tipperary at Austin Stack Park in Tralee, Co. Kerry. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

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Clann na nGael manager Liam Kearns before the recent Roscommon senior football final against Pádraig Pearses at Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Plenty of eyebrows were raised in Kerry when Paddy Tally was unveiled as a coach in Jack O’Connor’s third coming as manager given the type of football which purists desire in the Kingdom.

Former Down boss Tally is often perceived as a defensive coach and given the wealth of attacking options at Kerry’s disposal, it will be fascinating to see what balance is struck by O’Connor in an attempt to end their eight-year wait for Sam Maguire in 2022.

Kerry native Liam Kearns insists that O’Connor will be “under the microscope from day one” having replaced Peter Keane in the hot seat, with only an All-Ireland title appeasing supporters, and he is intrigued to see how they aim to solve their defensive woes.

“We know that Paddy Tally is considered a defensive coach to this point and if that’s what he’s brought in to do, it’ll be interesting to see what happens but Jack O’Connor himself says that he’s not considered a defensive manager,” Kearns told ourgame.ie.

“Any of his teams wouldn’t be considered defensive teams so it’ll be interesting to see how they marry the two. When you’ve got David Clifford and Seánie O’Shea up top, then the onus is on you to go and play attacking football.

“But then you’ve got to look after the defence as well and Kerry have had trouble doing that over the last few years so it’ll be very interesting to see will Paddy Tally be able to address that and bring the balance that’s needed to get them over the line.”

Kearns expects that to be a “very difficult” task with All-Ireland champions Tyrone primed to “only get better” while Dublin bid to bounce back from having their seven-in-a-row dreams dashed with Mayo always in the mix as well.

“Well, he’s under pressure I have to say,” Kearns said of O’Connor. “The pressure with the Kerry job would always be there and the bar is always set that high; every year they start out Kerry are expected to win the All-Ireland.

“The pressure is huge, this year in particular with the way the whole thing has gone. He’s a very experienced manager, the pressure won’t affect him but there is no doubt that he’ll be under the microscope and so will Kerry from day one.

“It’ll be a difficult job to actually win the All-Ireland, but that’s what they’re going to be judged by.”

Kearns, who watched his native Austin Stacks lift Kerry SFC honours last Sunday, has enjoyed huge managerial success having overseen progress with both Limerick and Tipperary while he brought Clann na nGael to this year’s Roscommon SFC decider.

Kearns was regularly overlooked for vacancies in his native land, however, and he feels that the ship has sailed on his chance to manage the Kerry senior side given that he has operated away from the Kingdom for the bulk of his managerial career.

“I would’ve been interested in it because it’s my own county but I’ve always understood that I’m outside the county, I’ve been operating outside the county for the last 25 years,” Kearns said.

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“Every county manager that Kerry have ever appointed have been U-20 or U-21 manager, you only have to look at the list of managers. Pat O’Shea did U-21, Eamonn Fitzmaurice did U-21, Páidí Ó Sé did U-21, Jack O’Connor did U-21. They come through the system at underage and then go on to senior and when you’re not in that system, you’re not going to be in the running for the Kerry job and that’s the reality of it.”

The 59-year-old has been out of the inter-county fold since stepping away from Tipperary in the summer of 2019 – he led them to an All-Ireland semi-final in 2016 – but that chapter is not yet closed if the right opportunity arises.

“I’m enjoying it (management) and while the health is good and I’m enjoying it, I’ll do it. I’m enjoying the club scene at the moment, the county scene is very difficult in Covid times and the county is going to be played in a condensed six months now,” he said.

“For instance, they’re going to be playing championship in April, there’s some teams going to be out of their championship in April so management at county is tough going now at the moment.

“It depends. I’d never say never like Davy Fitz would say, never say never and we’ll see what comes about but, at the same time, it would have to be the right one if I was going to get back into county to be honest.”

As for what structure the inter-county championships should take, Kearns is adamant that provincial championships “have run their course” with league-based championship “the way to go” in the future.

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