O'Connor's admiration for Kerry's 'old heads'

O'Connor's admiration for Kerry's 'old heads'

Kerry's greater experience of high-octane, high-stakes Championship finals helped them pull through in yesterday's Munster SFC final, according to manager Jack O'Connor.

Their knack of closing out tight games was evident at Fitzgerald Stadium as top scorer Colm Cooper kicked off a run of three late points, steering the Kingdom past a luckless Limerick side.

Limerick used a wind advantage to catapult them into a 0-10 to 0-7 half-time lead, and fought back valiantly to level an intriguing contest at 1-14 piece.

But Kerry finished strongly with a late flurry that left O'Connor beaming.

"We spoke about it at half-time, that it didn't matter if it went to the 69th or 70th minute, it didn't matter as long as we won the game," he said.

"That's the way it transpired, it went right down to the last three or four minutes.

"There's a lot of experience in the team and the old heads slowed it down, showed a bit of composure and 'Gooch' (Colm Cooper) and Kieran O’Leary combined for a great score and once that went over I knew we'd win it."

Kerry took the qualifier route last year on the way to their 36th All-Ireland title, so will a more direct pathway to the last-eight reap similar rewards this time?

O'Connor replied: "It remains to be seen. We were a small bit rusty today in that we only had three (training) sessions since the Cork game because we played county Championship the first weekend after it.

"It was hard to know then whether to train hard or take it easy and I suppose we didn't go hard really, we just played a bit of football.

"Limerick were in the better position coming in in the sense that they could target us from a good bit back.

"We had to ease up some bit after the Cork game and maybe that told in the end, that Limerick had a bit more in the legs."

Limerick showed their intent with a point from midfielder John Galvin straight after the throw-in, and the Croom clubman earned high praise from O'Connor who said that he "would get on any team in the country."

Galvin's man-of-the-match performance had the Shannonsiders on the cusp of their first Munster senior title since 1896. But it was not to be, in the end, as they suffered their fourth provincial final defeat in eight years.

Limerick will now target the All-Ireland qualifiers, entering in round 4 on Saturday, July 24.

Galvin said: "I know that we are down to the last 12 in the country now and I just hope that we have learned from last year.

"We never lifted ourselves last year after (losing the Munster final to) Cork and I just hope that we learned from last year and hopefully we can pick it up."

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