Kingdom coach begins the mind games with Limerick

KERRY coach Jack O’Connor is proving that he isn’t averse to a psychological upper-cut.

As the Kingdom selectors finalised their team last night for Sunday’s Munster football final trip to Limerick, O’Connor, in his first year as coach, claimed that pressure is mounting on Liam Kearns’ side to go the extra step and win a trophy.

“There’s always expectation in Kerry, but it has reached the point where there’s a fair bit of pressure on Limerick to win as well”, he said. “They’ve beaten Cork and ran us close on a couple of occasions. But it comes to the stage when moral victories aren’t enough. There’s an expectation now that they can win the game and win a Munster title and that brings its own pressures.

“The easiest thing is to put it up to a team and make it difficult for the Kerrys and other top teams. But the next step is to go ahead and win a title.

“Limerick gave Kerry a good game in Killarney (last year) and went away feeling they could have won the match. They gave us a right battle in the league semi-final too, so they have grounds for expectation and confidence. That’s why Sunday’s game could be decided in the last ten or 15 minutes.”

O’Connor wasn’t shy either in advertising Kerry’s willingness to mix it, if Limerick try to rough up the Kingdom in the Gaelic Grounds. “Limerick are quite physical. They don’t stand around looking at fellas, and they certainly weren’t holding anything back the day of the league semi-final.

“I would be expecting my men to get stuck in. This is championship football, and it’s up to the referee to decide what’s a fair or foul tackle. We expect the game to be extremely competitive and our fellas to get stuck in from the off.”

The Kerry coach and his players also gave a resounding thumbs up to the league and the positive impact the campaign had on championship preparations. O’Connor cited the battling display against Sunday’s opponents as an example.

“We had a lot of things against us at half-time: the sides were level, we were down a man after Darragh Ó Sé’s sending off and were heading into a gale force breeze. While it was a dogged affair, it was very competitive and stood to us when we met Galway in the final.”

Dara Ó Cinnéide, likely to return to the attack on Sunday, agreed: “The league is proving a valuable breeding ground. There was a bite to every game we played and, because the Gaeltacht players were unavailable, it meant that other players had an opportunity to establish themselves.”

However, the coach hasn’t lost sight of priorities for Kerry.

“The league was always going to be a stepping stone towards the championship, allowing us to strengthen our panel.

“To be honest, the week after we won the league, I couldn’t tell you where the cup was, and I’d say Dara or Tomás (the captains) couldn’t say where it is now. The league is well gone now, our focus has always been on the championship.”

With Declan O’Sullivan out for the foreseeable future, Kerry received another hammer blow last night when Allstar defender Seamus Moynihan was omitted from the team as he is still struggling with an ankle injury.

Darragh Ó Sé (thumb) and Mike McCarthy (knee) will both be named in the starting line up today.

KERRY (SF v Limerick): D. Murphy; T. O’Sullivan, M. McCarthy, A. O’Mahony; T. Ó Sé, E. Fitzmaurice, M. Ó Sé; D. Ó Sé, W. Kirby; L. Hassett, E. Brosnan, P. Galvin; C. Cooper, D. Ó Cinnéide (capt.), M.F. Russell.

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