Revitalised O’Sullivan keeping final focus

TOM O’SULLIVAN still savours that morning after buzz, but it dissipates quicker when it’s an All-Ireland quarter-final.

“Realistically I don’t even know whether we’ll be looking back any more at that game,” the Rathmore man mused yesterday.

“How much can we really take out of it? Everyone played well and put in a performance, but if we do get to an All-Ireland final, we might have preferred to keep that for the decider. It’ll be hard to build on this.

“I don’t know what way Dublin prepared. If they were on top form, it was a 10/10 performance, but if they were playing 5/10, it wasn’t.”

O’Sullivan’s lithe frame underscores the fact that while he has four All-Ireland medals and a decade of service to Kerry, he’s still not 31. Three Septembers ago, he stood in the small parallelogram during a pause and was told by Mike McCarthy: “We’ll hardly be here together again.” O’Sullivan is holding out for the prospect of a September reunion of the thirtysomethings.

“Mike is fresh, you can sense it,” O’Sullivan says. “He didn’t come back to lose. He came back to win an All-Ireland. He’s pushing on for that, you can see it. Especially in the game against Antrim; 20 minutes to go and things weren’t looking good, but he drove on. He’s pushing up into attack, covering back for us in defence. It’s huge for us that everyone is driving each other again.”

And what’s driving the Moyvane-based Garda? “Another All-Ireland medal, number five, I suppose. We’ve had some serious weeks of training this season. At my age that’s incentive enough; you’ve got to believe there’s a good reward at the end of all this. I probably mightn’t have that many years in me now; maybe this is my last season, I won’t know.”

Which now has at least another month to run, a month where the headlines will revert to cute Kerry men.

“I didn’t think we’d win by that much against Dublin,” O’Sullivan admitted. “Fair enough, we played very well in the first half but I thought Dublin would come back at us after half time. We kept the peddle to the metal; even when they got the goal we drove on and missed a lot of scores ourselves.

“Longford, Sligo and Antrim weren’t as bad as the media believed. The tackled very hard and put fierce pressure on us, and that possibly prepared us better for Dublin.”

O’Sullivan and his co-defenders were under the microscope before Monday’s mismatch, but he was relishing the opportunity to test himself against Bernard Brogan.

“I knew he was one of the best players in the country at the moment. I knew what I was up against. I prepared well for it, I watched a few videos, I knew his style and I just stuck to the task and stuck well to him. When we play Dublin, to be fair about it, we all pick up a man and wherever that man goes we basically stick with him. You have to against Dublin because they are moving and they are fast forwards. You just have to know who you are marking and stick with him.”

The meticulous planning majored on Dublin’s primary possession game too. “(Stephen) Cluxton has great kick outs too. You have to target them. It kept our forwards on their toes for the whole game. Our midfield were excellent too. To be honest we weren’t under that much pressure in the backs in the first half. The ball that was coming in was under pressure and we probably found it easy enough to play inside.”

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