Mickey Ned O’Sullivan notes the symmetry but the memories were flushed from his consciousness a long time ago.
Twenty years ago and all that. Clare’s shock victory over Kerry in the 1992 Munster senior football final – when O’Sullivan was in charge of the Kingdom. O’Sullivan now finds himself in charge of a Kerry football team again on provincial final day and Clare are here too. But their paths won’t collide on this occasion.
O’Sullivan will attempt to plot the downfall of Tipperary in the minor decider while Clare attempt to pull off one of the shocks of the century against Cork in the senior final.
“Someone spoke to me about that (1992) during the week,” O’Sullivan smiled. “I said that I couldn’t remember one thing about that Munster final.
“As Sigmund Freud might say, I had buried those experiences in the dark chambers of my mind.
“There’s always hurt when you lose but you bounce back. You get disappointments and you learn from them.”
And here he is, all those years later, looking to restore Kerry as a serious minor force. They find themselves in the unusual position of underdogs against Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds tomorrow, available at 5/2 to beat the provincial and All-Ireland champions.
And O’Sullivan accepts that Tipp are rightful favourites: “They’re a serious outfit. They went to Kerry and Cork this year and beat them comprehensively. That’s as good a pedigree as there is and they beat Kerry and Cork last year too. They have ten of the guys that featured last year but we have only one of our 2011 team (Kieran Murphy). That’s the reality.”
Win or lose, both teams will contest an All-Ireland quarter-final in the coming weeks and that should bring a degree of freedom to proceedings. O’Sullivan admits he’s not focusing entirely on a result. A performance will do just fine. “You don’t know what you’re going to get on the day with minors,” he says. “The difference between minors and seniors is that seniors are consistent – minors are learning their trade. You don’t know how they’re going to respond to the heat of battle and the pressure. I hope that each player would do himself justice. I can’t ask for anything else.”
And O’Sullivan admits that he’s still learning, with tomorrow’s line-up featuring nine survivors from the team that started against Tipperary in Tralee back in April. “We’re well prepared and improved from that game, I would think so. I’ve learned from my mistakes and the players have too. But this is their first time, unlike Tipperary, who are seasoned campaigners. And we’re coming up against one of the best minor teams of the past ten years. But having said that, they’re Kerry footballers – and they don’t do inferiority complexes.”
On these pages yesterday, Tipp boss David Power insisted the two extra games that Kerry have played en route to the final will stand the Kingdom in good stead.
And Kingdom selector Peter Keane acknowledged: “We made a few changes after the game against Tipp and we have learned. We were out again a few days later, a long journey down to Waterford, who were hurting after losing to Clare. They had a packed defence and made it very difficult for us. On top of that we had players who had oral Leaving Certificate exams that day and the day after. But the draw fell ok for us this year. We were out again within a week to play Limerick and we had a bit of momentum going into that. We struggled for long periods but pushed on in the last ten minutes.
“And against Clare, we played quite well but haemorrhaged a few goals.
“We made life difficult for ourselves but we had 17 scores compared to their seven (3-4).”
KERRY (MF v Tipperary): G Curran (Dingle); C Ó Lúing (An Ghaeltacht), G Crowley (Templenoe), S O’Connor (John Mitchel’s); B Crowley (Templenoe), J Barry (Na Gaeil), G Horan (Austin Stacks); E Ó Conchúir (An Ghaeltacht), K Murphy (Kilcummin); D Foran (St Senan’s), J Savage (Kerins O’Rahilly’s), C Fitzgerald, (Churchill); G O’Shea (Dr Crokes), N Sheehy (John Mitchel’s), C Keane (Legion).
TIPPERARY (MF v Kerry): E Comerford (Clonmel Commercials); D Cass (Clonmel Commercials), J Feehan (Killeneule), L Egan (Loughmore Castleiney); K Fahey (Clonmel Commercials), D Fitzelle (Cashel King Cormacs), B Maher (Kilsheelan Kilcash); S O’Brien (Ballina), I Fahey (Clonmel Commercials); J Lonergan (Clonmel Commercials), J Martin (Ballyporeen), G Henry (Killenaule); C Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials), P Quirke (Moyle Rovers), T Kirwan (Ardfinnan).