Was he concerned? Very. Until Darran O’Sullivan’s goal changed the energy of the game, nails were being bitten.
Proverbially, of course.
“Ten minutes into the second-half, when the breeze wasn’t getting any less and we were struggling,” he replied when asked at what stage he was most worried. “It took the likes of Tomás Ó Sé and Eoin Brosnan driving out of the half-back line because the extra man they had in their backline gave us a bit of bother in the first half. But we pushed up in the second.”
Despite facing the wind and trailing by two at the break, Kerry were still 1/4 to win the game.
Those odds lengthened dramatically when Westmeath stormed ahead via a penalty from David Glennon’s. O’Connor believes they wouldn’t have recovered without O’Sullivan’s goal.
“You wouldn’t give much for our chances 10 minutes into the second half. Facing a strong wind, we’d a mountain to climb.
“I don’t think we’d have got out of there without Darren O’Sullivan’s goal. We’re delighted to get out of here but obviously an awful lot of room to improve on.”
O’Sullivan was taken off 11 minutes after scoring the goal with a tight hamstring and had a ice-pack on it afterwards.
“He was tightening up again and we decided to take him out again in case he did too much damage but he did enough for us when he was on to bring us back into the game, which was great. It’s (injury) not cured 100% but it looked like we were going out of the Championship so we had to throw him in. Thankfully, he did a good job for us while he was in there.”
O’Connor rued a lack of fluidity in the forwards in the first half, pointing to the amount of their attacks that came to nought.
However, he took some comfort from his backs’ display.
“You can’t turn form around overnight but we just hope that this game brings us around. Sometimes form can be just around the corner, I think our backs played well, to be fair. We kicked some good scores in the second half and showed good composure but we needed to stick away a few more scores in the first half because the longer Westmeath stayed in the game, the more belief they got.”
O’Connor dismissed the idea that Kerry found it difficult to motivate themselves for the game.
“No, it was just that we weren’t sticking the ball over the bar. It takes the confidence out of you. In many ways it was a credit to our fellas that they hung in and kept the heads.”