‘These fellas aren’t gone at all, they love football’

Noel O’Leary was thrilled his Dr Crokes team were able to prove people wrong after yesterday becoming the first club since John Mitchels in the 1960s to win three consecutive Kerry SFC titles.

The manager revealed he had taken the job earlier this year when nobody wanted to succeed Harry O’Neill and claimed people had warned him the Killarney team was finished.

“I’m delighted for the players, the Crokes supporters and I’m also delighted for the fellas that trained them from U6 and tied their laces the first day on the Saturday morning above in the Crokes field. This isn’t about Vince Casey, Malachy (Walsh) or myself. No-one wanted this job. They roped me into it and then I got Vince and Malachy.

“Everyone said after the two-in-a-row that they were gone. These fellas aren’t gone at all, they love football.

“Dingle are like ourselves in the late Eighties. We were very green too, Kenmare beat us in the championship and we were full of 19 and 20-year-olds. Maybe the occasion got to them and the two early goals probably killed Dingle off.”

Dingle may have aided their cause by adding another defender when playing against the wind in the first half. However their manager Murt Moriarty didn’t want to be drawn too much on the subject afterwards.

“We had our plans. I won’t be given any of them away because we’ll maybe need them again for the county league final. We played the game the way we like to play, the way it suits us and that doesn’t change just because you get to the final.”

At least O’Leary was thankful anyway that the marquee players got the opportunity to express themselves.

“What did we come here to see today? We came here to see Colm Cooper, Paul Geaney, Kieran O’Leary, Eoin Brosnan... that’s who we came to see and these fellas were let play football and that is what football is all about. Let these fellas play their football.

“They are the facts of life at the moment. Everyone is parking buses in front of us at the moment which you get used to.”

Crokes’ celebrations would have been muted enough last night as they only have seven days to prepare for a trip to Quilty to face Clare champions Kilmurry-Ibrickane.

Does O’Leary expect the Clare champions to pack their back-line against Crokes as Laune Rangers did in the Kerry SFC semi-final earlier this month? “No, I expect Clare to play football,” he said.

“If (Kilmurry-Ibrickane manager and former Kerry footballer) John Kennedy is a Kerry man he’s going to play football. They should have beaten the Crokes last year. We’re under no illusions about where we are going and hopefully everything will work out for us.”

As for where Crokes can go from here, O’Leary insists it’s entirely in the hands of the players. “It’s up to themselves, how far they want to go or how far do they want to sit alongside the fireplace at Christmas. Or do they want to drive on? I think they’ll drive on.

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