“That makes me uncomfortable, because it’s the players doing it. The example of Jim Gavin in the semi-final summed it up — the man has lost one Championship game in two years, has won five trophies, lost one game and then everything he’s done is being questioned on Monday morning. I’ve had enough in bad results in my time in charge to recognise you’re one defeat away from not knowing a thing. If we can keep winning, your reputation will stand up but if you lose, even by a point, everything you’ve done will be questioned.”
Give you’re involvement with Pobal Scoil Corca Dhuibne, it’s a pity you won’t see much of the minor final?
“The day in Pairc Ui Chaoimh for the Munster final, I got out and watched about five minutes of the minor game, but that’s the most you get to see, and you don’t get a feel for the game or how Kerry are playing, how they lads I’d know are doing. It’s a disappointment, but if Kerry win both games I’ll have plenty of opportunities over the winter to sit down with the recordings of both finals.”
How much of an advantage is driving 45 minutes to work to Dingle each day?
“I like it. The big thing is that I’m driving, it’s not like you’re stuck in traffic. I’m on the move, you can think away. It’s a good 45 minutes on your own, and on the way home it’s a chance to make phone calls to the rest of the management or players. It’s good me time I suppose. If I need three quarters of an hour to think I can turn off the phone.”
How difficult would this gig be if you weren’t a teacher?
“I don’t know how you’d do it. Even now (in September), balancing both is fairly demanding. Balancing both during the National League is problematic too, when you’ve games coming thick and fast, analysing the upcoming opposition and also reflect on what you did yourself the previous weekend. But being off over the summer is fantastic from the point of view of really immersing yourself in it. Some might argue they like having a day job to go to take their mind off the thing but I find I like immersing in it, making sure that no stone is left unturned.”
You reckon you have McGuinness’ game plan sussed?
“That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? At times the danger is that you can become too obsessed with Donegal, we’ll worry about ourselves, we’ll get ourselves right. Of course, we’ll have to be conscious of what they do, but we’ll have our own plan and we’ll see how we get on with that.
Truthfully, did you drive to Dublin for the second semi-final expecting Dublin to win?
“We all probably expected it to be Dublin, that Dublin would win, but I think, in fairness to Jim Gavin, he’s been trying to say it all year, but nobody was listening, that there are no certainties in sport. I think nearly after every game he said it and there aren’t any certainties in sport. To be fair to Dublin they started well, but they faded an when Donegal got a smell of blood they were outstanding, they were brilliant in the second-half. Watching the game, it wasn’t overly surprising they won, but nobody expected it really beforehand because Donegal probably hadn’t got back to the 2012 levels until the last day, but there very much there again now and they’ll be a very tough nut to crack. There’s a lot to take from it tactically, we learned a lot from being above at it the last day and we’re going through the footage at the moment and trying to figure out what they’re doing and to see if we can counteract it while at the same time staying loyal to our own game as well. It’ll be a good challenge as well for myself and the management and the players.”
Have you spoken to James O’Donoghue about his obsession with going for goals?
“He’s still learning, he’s still young. He played a bit of football in 2012, but I mean this is his second full season really and he’s still developing. He’s not the full package yet, but he’s a smart guy and he’s still learning every day he goes out. Keith Higgins was a big test for him, and I was very pleased with the way he kept coming for more even though it was hard on him, because Keith Higgins did as well on him as I think you can do. He’s developing all the time. He can definitely improve his decision making, even a couple of the shots he too, Kieran Donaghy was inside him, he’s learning all that stuff, he’s developing all the time. Hopefully he’ll keep improving.”
You haven’t been tweeting much lately
“That’s a conscious decision during the season, stay away from Twitter. You are very open there, anyone can get at you if they want to give you a message good, bad or indifferent. When the season finishes up I might have an odd tweet here and there. From January 1 on, I won’t be getting involved on Twitter.”
How much has it dawned that you are now public property in Kerry?
“I still keep to my own routines, my own habits, fairly tight circle of friends and family that, outside of the football, they’d be the only ones I’d be in contact with. I’m not a big socialiser when the season is in mid-stream. I wouldn’t be in situations where it’s possible to get at me. I’d be private enough in that regard. It’s not a factor.”
Did you think of sending some of the younger lads to the hurling final to sample the September atmosphere?
“I thought of it, but the balance of considering they were in Dublin for the drawn semi, in Limerick for the replay and will be again for the final, you’ve take into account the lads need a day off. I think they’ll be able to see what they need in tv.
You’re not heading away this time for a pre-final camp? Is that to keep possible spies at bay?
“Look, stuff will always get out, and if it doesn’t, rumours will spread in their place. We can stop leaks, not rumours. I heard in the lead in to the Mayo game James O’Donoghue was badly injured, Donnchadh Walsh was injured, there was a lot going on. Things will always fill the vacuum if there’s no fact. I’m happy that what is going on in training is kept very close to the team.”
So is that why you’re staying in Killarney before the final?
Not really. We went to Fota Island in Cork for the quarter and semi-final, but we didn’t do it for the Munster final. We’ll stay in Killarney before the final.”
You like to use the golf course for thinking? How’s the swing?
Not good. I haven’t golfed this summer. Up to the Munster final I played a bit, certainly in June. But since I’ve only played one game since with Mikey (Sheehy), the Monday before the Mayo game in a Rose of Tralee outing in Barrow. Other than that, haven’t played at all, which is never good but if we can win the All-Ireland I’ll take a few sockets in my stride.”