Mark O’Connor dreams of wearing Kerry jersey again

Mark O’Connor envisages playing for Kerry in the coming years, but will stick with Geelong Cats for at least one more season.
Mark O’Connor  dreams of wearing Kerry jersey again

The Dingle man signed a two-year deal with the AFL outfit last October and made his senior debut in May, the first of two games he played during their campaign.

Speaking to Radio Kerry’s Terrace Talk on Monday, the 20-year-old said he regularly imagines himself wearing a senior jersey for his county.

“I often do. I’d be lying if I say I didn’t. Even just over the weekend, I’d a friend who came over from Australia and he stayed with me and we went up to the sports field in Dingle with the round ball and we had a kick. It’s not as if I disliked football or anything, I really loved it, so that doesn’t leave you. Definitely, down the line, I see myself coming back at some stage.”

Kerry’s 2015 All-Ireland minor-winning captain admits things could change for him in Australia.

“I’ll give it a chance and as long as I’m still enjoying it. I really do love the game over there, which is good fun, but that mightn’t necessarily be the case next year or the year after. If I do fall out of love with it or if things change... yeah, you never know.”

O’Connor hasn’t been approached by Éamonn Fitzmaurice about returning, but has spoken to the senior manager as a means of catching up.

“The thing about coming home, I’ll just play it by ear. I just don’t really know at this stage.”

He is intrigued by the potential Kerry have after last month claiming a fourth consecutive All-Ireland minor title.

“It would have to [excite you]. Just as a Kerry supporter, it’s very exciting to see the talent coming through. Even fellas my own age that are really pushing on and pushing for a place in the Kerry team. It’s really exciting and, like, it can really freshen up the thing inside [in training]. They’re obviously going to be very energetic and up and about it. I think they’ll bring something new.”

He has already learned plenty from his time in South Victoria: “You learn so much about your body. You learn so much about how things work, sport science and all that kind of stuff. It’s all been a massive learning curve.”

O’Connor is continuing his studies in Australia, having deferred from his degree in UCC. He’s currently pursuing a diploma in applied business management with the hope of completing a degree in the future. He is living with a “host family” and says former Laois footballer and established Geelong team-mate Zach Tuohy has been a helpful mentor.

He admitted he thought a joke was being played on him when head coach Chris Scott called him into the first team squad, having only played six Victorian Football League matches.

“I definitely didn’t expect it to come so quickly, but I’m lucky it did and at least now I’ve two games behind me. Hopefully, I won’t be as nervous in the next few games that I play.

“I played a lot on the wing this year, which is similar to a half-forward. It’s a bit of a working position, and you do a lot of running, but at the end of the year, I made the transition to half-back, which is where most of the Irish players play.”

O’Connor, who returns to Australia in three weeks, is not part of Ireland’s International Rules panel, which will be named this afternoon. Paul Geaney, Peter Crowley and Paul Murphy are believed to be among the Kerry contingent that will be travel to Australia on November 5 for the two-test series in Adelaide and Perth.

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