Kerry great Tomás Ó Sé has suggested that the decision of Conor Cox to leave the Kingdom set-up to travel early in his career may have hurt his chances of making it with the county. Ó Sé played alongside Cox in 2013 before retiring later that year and while Cox went on to play in subsequent league games for Kerry up until 2016, he never made a Championship breakthrough.
That didn’t come for the Listowel man until he threw in his lot with Roscommon, the county of his father, earlier this year and powered them to a historic Connacht title success. Cox struck five points in Sunday’s final win over Galway including a brilliant injury-time score from the outside of his right boot way out on the left wing.
The thrilling form has prompted some Kingdom fans to query if they should have done more to keep Cox while Billy Morgan, who managed Cox to a Sigerson Cup at UCC in 2014, has always maintained he should be in green and gold.
“I think there was an issue early on (with Kerry) in terms of commitment,” said Ó Sé of Cox. “Not that he lacked it, when he was committed he was committed, but I think he went travelling as a young fella and in Kerry sometimes they might be, ‘Look, if you are not fully committed 100%, you’re grand, we have fellas that are’, that kind of thing.
“I don’t think it was a case that Cox wasn’t shooting the lights out, he was a good solid forward always. Billy Morgan down in UCC always reckoned he was top quality and could not understand why he wasn’t in with Kerry because he’d won huge Sigerson Cup games for them in the past.
The big thing with me is he’ll kick a couple of wides but he’ll kick more scores, he backs himself every single time to score.
“The view in Kerry at the moment with the way he is going would be a small bit of envy I would say but at the same time he is still playing his club football in Listowel so isn’t entirely gone. He is a good solid lad and I’m delighted to see him going well.”
Ó Sé ruled out the idea of Cox potentially performing a u-turn and returning for a second coming with Kerry after proving himself as an inter-county performer. Asked if that is out of the question, five-time All-Ireland winner Ó Sé nodded:
“I’d imagine so, yeah. He was involved the last year I was there in 2013, Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s first year. He was around the outskirts of the team but it was his own choice to head off that time.
“Whereas that was never a done thing in Kerry, if you want to be a Kerry footballer you break your backside trying to get in there. And there’s always forwards in Kerry that would do that.
“The attitude possibly would be that there are three or four Conor Coxs there anyway, that would be the way they’d look at it.”
Cox starred for Kerry junior teams and hit two points in the 2015 All-Ireland final win over Mayo and 1-8 in the 2017 final defeat of Meath.
“That time when he was going very well there was talk of ‘Bring him in, bring him in’, but he never got the chance I don’t think to go in,” said Ó Sé. “Very often in Kerry, if you don’t make an impact soon it is very hard then to make it, they have this thought about you and you don’t get time to actually make a proper imprint.”
Ó Sé rejected the suggestion that Cox may be playing with a chip on his shoulder now as he attempts to show Kerry what they missed out on.
“I don’t think so, I wouldn’t think he has a chip on his shoulder about Kerry,” he said. “I don’t know the lad that well but I’d imagine he obviously wanted to play county football, and I’d be guessing he would have wanted to play with Kerry.
“But you could see on Sunday the buzz he got and his old fella is from Roscommon so he’d have that connection with them and he is a huge addition to them.”