East Kerry boss Jerry O’Sullivan believes this year’s Kerry county championship has not been as exciting as the 2019 edition.
This year’s straight knockout championship has thrown up some enthralling encounters - top of the list being the extra-time contests involving Dr Crokes against Austin Stacks and Mid Kerry respectively - but the 2019 county championship winning manager feels “there was more excitement last year".
O’Sullivan also prefers the structure and scheduling of the 2019 championship compared to the squeezing of this year's competitions into an 11-week window. Kerry’s junior and intermediate championships were run off in April/May of last year, with the senior championship throwing-in following the conclusion of the inter-county season.
“Obviously, the schedule is completely changed from last year, and for good reason. People talk about player welfare. There are some of our guys who could be playing eight or nine weeks in-a-row,” O’Sullivan remarked.
“I would definitely prefer last year to this year. There was the certainty of Kerry being finished at inter-county and you could devote everything to the county championship. 2019 was a great championship for us, obviously, but I think for a neutral, there was more excitement in last year's championship. There was more excitement last year.”
Tomorrow evening at Austin Stack Park, neither East nor Mid Kerry will have access to a dressing-room before or after the county final. Such a privilege will be extended to inter-county players when inter-county competitions resume next month.
The East Kerry manager doesn’t agree with the continued closure of dressing-rooms for club players.
“There's two fine dressing rooms in Austin Stack Park - and there we are togging out in the stand. I'm mindful of [infection] numbers increasing and by no means would I be advocating that we don't take full precautions, but even if we could get into a dressing room at half-time, it would make a difference.
"We went down by a shed where there was a tractor parked during our first-round game in Listowel just to get in out of the rain.”
No more than East Kerry defender Paul Murphy, O’Sullivan is not a fan of the new water breaks.
“It breaks the flow and momentum of a game. I don't think we should be going into four quarters like basketball. We are taking little snippets from other games, we should retain the uniqueness of our own.” David Clifford (suspension) and Pa Warren (injury) both return to the East Kerry fold after missing the semi-final win over St Brendan’s. Liam Kearney, who hasn’t featured since picking up an injury in their opening day win, will again miss out.
As well as Dara Moynihan being injury free for this campaign (he didn’t feature last autumn because of injury), East Kerry’s back-to-back bid has been considerably strengthened by the addition of the Rathmore contingent - four of whom started last time out - following the club’s relegation from senior last year.
“They have brought something new and different,” said O’Sullivan. “With every panel, you like to freshen it up every year. You need new blood to drive on the players who are already in there a small bit and get them to raise their game.”