‘Plenty of spice’ on the menu for Jack O’Connor’s Kildare return

Jack O’Connor brings his native county to St Conleth’s Park less than five months after stepping away from the Lilywhites and taking over Kerry a month later.
‘Plenty of spice’ on the menu for Jack O’Connor’s Kildare return

Kerry manager Jack O'Connor left the Kildare post before returning for another sting with his native county. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Former Kerry and Kildare footballer Karl O’Dwyer anticipates “plenty of spice” as Jack O’Connor makes a quick return to Newbridge on Sunday.

O’Connor brings his native county to St Conleth’s Park less than five months after stepping away from the Lilywhites and taking over Kerry a month later.

A Kildare selector with Cian O’Neill the year before O’Connor took over Kildare, O’Dwyer senses there will be supporters who will let their former manager know how they feel about his decision last year.

“Look, there’ll be a good atmosphere. It’ll be a bit different to your run-of-the-mill league game, the fact he was here last year. He got them to Division 1 and that’s where you need to be, but I suppose it was the manner of his leaving a lot of people were disappointed with, the way he went about it. Sure look, you did what you did and that was it. No doubt there will be plenty of spice there on Sunday.”

Citing his sons moving back from Kildare to Kerry and his management team breaking up, O’Dwyer fully appreciates why O’Connor resigned as Kildare boss. But he also understands the possibility of returning to the Kingdom was an attraction to his fellow South Kerry man, as O’Connor expressed in the Irish Examiner football podcast interview last August.

“The Kerry job was coming up and anyone would want to do the Kerry job. The sons leaving and so on, you can understand why he did it. In hindsight, he probably regretted doing that interview and answering the Kerry question as he did. Kildare people were a little bit peeved, the fact he was in a job and more or less saying he was interested in another job.”

O’Dwyer commends O’Connor for what he accomplished in his two years with Kildare.

“He got everyone playing. The year I was involved with Cian O’Neill, he was quite unfortunate not to have the likes of Daniel Flynn and Paul Cribbin. All those lads came back the last two years and there is talent there. They’re well capable of playing and staying in Division 1 and Jack got them organised.

Karl O’Dwyer: 6,000 or 7,000 cheering on Kildare could give Kerry a right rattle. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Karl O’Dwyer: 6,000 or 7,000 cheering on Kildare could give Kerry a right rattle. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

“Against Dublin (in the Leinster final) last year, I thought they could have been a bit more ambitious because Dublin weren’t as good as they have been. A lot of Kildare people thought they should have gone for it a bit more rather than being conservative but it was an achievement in getting them back to Division 1.”

In that August interview, O’Connor spoke about the need to tighten Kerry’s defence and O’Dwyer fully agrees with the sentiment. “That has been it for the last few years. The forwards will get the scores, whereas at the other end you’d want lads with more aggression nailing down positions. There are a lot of good footballers in the defence but you need that bit of bite.

“Tyrone had that with a few lads as do Dublin and Kerry need a bit of it in the back six. Hopefully, they’ll win the All-Ireland this year but they need to be reducing the scores they’re giving away. They definitely should be winning an All-Ireland with the group of players they have.”

Ryan’s recruitment of Paul Galvin, who had been approached by Peter Keane about assisting Kerry last year, is a move he endorses.

“You’ve another set of eyes and he was a winner himself. Kildare need someone like Paul Galvin on the field and who better to ask than the man himself about being more aggressive and putting yourself about. He’s a bit like Glenn in that he would go through a brick wall to win.”

O’Dwyer knows from his experience as Ryan’s team-mate that he will inspire but he is concerned this game comes too early for a lot of the first-team players. “He’s probably been a bit unlucky in the sense he hasn’t been able to play more of the experienced lads in the couple of O’Byrne Cup games and what I would be worried about is they might be a bit undercooked going into these games. Whereas, look at the strong teams Kerry have been putting out and they’re really up for it.

“Saying that, 6,000 or 7,000 inside in Newbridge cheering on Kildare could help them give it a right rattle, but he probably doesn’t have enough done with them at this point to really try and compete.”

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