Darran O’Sullivan means no disrespect to Clare but he just cannot see the logic in lining out against a team Kerry conquered a mere seven weeks ago.
Surely, the football draw can be structured in such a manner that repeat pairings are avoided, or, at the very least, are not thrown up so quickly after their initial summer joust.
“It is not ideal,” says the Kerry forward. “The one problem I have is that we played them so recently. I thought the whole idea of championship was that you play a team and then move on. That is just the big flaw that we won’t solve today.”
And he’s not entirely enamoured with the championship’s scheduling, either — Clare having played more games in the last three weeks than Kerry have the last three months. Where’s the balance in that?
“I have never been a fan of the three/four-week break. It has come to a stage now where I prefer the league because you have big games on an almost weekly basis.”
He appreciates there’s little to be gained from railing against a system that clearly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Best to focus on an opposition most have already discounted. Unfairly so, says O’Sullivan.
“I think the comments relating to it being farcical that we must play Clare again for a place in the semi-final show a complete lack of respect to Clare and Munster football.
“In fairness, they are the best of what is out there. I don’t think they have got the credit they deserve, the same as Tipperary. The fact that both are in the quarter-finals just shows how strong Munster football has been in the last couple of years.
“Clare are playing with confidence and they’d feel aggrieved over the last time we played. We got a couple of early goals. They’ll think they got off on the wrong foot. They have improved since then. They have a good bit of momentum, will have no fear and are an on upward curve facing into an All-Ireland quarter-final in Croke Park. I don’t think they’d have been too bothered who they played. They are playing with the shackles off. They are enjoying their football.”
Mind you, so too is the 30-year-old.
Almost eight months into the season and he’s yet to be sidelined with injury. Of the 11 competitive fixtures Kerry have played in 2016, the Glencar-Glenbeigh club man has started in all but one, a far cry from 2015 where he was used sporadically off the bench by Eamonn Fitzmaurice or 2014, when his inability to gain full fitness following hip surgery the winter previous saw him watch the bulk of Kerry’s 37th All-Ireland winning campaign from the stands.
“The last few years have been a pain. I haven’t been happy playing because I have been constantly fighting with my own body so I am honestly happy just to be fit for this time of year.
“I worked really hard during the winter. Last year’s Mid-Kerry championship didn’t finish until January of this year. That helped me as well. It is just about staying right, staying fit.
“We’ve Dan Murphy and Damien Ryall involved with us with regard to gym work. Dan is in Killarney twice a week every week so I am always over there with him. He had similar surgery to me on his hip.
“He has been a dream in relation to making sure I do all the right exercises. I probably rushed the recovery post hip surgery, maybe wasn’t doing the right thing. The boys have me doing small little exercises that work for me. It has been good.
“I was happy with how the league went, now I wouldn’t say I was outstanding. There were patches of the Munster championship that weren’t great. I do have an awful long way to go, but it is good to be playing.”
Above all else, he’s glad to be in decent nick for the August Bank Holiday weekend for it’s been good to him over the years.
Introduced off the bench in last year’s quarter-final against Kildare, O’Sullivan bagged himself 2-1, there was the back heel goal against Limerick in the 2011 quarter-final and his crucial late strike against Armagh in ’06 at a time when Kerry had been reduced to 14 men following Paul Galvin’s dismissal.
“I could do with one of those [this weekend],” jokes the 30-year old. “I love this time of year, I really do. This is when I get serious.
“I came on in the 2005 All-Ireland final and that was my first time playing championship for Kerry so in 2006 Jack O was waiting for me to do something for a while and eventually I got through. I think it was an Enda McNulty pass I intercepted, burst through and was lucky the ball stayed under the crossbar and didn’t fly over. That was my first goal for Kerry.
“Like every footballer, this is the time of the year you want to be playing, this is the time of the year you want to be fit. It doesn’t matter who you are playing, this is when you want to be involved.”
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