A big day for Dingle football.
Local son Mark O’Connor makes his AFL debut at the Melbourne Cricket Ground shortly before 10.30am this morning, while later this evening, the club’s senior outfit begin their county championship campaign with a first round tie against Kenmare District.
Followers of the West Kerry side would rather if O’Connor was lining out in Templenoe rather than the MCG, but such has been his swift rise at Geelong that Dingle joint-manager Seamus O’Dowd doesn’t expect to see the 20-year-old returning home any time soon.
“We all wish Mark the very best on his debut and it is an incredible achievement to go out and adapt as quickly as he done,” said O’Dowd.
“He has the mindset of a winner. If anybody is going to be a success out there, Mark O’Connor is. I think he is out there for two years initially, but the way things are going, I don’t think we’ll see him in a Dingle or Kerry jersey anytime soon. He will blossom out there.”
On the home front, expectations are high that Dingle will, at the very least, match last year’s run to the county semi-final.
The county minor final wins in 2014 and 2015 couple with an U21 final appearance last year suggests they are the coming team in Kerry.
Also feeding into this train of thought was their strong representation on Jack O’Connor’s Kerry U21 panel — the Dingle club accounted for one-quarter of the 24-man match day panel. Throw in Micheal and Paul Geaney and over half the team has worn the green and gold at either senior or U21 level this year.
“From our point of view, preparation has been difficult because there was a gap of six months between us finishing last year and the whole panel playing together in 2017.
“We played nearly 10 games without the county players and it was only three weeks ago that we had everyone together for the first time. It was difficult then to drop seven or eight players who had been starting up to that point.
“People look at the team sheet and they expect magic straightaway. It doesn’t happen like that. We don’t get the county lads to train with us or anything. It is pretty much, ‘Get them into it and hope for the best at the start’.
“We’ve had three games, two against Legion and one against Kilcummin in the club championship, so hopefully, that time together will bring the team together.”
KERRY (SH v Laois):
M Stackpoole (Lixnaw); J O’Connor (Abbeydorney), R Horgan (St Brendan’s), S Weir (Crotta O’Neills); J Buckley (Lixnaw), D Dineen (St Brendan’s), T Murnane (Kilmoyley); J Goulding (Ballyduff), P O’Connor (Kilmoyley); B O’Leary (Abbeydorney), M O’Leary (Abbeydorney), J Conway (Crotta O’Neills); P Boyle (Ballyduff), M Boyle (Ballyduff), S Nolan (Crotta O’Neills). Subs: S Murphy (Causeway), B Murphy (Causeway), P Costelloe (Ballyduff), J Godley (Kilmoyley), J Griffin (Lixnaw), M O’Connor (Kilmoyley), T O’Connor (Crotta O’Neills), P Lucid (Ballyheigue), J Wallace (Lixnaw), A O’Mahony (Crotta O’Neills), C Harty (Causeway).
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