Jack O’Connor preaches caution for Kerry

It’s been a conversation dominated by talk of what Tipperary will have learned from the Munster final — their returning players, their extra big game experience, their added motivation — so you turn the spotlight back to Kerry.

“Jack, you’ve said that Tipperary would have learned a lot in defeat from the Munster final but what have Kerry learned in victory?”

Yet, when the Kerry question arrives, that’s when the boldest prediction of Tipperary’s potency rolls out.

“I was happy enough to win a Munster championship that day,” begins Kerry manager Jack O’Connor, “but my overriding feeling at the end of the game was that I was disappointed we didn’t close out the game better.

“So we have a lot to work on from that game because Tipperary won the second half by two points.

“We’ll be using that as motivation to get our fellows focused because this is a dangerous Tipperary team. In many quarters this team is actually seen as being better than the team that won the All-Ireland in 2011 in Tipperary, and we know what those fellows did…”

It’s a masterful flattery from the man Declan Browne called a “wily old fox” during the week but his wariness is informed by experience.

After all, two of O’Connor’s greatest successes were built on the foundation of lost Munster championships.

In 2006 and 2009 O’Connor was celebrating Sam in September but only after producing a pair of 12-point-turnaround victories against Cork.

“Usually teams that get beaten learn more than the teams that win,” he preaches. Win or lose, he is making sure that this motto will be Kerry’s greatest lesson of the summer.

It should be one easily absorbed by a group that O’Connor has consistently hailed for their honesty of character and willingness to work.

“I just want to win for this team because they’ve been very enjoyable to work with. They never gave us a moment’s trouble. If every team was as easy to manage as this we might last another couple of years!”

They’re simply a different group to last year’s winners. Different as individuals and different as a team.

“Last year’s team had four or five outstanding individuals but this team, if anything, are more of a team and there’s more of a balance. Defensively we are very strong this year.

“They’ve really come together and bonded well as a team and sometimes that can be as good as having very talented individuals.

“So it’s a different type of a team and we’re actually playing a different type of football as well.”

They’re a team that has already learned the ways of defensive systems too, having faced them many times, including their previous encounter with Tipperary.

“We wouldn’t be overly bothered if they got defensive because we’ve come up against it quite a lot now. Derry had a full-time sweeper and Sligo had two or three full-time sweepers.

“I think intelligent players and players who are comfortable on the ball can get around these systems, once you coach it well in training.”

Sunday will be O’Connor’s seventh time pacing the Croke Park catwalk for a September final, but he doesn’t miss the pre-game hype of a 3.30 throw-in.

“We’re lucky that the seniors will take most of the attention, so we can train away most of the time under the radar, which is the way you want it.”


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