Upcoming Kerry star Jack Savage says Jack O’Connor has brought an X-factor to the team as they prepare to face rivals and neighbours Cork in tonight’s Eirgrid Munster U21 final.
Savage says his manager’s know-how and leadership skills are massive plusses as the Kingdom seek to come out on top in tonight’s local derby at Austin Stack Park.
“Jack’s experience and confidence and the confidence he instils in all the players is massive and the faith we have in him and the faith he has in us works hand in hand,” Savage says.
“The whole management set-up is great compared to the last few years and I think that hopefully now we can give it a good rattle. Even the backroom team have won titles at minor, under-21, senior and club. They’ve all won something so there’s a good winning habit there and we just have to bring it to the U21 level now where it’s been lacking for the last few years.
“I think there’s only a handful of us who haven’t worked with Jack before but we’ve all got on well with him so we can’t complain about how things are going.
“The likes of Declan O’Sullivan (selector) has been one of the top forwards in the country in the last few years and you learn something new off him nearly every day. He’s good one-on-one and good talking to the team. It’s just all about Kerry and all about winning. He was under Jack as well so he brings that winning mentality to the setup as well.Because the club won the county championship I got the honour of captaining the side. It’s a great honour to play under him and to captain the side.”
To reach the decider, Kerry prevailed in a close affair with Tipp and stuck to their game-plan against a defensive set-up despite the home crowd getting on their backs for not being more direct.
Now they meet a promising Cork side that breezed past Waterford and Clare. If anything, Kerry would appear to be more battle-hardened.
“We still have a few injuries,” Savage says. “You’re always going to have a few knocks and niggles around the place but I think the group of players we have, have good confidence in themselves. But we’re up against a good Cork side that are going to be a strong, physical and running team. But if we get all our injuries right we’ll be a match on the day for any side.”
Kerry possess a strong winning mentality throughout the squad, thanks mainly to the crop of minors who have emerged from that grade as All-Ireland champions.
“These lads have won Hogan Cups and minor All-Irelands. The likes of Barry O’Sullivan is after winning a Sigerson with UCD this year.
“They’ve won everything and winning is a habit. They’ve brought it into the set-up a bit and I think that’s been lacking over the past few years: we knew going in against Cork — it’s all psychological. This year though, that winning feeling is definitely coming through.”
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