YOU could be cynical and suggest Pat O’Shea thinks very differently in private about Clare’s prospects against the All-Ireland football champions in tomorrow’s Munster GAA championship semi-final in Killarney from his public utterances.
However it wouldn’t be in his nature to be discourteous, to any opposition.
“We treat everybody with respect,’’ he comments “One of the greatest strengths of the GAA is that on any given day, if you go in with the wrong attitude you will get beaten. This year has thrown up a lot of shocks, or so-called shocks, with Kildare, Meath, Monaghan all tasting defeat when they were expected to win.’’
He continued: “You have to go out and you have to perform. From our point of view it’s a championship match and every championship match has to be treated with the respect that it merits. And that’s what we are going to do. We are going to approach the game as if we were playing in a Munster final or an All-Ireland. The stakes are too high not to be in there with the right frame of mind and you can’t afford not to perform to the highest standards you set for yourself.’’
And, without actually setting it out as his mission statement, O’Shea stresses that one of the big things they will be trying to do this year will be to ensure that they perform well as a team and that they perform well as individuals.
Not unexpectedly, Kieran Donaghy wasn’t picked (for the same reason as Killian Young) because he hasn’t recovered full fitness. In acknowledging Donaghy’s vital importance to the team, O’Shea admitted it had been a very worrying wait as medical staff assessed the damage done to his knee in a club game against Dingle.
In any event, it didn’t turn out to be as serious as was feared initially, but the healing process has taken longer than they hoped for.
“It’s only in the last couple of sessions that he has been able to do anything,’’ he added.
Just as predictably, young Tommy Walsh again steps into his shoes at full-forward. “He is a very talented player and he gets an opportunity now to play his first championship match. He won’t be over-awed by it, but at the same time he is going to have to fit in with the rest of the players around him. That might take a bit of time, but he has got a very good way of playing the game and has been blending quite well with the players in training.’’
The big plus for the management is that there is real competition for places, which he points out, is not only good for the team but a means of enhancing the development of the younger squad members.
“We have to be honest and we have to be fair to everybody in the panel. We can only play 15 players and there are a lot of guys who are disappointed that they won’t make the team for this game. But, they will want to continue to try and break into the squad and break into the team and that’s the greatest thing about competition. It drives other people to be better and hopefully that will continue. We would hope all of our players would feel that they are capable of playing in the first 15 and that they would all strive to do that.
“The more pressure they put on each other, hopefully that will drive each other to be better.’’
At a personal level, he says he is enjoying the whole experience of working with the players and being involved with a county team even more than last year. He still considers it a privilege to be managing Kerry.
“It’s funny the difference a year makes. When I was first appointed I was told that it was a poisoned chalice. I was told it was impossible to continue on and meet the standards that were set in the past. Twelve months on, people are talking about probably more outrageous demands.
“But, the most important expectation is the one that we set for ourselves. You set your own high standards and you set your own expectations so you can try and meet them. That is all you can do. I have no control over what anybody says outside of our group.
“The most important thing is that we are honest with each other inside the group and that we try and do our best!”
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