Weekend at Banna turned our season, says Stephen O’Brien

Kerry footballer Stephen O’Brien has credited a weekend spent on Banna Strand as the catalyst for the county’s five consecutive league wins.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side were without a single point after the opening two rounds of action, losing away to Dublin before being taken on their own patch by Roscommon, and O’Brien reckons that the couple of days spent on the beach in North Kerry the weekend after their surprise defeat to Roscommon turned around their spring.

“The weather was really bad and we could hardly get a pitch. We trained on the beach in Banna that weekend, running up sand dunes and things like that. It was completely different to normal training,” the Kerry corner-forward recalls.

“It was brilliant. It was good craic and it raised spirits. Something outside of football can often be a help because you can keep going down the same line of football, but if it is not working, you maybe need something different.

“We had a few players back after the first two games. Kieran Donaghy came back and Bryan Sheehan was unbelievable for those few games after he came back in. They gave us a platform.

“We just got back to winning games, which is good.”

The Kingdom haven’t been present at the knockout stages of the league since 2012 and O’Brien described it as a “brilliant feeling” to have qualified for a first semi-final under Fitzmaurice.

“Nearly the majority of the team haven’t played in a league semi-final, which is unusual for a Kerry team. I am really looking forward to going back to Croke Park.

“We owe one to Roscommon after they turned us over in Killarney, a result we wouldn’t have been too happy about. They went from strength to strength after that.

“At the start of the year, it was an ambition of all the players to try and target the league and have league success. We didn’t get off to the best start, but we are now after winning five-in-a-row. We are happy enough with where we are going.”

O’Brien, who started all seven league games, admitted that Kerry underestimated Roscommon when the two sides met in early February.

They won’t make the same mistake this Sunday.

“They got some unbelievable scores. Their forwards looked deadly. They are close enough to being the top-scorers in the league. I would have known Niall Daly from college. He was in the same year as me at UCC. He was brilliant. He was the best player I played with over the course of my years in college.

“After not playing well in the first-half of that game, we went in a point up at half-time and we were nearly expecting to kick on in the second-half. It just never came. We had the wind as well in the second-half so I don’t know if it was overconfidence.

“We have all seen what they have done since so we definitely underestimated them. We were caught on the hop which is something we can’t allow this weekend.”

Here’s a little extra sport. Watch the latest BallTalk for the best sports chat and analysis.

Here’s a little extra sport. Watch the latest BallTalk for the best sports chat and analysis.


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