Fintan O’Connor: Kerry can play with freedom

Kerry hurling manager Fintan O’Connor says his players are in a “privileged position”, as there is no expectation of silverware this spring.

The Kingdom open their Division 1B account at home to Laois tomorrow and while promotion is an unlikely target, O’Connor says the motivation for his side is to show they can compete with the likes of Galway, Limerick and Wexford.

“I think, sometimes, the lads are in a privileged position because if you’re in Kilkenny, Waterford or Tipperary, you’re going out to play in the league and sometimes, it’s a burden on you that you’re expected to win. Whereas for us, there is a little bit of freedom,” O’Connor reasons.

“There’s probably two tiers in our division but if we go out and we’re competitive against Galway in the league, then some people will see that as a massive win. Galway were a team that were a point away from the All-Ireland champions last year. Every day that we go out there will be a huge motivation to prove that the boys from Kerry can compete.”

O’Connor expects Laois to travel south with a “bee in their bonnet” after losing twice to Kerry during last year’s league. Michael O’Leary, Brendan O’Leary, Tommy Casey, John Egan and Tom Murnane featured for Kerry during those victories, but are ruled out this weekend because of injury.

“Kerry have done fairly well against Laois in the past year or two. I’m sure Eamonn Kelly will have the Laois lads hopping for Sunday and we’re expecting a massive challenge.

“We have spoken about the layout of the league. Once you’re going fairly well by the time the league comes to an end, that’s when you really have to have your ducks in a row. We want to go out and be competitive in every game, but I suppose, ideally, you would like to play Laois when you have everything up and running and going.”

Newly appointed captain Aidan McCabe wants the team to make their presence felt.

“We won two games last year so we would be hoping to do the same this year, and maybe win a third. That would be a good league for us.

“We have to play Limerick, Wexford, Galway and Offaly, as well as Laois, but you have to play the big teams to push and get better.

“All the other teams started down the line back in the day so now it’s about time that we stepped up and moved forward, make a statement and see where we get to. It’s about looking forward and not looking back so we will take it in steps and not project too far ahead.”

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