Kerry coach says hurlers reaping benefits of Centre of Excellence

The decision of the Kerry hurlers to move their training base from Austin Stack Park to the county’s centre of excellence at Currans, where they work alongside the various Kerry football teams, has been a huge eye-opener for hurling boss Fintan O’Connor.

“I’d come into training two hours before training is due to start and, more than likely, the senior footballers’ pitch is set up and ready to go. You’d say to yourself, ‘God, I better be here early’.

“It puts a bit of pressure on you and that’s no harm either. It’s good to be part of that culture, good to be part of that larger community and maybe, it’ll inspire excellence going forward,” O’Connor remarked.

Does he ever have a word with either Éamonn Fitzmaurice, Jack O’Connor or Peter Keane, a sharing of ideas, perhaps?

They’re lovely and they’d say, hello. They don’t want to talk to me about what I think. I’d be watching them and what they’re doing sometimes, not on the sly, they’d be very generous with their time.

“The way it’s built, there’s a central gym and everything comes off it. It’s nearly a meeting area and it’s where all the action is.

“Even the food, the culture that’s out there is definitely good for our lads. It’s just so nice to have somewhere that’s your own and you know where you’re going every night. And if it’s raining, you still know where you’re going.”

O’Connor is still sore over the fact that Kerry won’t earn direct promotion to the All-Ireland championship even if they win the inaugural Joe McDonagh Cup.

Should they claim the national crown, Kerry would then have to play the bottom-placed team from the Munster round-robin, whereas if any of the Leinster counties are crowned second-tier champions, they go straight up without a promotion/relegation playoff.

“The Joe McDonagh Cup, in its own right, is going to be an incredibly competitive competition and the fact that the Joe McDonagh Cup finalists get into the All Ireland series, even if it’s a preliminary quarter-final, is brilliant. My gripe is that Kerry are being treated totally different from everybody else.

The Kildare native, now in his second year at the helm, believes his team are playing better hurling than last season, even if their league campaign finished without a Division 2A final appearance.

“We have a style of play and we’re trying to do the right thing more than we were last year.

Are we better? I don’t know, but we’re definitely trying to get better. We’re trying to use the ball better, trying to play at a higher intensity and make fewer mistakes. Some days, we’re very good at it. Are we consistent at it? No.

“We have a load of young fellas which I’m delighted about because they’re excitable and rubbing off on some of the older fellas who would maybe have felt they were getting bored or stale.” O’Connor added: “Going away to Carlow, it’ll be tough.

“You need to get a result as soon as you can and give yourself a bit of momentum because there’s no break.”

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