Third Time is a Charm as Kerry goes with a sure pair of hands in Jack O’Connor


You might as well never go back. Assuming it is ratified at Monday’s county board meeting, Jack O’Connor will take the reins as Kerry’s manager for the third time after the five-man committee appointing him was awarded on Friday evening.

O’Connor will have Micheál Quirke and Diarmuid Murphy as coaches, with hopes that former Down manager Paddy Tally will also come on board.

O’Connor, who was still Kildare’s manager until just three weeks ago, is returning to a job where he has been successful in his previous two terms. Under his leadership, Kerry won the All-Irelands in 2004, 2006 and 2009 and was beaten the All-Ireland finalists in 2005 and 2011. Ahead of County’s eighth season without Sam Maguire, the committee opted for what appears to be be the simplest option.

Not that they lacked it. O’Connor’s elevation to the role comes after a week of highly entertaining intrigue in Kerry, a veritable orgy of questioning. It seems almost comical now to think back to the aftermath of Tyrone’s loss a month ago, when the most common argument for keeping Peter Keane in the managerial position was that there was no line of duty. long wait for candidates to withdraw it. .

It’s fair to say that it doesn’t quite match up with the events of the past week in Kerry. The best way to offend a former Kerry footballer over the past 10 days had been to text him asking why he hadn’t been touted for a role in one of the three potential setups. At the time O’Connor was announced with Quirke and Murphy in tow, the putative runners and runners included three former Kerry managers and 14 former players.

Neither of them, by the way, was Éamonn Fitzmaurice or Tomás Ó Sé, both of whom preemptively removed their names early on in the proceedings. Fitzmaurice has made it clear that he has too much to do at work as a school principal at Pobalscoil Corca Dhuibhne in Dingle. And Ó Sé signed up as manager with Offaly less than 48 hours after Tyrone’s loss, not only stepping out of the race for any role with Kerry, but relinquishing his media roles with RTÉ and the Irish Independent on top of that.

Micheál Quirke spent two years as manager of Laois and will join Jack O’Connor’s new behind-the-scenes team. Photograph: Bryan Keane / Inpho

The idea that there was no one there to do Kerry’s job was always going to be fancy. As last week showed, no managerial gig in the country has more internal candidates capable of slapping an impressive resume. Indeed, the fact that each nomination was stamped with such readily available stardust was, in part, what made the committee’s decision all the more difficult.

Peter Keane started the week in pole position. His three-year tenure ended with the semi-final defeat of All of Ireland, but he was by no means out of the race to be given another term. At a players meeting last weekend, there was no desire to make a public statement about it one way or the other. But the team are close to Keane and it has been admitted by all that they would have had no problem with him continuing at the helm.

Once he got out of Kildare, O’Connor was presumed to be Keane’s only rival for the gig. The initial word was that he was taking Quirke and Declan O’Sullivan with him, but O’Sullivan is believed to be keen to stay in his role as Under-20 manager. For a few days during the week, the prospect of joining Kieran Donaghy was also raised, but Tralee’s man decided to honor his commitment to Armagh to stay on the behind-the-scenes team of Kieran McGeeney.

Murphy was previously a coach for Kerry, under Fitzmaurice between 2013 and 2016 and under O’Connor after his retirement in 2009. Quirke recently completed a two-year tenure at the helm of Laois and Tally was above Down for three. years until this summer. . Neither has had great success, it must be said. Still, O’Connor viewed their influence – especially Tally’s defensive instincts, it has to be assumed – as key parts of his ticket.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday night, a group of ex-players met at the home of Stephen Stack, the two-time All-Ireland-winning cornerback who has steered Austin Stacks to success in the past few years. county and provincial level, as well as the Killarney Legion. Among those present were such luminaries as Séamus Moynihan, Mickey Ned O’Sullivan and Dara Ó Cinnéide. They strategized for four hours before a meeting with the county board of directors in Tralee on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

As news of Stack’s candidacy spread on Wednesday morning, two things emerged. One was the collection of Avengers Assemble-style names on the ticket – not just the trio mentioned above, but Aidan O’Mahony and Joe O’Connor to take charge of the strength and conditioning side of things. The other was the presence of Donie Buckley.

Diarmuid Murphy previously coached Kerry under Jack O'Connor.  Photography: Cathal Noonan / Inpho

Diarmuid Murphy previously coached Kerry under Jack O’Connor. Photography: Cathal Noonan / Inpho

Buckley has been a curious puzzle piece in Kerry’s history for the past decade. His reputation as a coach has been made and polished elsewhere, especially in Mayo. Players from many countries – Kerry included – have raved about his sessions and yet Keane and O’Connor have found a reason to dump him from Kerry’s setups in the past.

And yet, when it was all gone, the committee went with O’Connor. Keane’s insistence that he wanted to continue with the same behind-the-scenes team as before is believed to have counted against him. And while the committee was impressed with the team that Stack had assembled, they felt they couldn’t ignore the all-Ireland winner O’Connor’s pedigree.

Swirling around the appointment was the petty matter of internal politics at County Kerry Council. This will be Tim Murphy’s last act as incumbent county president. As an indicator of the importance of this, three different people interviewed by The Irish Times this week referred to the fact that Murphy is the only chairman in County Kerry Board of Directors history not to preside over the victory of ‘an All-Ireland. .

Current Vice President Eamon Whelan is the frontrunner to succeed Murphy and is known to be close to O’Connor. Whatever fundraiser or organization the next president may have during his five-year tenure, he will ultimately be judged on whether the best crop of young players the county has produced in a generation wins Sam Maguire. . Whelan is on the five-man committee to choose the manager. He can end up with the most skin in the game of all.

Wheels in wheels, intrigue within the plot. O’Connor recently compared Kerry’s work to that of Man United. Right now, it’s not exactly a resounding endorsement of either concert. Life is never quiet in the Kingdom for long, especially when Sam winters elsewhere.