Tuesday 25 April 2017

O'Sullivan parks Croker pain in drive for Pearses success

Brothers Donal, left, Declan, centre, and Dominic O'Sullivan pictured ahead of Dromid Pearses' AIB All-Ireland JFC Club
quarter-final clash with Cu Chulainns of Newcastle on Sunday
Brothers Donal, left, Declan, centre, and Dominic O'Sullivan pictured ahead of Dromid Pearses' AIB All-Ireland JFC Club quarter-final clash with Cu Chulainns of Newcastle on Sunday
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

THE wheels have kept turning for Kerry's Declan O'Sullivan since the All-Ireland final, as he refuses to dwell on the bitter disappointment of defeat.

September's loss to Dublin was the seventh time in eight years that his inter-county season extended into the autumn. In between, there has been four county titles with South Kerry and a couple of breakthrough campaigns with Dromid Pearses.

But for all the success in the Kingdom, they have been wrestling with the one that got away in September.

O'Sullivan turned over possession in the build-up to Kevin McManamon's crucial goal. Later, Tom O'Sullivan was similarly caught, while Brendan Kealy played a loose ball on the ground and out over the touch line when he had more time than he realised.

In the face of growing Dublin momentum, the usually cold and clinical Kerry made uncharacteristic errors and they have lived with the demons since.

However, through a mixture of necessity and experience, O'Sullivan has parked the All-Ireland final.

JEERED

After all, he learned the hard way. The often cited story of how O'Sullivan was jeered off the field by some Kerry supporters when substituted against Cork in the Munster final replay of 2006 in Pairc Ui Chaoimh thickened his hide.

And as a player who broke the 50 championship appearances mark in the 2011 campaign, he has learned to deal with adversity.

"A few years ago, I might have let these things get to me more," O'Sullivan said. "But you learn as you go on in your career. I watched the video of the All-Ireland maybe a week or 10 days afterwards and I took what I needed to from it. Then you try and park it. You move on."

The Dromid man is arguably the most complete footballer in the country and from an early age he was destined for great things. The 2011 All-Ireland final marked 16 years and a day from when he first slalomed his way around Croke Park during the 1995 All-Ireland final.

O'Sullivan lined out in a Tyrone jersey in the primary schools game at half-time and was back a year later, when he played in a Kerry jersey at the interval as Mayo beat the Kingdom in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Despite all his success on a national stage, the club has maintained a constant draw for O'Sullivan. In the wake of the All-Ireland, Dromid provided the ideal distraction by winning their first county junior championship.

Success is quite new to them. They won their first South Kerry championship in 2004 and last year they made they county final, where they were beaten by eventual All-Ireland junior club champions St Mary's, Cahirciveen.

They went one better in the Kerry decider this year and maintained the proud record of Kingdom clubs, who haven't lost a game at this grade in Munster since 2007.

And on Sunday they'll face Cu Chulainns of Birmingham in the AIB All-Ireland club JFC quarter-final.

"After the All-Ireland I suppose I was distracted and maybe not that interested in playing football. But the lads would talk you around and when you go down and see the attitude and the commitment of them, it refreshes you. And they are getting their rewards now.

"Sunday is new for the club. We're travelling to England to play a match and we've to deal with flights, accommodation and everything that goes with that, so it's a whole new experience."

Kerry manager and Dromid clubman Jack O'Connor has been spotted at the club's matches, but 2012 with the Kingdom hasn't been mentioned yet.

O'Sullivan took the early part of last year off to get married and go on honeymoon, but with the club offering the chance of a quick return to Croke Park, it's unlikely there'll be a similar hiatus this time around. "The league will be very important for Kerry next year. We'll be blooding plenty of new players.

"We have the lads with Crokes who are going well and a few who won the Cork championship as well, which is a very good competition to win, so we have a good crop there.

"It'll be up to them to force their way through and give the management a headache; there's definitely a couple of them banging on the door."

And while the old brigade are expected to hang on en masse, there's also the chance that Tadhg Kennelly could return to the squad. "Tadhg was very good for us in 2009. I haven't spoken to him and I don't know what his plans are, but he'd be a big asset for us."

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