The Dromid man was effusive in his praise for Tony Brosnan’s performance against the Rossies
Heading into Saturday night’s clash with Roscommon, Kerry knew that they needed a victory. It was as simple as that. Of course, they also wanted a performance, but that was the second priority. Winning was the only show in town.
Now, as a result of what Jack O’Connor expertly summed up as a ‘patchy’ display, the Kingdom have moved a little step further away from the Division 1 relegation trap-door. Indeed, triumphing in Salthill next weekend could even see the opening up of an unexpected passage to another league decider.
Yet, while the permutations in the top flight are practically endless approaching the final series of group games, the Kerry manager was just relieved to have eked out a three-point success over extremely dogged opposition. The main objective on the night had been achieved.
“Look, tonight was just about getting the result. The performance was decent in patches, but patchy I would say. It might have been a bit hairy in the last five minutes I suppose but, overall, I think we deserved to win the game,” he said.
“We were determined to hit the ground running early on. We looked sharp at the start, we then kicked away a few foolish balls after about a quarter of an hour. Roscommon are a decent team, they’re very fit and physical, they were never going to die.”
The opening ten minutes was a key period for Kerry, hitting an unanswered 1-3 to deliver some serious body-blows to Roscommon’s aspirations, but O’Connor was also pleased with how his charges navigated the time when Graham O’Sullivan was in the sin-bin during the second half.
“The way football is played nowadays, you wouldn’t know whether there were 14 or 15 men on the field, because there is no such thing as positions. We just backed off during that period and I think we actually won that period by a couple of points.
“It was a bit hairy near the end because we got another black card in Tadhg [Morley] and then Jason Foley seemed to pick up an injury, so I’d say we were playing with 13 for the last five minutes or so. Tonight for us was just about getting a result and getting another step on the way to safety.
“Looking at the table, there’s actually a chance you could reach a league final if you beat Galway. There’s a realistic chance looking at the table. Galway are going to be a tough nut to crack above in Salthill, especially after a great result up in Armagh this evening. That will be a tough one.”
Even though he missed a goal opportunity in the second half, Tony Brosnan was an important cog in the wheel on Saturday evening. While scoring two points from play, he played one of the passes of the season to create the fifth minute goal for David Clifford.
“I thought Tony was very exciting tonight. Tony has a pile of talent, he just needs to keep working on belief and confidence, he’s a great talent. That display tonight will have done him a lot of good.
"I’ve been watching Tony since he was underage, and he’s been a real talent going back to his minor days. We’re delighted with the way he played tonight.
“We’ve heard plenty of noise about him playing outside, but you can’t play with a flat three inside anymore. There is nobody playing with three inside. We’re not going to put David Clifford out, so somebody has to come out of the corner. Tony can play it both ways.”
On the injury situation within the camp, there was mixed news. The Kerry boss confirmed that Stefan Okunbor and Darragh Roche picked up ‘serious’ injuries against Tyrone, but that has been balanced out with the return to fitness of Gavin White, Diarmuid O’Connor and Paul Geaney.
“Someone said there that Gavin White got man-of-the-match. That’s great. He has just played one bit of a match there with Dr Crokes a couple of weeks ago, and played a bit of internal football. That’s a credit to him, and to the physios to get him into the shape that he was in there tonight,” he added.
“Stefan and Darragh picked up serious injuries up in Tyrone. It was a bad day for us, we lost the match and we picked up two fairly serious injuries. They’ll be out pretty long-term. Brian [Ó Beaglaoich] and Stephen [O’Brien] are back doing a bit of training away from the group, not back in with the group yet, but it’s encouraging to see Paul Geaney, Gavin White and Diarmuid O’Connor back.”
Finally, on a sad week for Kerry and for the wider GAA community after the tragic passing of Offaly manager Liam Kearns, O’Connor paid a warm tribute to the Austin Stacks clubman, with particular memories of a few titanic tussles against Kearns’ Limerick back in 2004.
“We had a fierce battle with Limerick in 2004. They could easily have beaten us up in the Gaelic Grounds. Darragh Ó Sé did a bit of climbing over the crossbar to save us that day. We had a great battle in Killarney as well, I think there was only three or four points in the game.
“Liam obviously got the best out of every team that he was ever involved with, and what more can you say about a man only that. That’s the biggest wish that we all have, to get the very best out of our teams. He was a great footballing man, and it’s just very sad for his family.”