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Kingdom law of the jungle


Pat O'Shea's reign as Kerry manager ended when he informed County Board officials that he did not want to continue in the position

Pat O'Shea's reign as Kerry manager ended when he informed County Board officials that he did not want to continue in the position

Pat O'Shea's reign as Kerry manager ended when he informed County Board officials that he did not want to continue in the position

On Wednesday evening Pat O'Shea became a private citizen again. He returned his life to some form of normality when he informed Kerry County Board officials that, contrary to expectation, he did not want to continue as manager of the county football team.

He had finally made up his mind on Tuesday evening, having teased it out in the days since the All-Ireland final defeat to Tyrone just over three weeks earlier.

At one stage last week, O'Shea was understood to have been leaning towards taking on another year, but then personal and family issues began to weigh in heavily and, with the criticism of the All-Ireland final still echoing around the county, he decided enough was enough.

From a distance his record stands up to scrutiny. In two seasons he delivered a Munster and All-Ireland title and reached a second All-Ireland final. Had Declan O'Sullivan got another inch or two of room before he pulled the trigger then O'Shea's decision may have couched in a different light.

Away from his own environment he is considered to have been a relatively successful Kerry manager.

But Kerry people don't ever look at their football from a distance.


They see it up close and personal. The Dublin management job is often held up as the most pressurised shop window of them all, but Kerry has by far the most discerning audience with an extremely low tolerance threshold.

Their level of introspection is much higher and so too are the demands. Perhaps they are entitled to that, some 35 All-Ireland titles later.

Paidi O Se will spend the rest of his life clarifying his 'animal' remarks in the winter of 2002/2003. But it remains the lingering image of a demanding public.

O'Shea is renowned as an excellent technical coach. Few of the current Kerry footballers would dispute that they have not made some improvement in a part of their game during his two years in charge.

Even old dogs have admitted they have learned a few new tricks. By day, he is a games coach with the Munster Council, a situation that may also have influenced his decision to go, and at night that helped him with his preparations of the Kerry team.

Tactically, the season as a whole still sticks in the craw of some Kerry supporters though. They lost three finals (league, provincial and All-Ireland), they lost four leads of eight points or more and the defence leaked scores with little redress.

The running repairs during the All-Ireland final were considered least satisfactory of all.

Padraig Reidy was recalled for Tommy Griffin and did well, but some saw Griffin's demotion as a retrograde step for the defence.

The persistence with half-forwards Bryan Sheehan and Eoin Brosnan was also held up as a sticking point, as was the failure to introduce Darren O'Sullivan and, particularly, Paul Galvin earlier. And the obsession with delivering the ball long from too deep positions was too easy to read for Tyrone.

Perhaps most pertinent of all were the words spoken by O'Shea the day after the All-Ireland final.

He reflected on what a difficult season it had been. His demeanour often suggested he wasn't enjoying as much as he knew he should be.

The furore over Galvin never left the public domain, twice his midfield strong man and by far the most experienced player at his disposal, Darragh O Se, bowed to provocation and got himself needlessly sent off against Cork, Aidan O'Mahony's petulant dive didn't help to avert the spotlight, while the training ground bust-up involving O Se and David Moran reflected a new level of intensity, but also revealed a team on the edge.

There was a feeling with this Kerry team in 2008 that you didn't know what was coming next. O'Shea may have felt this too, he may have sensed a dressing-room replete with strong characters which was becoming increasingly difficult to handle.

Jack O'Connor's autobiography 'Keys to the Kingdom' gave a fair insight into that.

Ironically, O'Shea had confronted indiscipline in his first league campaign last year when Kerry began clocking up the yellow and red cards at an alarming rate.

When Kieran Donaghy was dismissed for the second time, after two yellow cards against Fermanagh, O'Shea issued a public dressing down of the player and indiscipline in general. The message got through.

This year was somewhat different for O'Shea. Control wasn't as easy to keep and he may not have been strong enough to exercise it in the way it was required. More importantly, he may have felt that regaining a sense of control was far from guaranteed. There is no dishonour in that.

O'Shea leaves the Kerry job with expressions of surprise at his departure ringing in his ears. Most people assumed he would stay, many wanted him to stay too. The players, by and large, would have wanted him to stay too. Many a county would gladly love his service. In time, history will be kind to him.

But Pat O'Shea has weighed up his options and decided that the time to break is now. He'll leave behind the pressures that weighed heavily, the pressures that always weigh heavily in the toughest jungle of them all. A jungle that he may just have been too nice for.

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