Twenty-strong Kerry backroom set-up helped to pave way for All-Ireland final success
As backroom teams go, Jack O’Connor’s Kerry network of support and advice comes in a little neater than some of those which have gone before them.
Dublin football and Tipperary hurling were among those backroom teams who, in a quiet moment just hours after an All-Ireland final, would gather for a photograph out on Croke Park just before the bus would pull away, often numbering around 24. Kerry got their ‘memento’ shot in the warm-up room, a cast of around 20, though some who had involvement were not on official team duty on the day.
O’Connor has embraced every element of preparation in putting a team together as his acquisition of Tony Griffin, the former Clare hurler, as a performance coach suggests.
But for a Kerry team that have suffered in the past to Ulster teams, Tyrone and Armagh especially, the involvement of three backroom figures in their set-up shows that when it comes to performance, origin is immaterial for Kerry and O’Connor.
His inclusion of Tyrone’s Paddy Tally as a head coach brought that different perspective he was looking for, while Kerry employ Jason McGahan, from Tullysaran in Armagh, as their head of athletic development on a full-time basis. His involvement has also brought in Colin Trainor to provide statistical analysis, giving their preparation quite a northern flavour.
O’Connor is at the head of affairs, however, delegating but also setting the tone for a season that saw them win all four competitions they contested. The perception that the game may have passed him by, touted readily in Kerry, has been blown apart by such success and his construction of an effective backroom team.
Here’s who they are . . .
Manager – Jack O’Connor
A wealth of experience, this is his third term and in each of the three he has now won a league-championship double in the first year. Four All-Ireland senior titles as a manager, two All-Irelands as minor manager and one back in 1998 as U-21 manager, a span of 25 years delivering for Kerry, not to mention his role as a selector to Páidí Ó Sé for two more senior titles. Brought calm authority and oversight to the Kerry sideline in 2022.
Coach/selector – Diarmuid Murphy
Wise counsel for any Kerry management, just as he was with Éamonn Fitzmaurice before. Huge knowledge of Kerry football, the Dingle man spent eight seasons as No 1 goalkeeper, incorporating both of O’Connor’s previous reigns.
Coach/selector – Micheál Quirke
A former inter-county manager himself with Laois for the previous two years, he has been a development and club coach of high regard in the county. Midfielder with Kerry for many years.
Head coach – Paddy Tally
Involved with Tyrone’s 2003 All-Ireland-winning team, Tally has been touted as a defensive coach but he brings much more than that. O’Connor wanted something to provide a different edge. The former Down manager, travelling from Galbally in mid Tyrone, brought it.
Performance coach – Tony Griffin
O’Connor had Griffin in Kildare, where he now lives, having had him recommended by Ross Dunphy, former strength and conditioning coach with Dublin hurlers when Anthony Daly was manager and Griffin was involved. Some of Kerry’s mental resolve was built through experience but Griffin, as O’Connor has suggested, added a layer. Much more involved than he had intended.
Head of athletic development – Jason McGahan
Having previously been with Cian O’Neill in Kildare, the Armagh native is a full-time employee in the role with Kerry GAA since 2018, not only overseeing senior team matters but working with underage squads too.
Strength and conditioning – Arthur Fitzgerald
Brought in by O’Connor this year, he is a teacher in St Brendan’s, Killarney, where he coached the two-in-a-row Hogan Cup-winning team that had David Clifford, while he has also been involved with East Kerry’s county two-in-a-row. He was with O’Connor’s two minor-winning teams in 2014 and 2015 and his U-20s teams.
Sports science – John Barry
A graduate of IT Tralee, responsible for collating and applying data provided through GPS systems to provide performance analysis.
Statistics – Colin Trainor
Another Armagh-based recruit from the same place, Tullysaran, as McGahan, Trainor began collating statistics for Kerry during Peter Keane’s time and continued this year. Didn’t travel much to training but was present on match-days. Has also worked with the Armagh ladies and at Premier League level.
Video – John C O’Shea
Has operated the camera for successive Kerry managements dating back to O’Connor’s previous term.
Doctor – Dr Mike Finnerty
A Tralee-based GP, he has been a familiar face around Kerry teams since Páidí Ó Sé got him involved.
Doctor – John Rice
An orthopaedic surgeon in the Bon Secours Hospital in Tralee, he filled in for Dr Finnerty when he was absent but also provided specialist advice.
Physio – Jimmy Galvin
Killarney-based physio who tends to squad injuries.
Physio – Paudie McQuinn
Tralee-based physio and Austin Stacks member, he shares duties with Galvin.
Masseur – Harry O’Neill
Previously with O’Connor in the same role, O’Neill is well-known in Kerry football circles as a former manager of Dr Crokes and an U-21 selector when Darragh Ó Sé was manager.
Masseur – Liam O’Regan
From Dingle, O’Regan assists O’Neill on an ongoing basis.
Goalkeeping coach – Brendan Kealy
Brought in by Peter Keane last year, the former All-Star fulfilled the same role when O’Connor was U-20 manager. Significant improvement in Shane Ryan through 2022.
Nutrition – Kevin Beasley
Originally from Listowel but a teacher in Kerry College in Tralee where O’Connor also taught for a couple of years, Beasley has been providing guidance to Kerry teams since Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s time in charge.
Nutrition – Gavin Rackard
The current performance nutritionist for Connacht Rugby was brought in by O’Connor this year but his work was largely done remotely.
Equipment – Colm Whelan
Another familiar face around the Kerry set-up, the north Kerryman is the head kit-man.
Equipment/in-house referee – Brendan Griffin
Assists Whelan with equipment and gear but also doubles as the squad’s in-house referee. The Ballydonoghue man has been an inter-county referee in recent years and has taken charge of multiple Kerry county finals.
County board liaison – Patrick O’Sullivan
‘The Bag’, as he is commonly known, has a long association with Dr Crokes and is back for a second spell as Kerry GAA chairman. A popular figure and prolific fundraiser, he has operated as an effective link between the team and board, just as his predecessor Tim Murphy was before him, for logistics around travel and finance.