When I was asked to interview stars from different sports for this series, I wanted two things. Firstly, that the first man would be a football man; and secondly that it would be Jack O’Shea.
He epitomised Kerry football when I was a young fella and does still – that confidence and swagger without being disrespectful. The humility in defeat. The way the Kerry jersey was put before all else.
He was the best footballer in the greatest of all teams. He ran the show for that Kerry team.
He was surrounded by great men, on and off the pitch, and Jacko never hid. It didn’t matter if it was a challenge game in Galway, the same day as his son’s baptism (late in his career without anything to prove), or a Munster final in Killarney, Jacko always showed up, smiling and ready to go.
Selected by this paper as the greatest footballer of the last 50 years it was an honour and treat to sit and talk football with him. The prince of pigskin.
Tomás: I’m fascinated by your hunting background, do you still do it?
Jack O’Shea: I haven’t for about three years, but I loved it. The hunting to me was my foundation. I suppose I was renowned for my fitness, but I would put down a lot of my ability to avoid injury to the hunting. It’s where I picked up a lot of my leg strength.
You might be unaware of this, but there’s actually a lot of famous Kerry footballers that were huntsmen. Even a fella who played with you, Declan O’Sullivan, would do it over in Dromid.
I was out hunting with Declan before he got on the Kerry team. Mick O’Connell had about five or six hounds. Dwyer was a huntsman. Bill Dillon was a huntsman. My father was mad into the hunting too. It goes on from September until about March. That’s the season and then you stop because the hares are breeding.
On the off-season, you’d have a thing called drag-hunting, where four different fellas would go and pull off a section of a course maybe of about 10-12 miles. So the hounds would hunt for maybe 12 miles.
You’d have to prepare your hound for that. T’was a huge tradition in South Kerry. Some of the biggest rows I ever saw in my life were at drag-hunts. They’d be betting on dogs and fighting over them.
We used have this drag-hound at home and he’d have to be walked maybe 8-10 miles a day to keep him fit. The hunting was on a Sunday and when I was maybe seven or eight, I’d get up and go to first Mass in Cahirciveen. You’d leave the house about half-nine in wellingtons and a big coat, a sandwich in each pocket. Off on the bike and you might collect 14 or 15 hounds in the town. There would be about three different clubs in Cahirciveen.
You’d spend the whole day on the mountain, hail, rain or snow. I can remember having to leave the bike behind me because it’d be too windy to cycle home.
As an adult, I would park my car at Scoil An Fhaill Mór primary school and take off to the top. The hounds would actually hunt out over the top of the mountain. I’d be at the top if they lost the hare or whatever and bring the hounds back.
They’d go off for miles and you’d have to go after them sometimes if they didn’t come back. So a lot of my youth would have been spent running across mountains, across bogs, jumping over ditches, jumping over dykes. It built up a huge strength.
Tomás: And then football a constant too?
Jacko: Yeah, but up to when I was 18, you never really played on a Sunday. Every game would be on midweek or on Friday evenings. So you’d be free every weekend to go hunting. Then when I moved to Dublin, I’d go home every Christmas and spend four or five days out hunting with the lads. I used love that.
I’d do that even through the prime of my career. I found it great therapy, number one, because it’s very relaxing. Imagine sitting down in the heather up three thousand feet high? The cars looked like match-boxes below. It’s just a different freedom and I’d say I would have benefited an awful lot from it as regards my fitness.
I never pulled a muscle in my life playing football. My job as a plumber was a help in that respect too. I was always out lifting radiators, climbing up ladders, naturally stretching the day after a match. You look back at our time and a lot of the lads were farmers, tradesmen. I think there was an awful lot of more natural fitness in our day.
Tomás: I’ve always been fascinated with football in South Kerry and how it gave us Micko, (Mick) O’Connell, yourself, Maurice (Fitzgerald).
Jacko: Maurice, Bryan (Sheehan) and I . . . the three houses in which we grew up are all really close, with the football pitch between us. Same spot. Basically, our playground was the football field. We were always active.
You’d nearly be told to get out of the house in the morning and not come back until it was time for your tea. There was nobody checking on you, so you had the freedom of the town. The biggest problem was having enough of a ball.
I remember Burns’ shop was two doors away from me in Cahirciveen and they used hold the football. You’d have to sign your name in to get the football out.
There’d only be one football like. I remember when I was maybe seven or eight, going down to see Mary’s training and there might be 30 fellas, seven or eight inside in the goal. And they’d be just kicking in and out. If you got three kicks in a night, you’d be lucky. You had to earn your oats to get a kick. Every match that was ever played in Cahirciveen, I can remember it. I remember Páidí (ó Sé) missing a penalty one day. He put the ball so high over the bar, it almost landed in Burns’ shop.
I was always behind the goal, kicking the ball back. I wouldn’t just kick it to the goalie, I had to kick it back over the bar! But the hunting, to me, was the key to my stamina. To me, the best way to get your speed is to run down a mountain.
Tomás: You did a lot of cross-country running too?
Jacko: I ran against John Treacy, finished fourth behind him in the Munster Colleges. I’d say I was 15. We had a Christian Brother in the town who was big into cross-country and maybe 10 of us used do it. One of my mates, Kieran McCarthy, finished second to Treacy that day.
Treacy only pipped him on the line. Kieran was a phenomenal athlete. Played midfield with me in all the under-age teams with the club. We used run up this field that had a gradient of about 60 degrees. We did an awful lot of running on the beach as well.
I never went in a gym in my life, was never into weights. My philosophy was always, ‘You train in the environment you play in’.
There might have been weights for John O’Keeffe, for Mickey Ned, for a few of the PE lads. But all Micko would do with us was football and running. That was it. The natural fitness of most fellas . . . they didn’t need weights.
I mean the team of, say, ’78/79, I’d say nine or 10 of them played midfield for their clubs. (Jimmy) Deenihan, Johnno (Keeffe), Ger O’Keeffe, Tommy Doyle, (Tim) Kennelly. Big, strong natural footballers. It’s a totally different game today. In our day, you could walk into a pitch and pick out the county player just by looking at him.
Tomás: When you look at the issues with injuries that Mikey (Sheehy) and Johnno and (Pat) Spillane and others had, what do you reckon the team would have been like with the level of back-up that players have now?
Jacko: Phenomenal. We were nearly always missing one of our top players in big games. Powery (Ger Power), ‘Bomber’ (Eoin Liston), Mikey in different All-Irelands. But my own personal view is that nowadays a lot of the training is kind of artificial.
Not saying it’s wrong or right. But I think a fella lifting weights that are heavier than himself, his muscles aren’t naturally built for that. Like our fellas had this natural fitness.
Take Páidí, he was unique. He trained twice a day, ahead of his time.
Tomás: Were the two Mickos (O’Connell and O’Dwyer) your two heroes growing up?
Jacko: Sure, I was effectively their ball-boy growing up. The two of them would come to Cahirciveen maybe twice a week, kicking. Dwyer would drive in. O’Connell would come across on the boat and cycle up. They could spend up to two hours kicking.
It was all catching and kicking. Micko (Dwyer) used always say to me when I was very young that you had to learn to catch the ball without it touching your body. Mícheál (ó Muircheartaigh) used do it then with me every night training in Belfield. And he’d make me kick 30 balls over the bar before he’d allow me in (to tog off). And he wouldn’t allow me outside the 14-yard line.
Tomás: They’re two such giants of the game, would there have been anyone down in the field watching them train?
Jacko: There wouldn’t, no. Sport has changed so much. There you had two of the greatest sporting idols in the country, two totally different characters. O’Connell, the stylist. Maurice Fitz is probably the closest to anyone I’ve seen kick a ball with his style.
Dwyer was tough. He’d be playing club matches and you know yourself from playing Gaeltacht against Dingle . . . Cahirciveen against Waterville or Cahirciveen against Valentia . . . that’s where you learned how to play football.
Dwyer was a rogue on the field, but he was as tough as nails too. The ball could be 10 yards away but if someone was holding him, all you’d hear was “Ref, ref, ref!” Like Dwyer would draw frees from anywhere. Dwyer would be taking short frees in those training sessions, O’Connell would be taking 50s. T’was all down to ball-work.
I’ll tell you a good story. I remember going to go hunting some time around ’89. Mickey Ned had just taken over training Kerry. I was back in Glenbeigh and Bart Moriarty would pick me up on the way back from the hunting.
I remember standing at the gate and this car came back the road, kind of blowing smoke a bit out the exhaust. Went past me for the best part of a 100 yards and stopped. Next thing, this man got out and who was it only Mick O’Connell. I was leaning on a gate, back to the road, looking down into the rushes, waiting for Bart.
So O’Connell comes over to me and we’re talking for a few minutes, the two of us looking down into the rushes. It would have been some picture if anyone got the shot. He was talking about how the game was changing and he was never fond of the hand-pass.
“It’s like this,” he said. “If you can’t catch and kick, you can’t play Gaelic football! That’s the bottom line.” And, next thing, he was off up the road again, running. To him, they were the basics of the game. And he’s dead right.
As Dwyer used often say to us, “Nobody can run faster than the ball”.
Tomás: I told a couple of lads I was doing this interview and they told me to ask if you used go over to Dwyer’s dancehall and would you get the milkman to bring you home?
Jacko: When I was a Kerry minor, do you know where I was working? Back in Fitzgerald’s in Feothanach. I bottle-fed Siún Nic Gearailt (RTÉ/TG4 newsreader) inside in the pub. To be honest, I never drank in my life until ’75. Never tasted a drink.
But I was back in Feohanagh, working with a company called Kerry Heating. And we were staying in this little house next to the pub. Like we worked in the factory, we worked in houses in the town. We couldn’t get out of the place. We were back there for six or eight months.
So the night of the All-Ireland in ’75 was the first time I ever drank, after winning with the minors. I was Mick O’Connell then, the bees’ knees. I was wild of course, f*****g long hair, the usual craic. I remember it was bottles of Harp we had, a crate of Harp to be fair. Then I was brought on to the under-21 team, O’Dwyer in charge of them. They brought me in after the Munster final. So I was full-forward on both the minor and under-21 teams in ’75.
And I was drinking from September ’75 to January ’77. That’s when I went off it. Like, if we were having a drink together, we were having five drinks, according to everybody. I was earning 13 or 14 quid a week in my summer job, so I couldn’t afford to be drinking that much. It was always exaggerated.
Because you were in the limelight, it was always, “Sure he’s mad drinking!”
But it wasn’t so much drink as being wild, letting yourself (go), having the craic. Like a fella could drink ten pints and be quiet. But if you got one drink, you took it as an excuse to go mad like.
So I never drank from January 7, 1977 to the end of my career.
Tomás: Are you saying there was no actual tipping point?
Jacko: Well, I’ll never forget the night of the ’76 All-Ireland final. I’d been part of the extended senior panel that year but wasn’t togged that day against Dublin. But I was out in the Grand (Hotel) in Malahide with the team afterwards, everyone drowning their sorrows. And didn’t Deenihan and Johnno corner me in the bar.
And they said to me “Jacko ’tis time for you to get your act together now because we’re going to need you next year to break these f*****g Dubs!”
I’ll never forget it. Two serious men taking the time to mark my card. For all the drink flowing that evening, their words never left me. T’was three months after that, I packed it in.
Tomás: So you didn’t even drink when Kerry went on those famous world tours?
Jacko: World tours, All-Stars tours, everywhere . . . it never entered my head after that. I could get on with anybody. I remember the night I gave up the drink, there was a function in Cahirciveen. I said to my father, “I’m going to get drunk tonight and that’s it! I’m giving it up!”
I never touched a drop after that. Played with some of the greatest players of all time, who were probably some of the greatest socialisers of all time, but it never entered my head after that. Like I remember going on the All-Star tour in ’82, Páidí, Mikey, ‘Bomber’, myself and (John) Egan.
It was the first time in five years we hadn’t won the All-Ireland, but we were All-Stars. I remember getting to New York and the boys saying to me, “Jacko, you take care of our suitcases!” They wouldn’t even wait for the bus to bring us in to the city. They were gone. And like they could spend five or six days at it, day and night. From nightclub to hotel to pub to nightclub again. Could do it six days on the trot.
I was the only Kerry man on the tour not drinking and I’d totally do my own thing. I used love it. Like I think it was very important for me at that time. I came to Dublin in ’78, so I continued to play club football for another eight years in Kerry. At worst, I was up and down every second weekend to play club games.
Like I used leave Leixlip, drive to Cahirciveen, play a club game and drive back.
Tomás: Do you look back and think that cost you anything in terms of your life?
Jacko: It didn’t really. Like I loved it so much and playing for your own people is something special. Like I know you transferred to Nemo, but I doubt you got the same kick with Nemo you got with the boys back home.
Like I was living in Leixlip, but I wasn’t involved with Leixlip. It was basically just a home. I had very few ties there at the time because I was on the road so much between training two or three nights a week in Dublin, then travelling home at the weekends. So I had no community spirit out of Leixlip.
Like when I look back on it now, I wonder was it crazy. But I wouldn’t do it any differently now. I used train in Dublin Tuesday and Thursday night under Mícheál (ó Muircheartaigh). When I eventually transferred to Leixlip, we used have a club game on a Monday night and that suited brilliantly.
I would only go down to train with the lads in Kerry maybe a week before a semi-final or a week before the All-Ireland. I’d take the week off and go down for that week. Dwyer would probably train us four nights that week.
Tomás: Looking back, do you think you’d have had the career you had if you hadn’t given up the pints?
Jacko: Probably not. I was doing so much travelling, up and down to Cahirciveen to play for the club, you just couldn’t afford to be taking the few pints. I think I got longevity out of my career by not drinking.
And the trips abroad, you actually got to see a lot more when you weren’t drinking. And I never felt that I had to be drinking to mix with the lads. I was always very comfortable in their company. So it never bothered me.
Tomás: Who could you push yourself against when training in Dublin?
Jacko: You had the likes of Mick Spillane who was as good a runner as anybody. Then we had Ciarán Murray from Monaghan, a fantastic athlete. We had Tomás Ó Flatharta who could run forever. You had fellas from Mayo like Dermot Flanagan and Kevin McStay. Charlie (Nelligan) was in Dublin at the time; Pat McCarthy, Paudie O’Mahony. Joe Brolly trained with us.
He wouldn’t train unless he had the ball!
Like we had serious athletes in that group, but the goalkeepers – Charlie and Paudie – did as much as us. Like if Paudie saw you lagging behind, he’d drive you.
We had about 15 training under Micheál most nights. Some phenomenal athletes and there was a huge competitiveness there. Like I was never lax in anything I did. I think I missed one match for Kerry in 17 years between league and championship and that was against Clare. I could actually have played, but I got a bang on the back the week before and they didn’t play me because they knew we’d take care of Clare. And the Munster final would be three weeks later.
I played all challenge games, everything. Every opening of a pitch, no matter where it was. And I never did it half-heartedly. If I lost a club match, it would kill me. It got to me. I’d be thinking about a loss for a good while after, thinking what could we have done differently.
Then I transferred to Leixlip and the big problem I had was that it didn’t matter whether they won or lost. You were still the same. And I found that hard. Losing had to f*****g hurt me.
Other people mightn’t see that hurt, but it was there.
Tomás: Was ’82 the worst defeat in that regard, or was it the following year and Tadhg Murphy’s goal for Cork?
Jacko: Well, I was captain in ’83 and I scored two goals and two or three points in that game and, with a minute to go, I was nearly getting my speech ready to go up. Dinny Allen picked the ball clean off the ground that day, a bit like the (Seamus) Darby situation the year before and the push.
Like in ’82, I was involved in the county final the week after and I think that kind of got me out of it. Offaly were a very, very good team, but – to me – we were better and shouldn’t have let it slip from where we were. But you have to use these things.
Like we were well on top of Cork in ’83 as well and they got a couple of goals at vital times. But that can happen in sport. You learn.
I think we only really proved how good a team we were when we came back after that to win the next three All-Irelands. Like we lost two championship games from ’78 to ’86 and we lost both of them by a point to last-minute goals. That’s a phenomenal record.
The team had a way of dealing with everything as individuals. But we had this deep pride and comradeship when we were together, instilled in us by Dwyer.
I used love going training with the lads in Kerry. We might as well have landed on the moon we were so much in our own space. Our training games were so competitive.
I remember there was fierce flaking going on one night, Páidí on (Pat) Spillane, knocking lumps out of one another. T’was savage now. And I remember Dwyer turning to me “Jesus, I better stop this now or somebody’s going to get hurt!”
And Dwyer back then would never blow the whistle. You’d need the head taken off you to get a free.
Tomás: But I’m sure you’d come away after thinking, “That was good!”
Jacko: God you would. I remember in ’84, Aidan was being baptised in Glenbeigh at midday and at six that evening, I played a challenge game against Galway, opening a pitch. The same day, a Kerry team played Dublin in Annauscaul.
Myself and Deenihan I think were the only two regular starters that went to Galway. That would have been the first game for fellas like Tom Spillane, Timmy Dowd, John Kennedy and Ger Lynch. And we actually beat Galway with a second-string team, nearly third-string really. Then a week before the Munster final, they put the team that played in Annauscaul against the team that played in Galway.
And I only found out afterwards that the boys were gunning for me. I was picking up Seánie (Walsh), but every time I went for the ball they were going to take me down. I only found this out afterwards. But there was serious skelping that day. It was one of the toughest pitch-openings I ever played in. T’was a phenomenal game and they only barely beat us.
Tomás: When ye won that first three-in-a-row, did ye feel a bit like the Harlem Globetrotters travelling the country for league games?
Jacko: We never took the league seriously. We never trained from September to March, remember. We’d just come together for games. But when we trained, t’was always serious.
Like Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh was a real father figure to me when I came to Dublin first. I think it was Ger McKenna who had first asked him to look after the Dublin-based players. Like in ’75, I came to Dublin on an ANCO course in Glasnevin. I was staying in Phibsboro.
The seniors would have been training in St Pat’s at the time and Micheál would pick me up to join them. And all he’d have me doing for the night was kicking frees.
After that, I had Micheál for 17 years and, psychologically, he was so good for me. He’d always be, “Jacko, I’ve never seen you in better shape!”
But we never stayed overnight for league games back then. You could be playing in Armagh and it was basically head up that morning. The only overnights would be for an All-Ireland semi-final or final.
Tomás: Is it gone too serious now? Is there something lacking today?
Jacko: There is. Nowadays it’s all meetings. Three days before a game, you’re analysing teams. When we had a team meeting, we never mentioned the opposition. I know my attitude going onto the pitch was that I was going to mark nobody. They were going to have to mark me.
League games? Just get your boots out of the bag and play. Even before a league final, we wouldn’t have a single session.
Tomás: Was it hard slipping into a lean period after that second three-in-a-row in ’86?
Jacko: It was, because I was there for another six years. We only won one Munster title in that time. Cork came strong and we were in transition.
Tomás: Did that make you cranky?
Jacko: No, it didn’t. Sure what was there to be cranky about? It just made you appreciate the victories more and there were still great characters coming in. The Breens, the Flahertys, Maurice (Fitzgerald) came in.
It still meant a lot to me to be playing in Munster finals. The greatest thrill I ever felt I could get was walking behind the band. I was able to handle the occasion. Like your uncle Páidí would be white before a big game. (John) Egan would be just reading the paper. I used go up to a corner of the Hogan Stand, watch the minor match and it would be nearly over before you’d go back down.
Like Páidí would come into the dressing-room and he’d f**k the gear bag across into the corner where he’d be due to sit. He’d strip off then, balls naked. Paudie Lynch would be fierce nervous too, but he was hard to read.
Páidí? He showed it all. They’d give us these black, slip-on shoes for the shower and Páidí would be in there, pounding a ball off the walls, wearing nothing but these shoes. Dwyer would look over at me and wink.
I was always nearly the last to get a rub before going out. I just wanted a bare little go. But I could switch right on then maybe 10 minutes before the match.
Like t’was unique to play on that team. You probably felt the same in 2000. You never had to look over your shoulder wondering was ‘The Gooch’ (Colm Cooper) going to do it that day or Darragh (Ó Sé). You knew they were going to do it.
Tomás: Micko is seen as a national treasure today, but he was a hard task-master too. Did you ever fall out with him?
Jacko: Never, but I’ll give you a laugh about that. We were playing Donegal in a league game in Tralee one day, winning by two points coming towards the end. I put a ball in to ‘Bomber’, but it’s intercepted and they break up the field to score a winning goal.
Afterwards, I’m walking in to the dressing-room and I see ‘Bomber’ in conversation with Dwyer. And all I hear is Micko saying “Don’t worry, I’ll sort that fella out!”
Sure wasn’t ‘Bomber’ blaming me for the quality of ball I put in. We’re up in Armagh the next Sunday and doesn’t Micko drop me. I’m fit to be tied now. Anyway, we’re soon in trouble above and Micko turns to tell me to start warming up.
And I go, “No, you’re grand there, sure you might as well stick with the team you selected!”
I can still see him wheeling around to his selectors, a shocked look on his face. “Jesus Christ, did ye hear what he’s after saying to me!” he says.
Anyway, I was back on the team the next day and we never spoke about it again. At least not until one day last year on the golf course. Micko turns to me and says, “We only fell out the once!”
And I looked at him, grinning. “Micko,” I said, “you’re wrong there, we never fell out at all!”
Tomás: Did his selectors have much input?
Jacko: They did. I suppose the biggest example of that was when I transferred to Leixlip. They were a junior team and they were put up senior straight away without winning anything. Just because of me joining them.
Sure my first club match in Leixlip, there was about five and a half thousand people at it. Then we got to the county final against Sarsfields in ’86 when I was trainer and the Kildare county board fixed the county final for the week before the All-Ireland.
Sarsfields had about nine county fellas on their team and we were about five points down in the second half and I couldn’t stick it any longer. F****d off the tracksuit. Went in and we got the game back to a point.
I think we’d have beaten them if I was in from the beginning.
Following Tuesday night, the Kerry team was being picked. (Tim) Kennelly was a selector; Joe Keohane; Dwyer. Two of the selectors wanted to drop me and I heard from a very good source that Keohane stood up and said, “If he doesn’t play, I’m not going to the final!”
Then as luck would have it, I got a bad flu that Wednesday night. Spent three nights in bed with a fierce high temperature. Up to an hour before the game, I wasn’t sure if I was going to play or not. I played anyway and hit the crossbar with a penalty early in the game. Tyrone had a great chance of beating us that day. But that was the closest I got to being dropped for championship!
Tomás: Could you sense the end coming for that team at the time?
Jacko: I could see that a lot of the physical strength of the team was gone. From ’78 to ’86, the physical stats would have been phenomenal. They were huge, powerful men. But you could see the game was changing. (Larry) Tompkins and (Shea) Fahy switching to Cork was a huge factor.
I don’t think Cork would have won anything without those two. They changed the whole scene in Munster.
Like I always felt it was such a privilege to be a part of that great Kerry team, I couldn’t begrudge anybody else their time. Dwyer’s greatest attribute was his man-management. Everybody was trained differently. I used dread going down the first night because I knew he’d kill me.
One night, he made me do four wire-to-wires without stopping. And he put Johnno, Ger Power, Ogie (Moran) and then ‘Bomber’ in with me for each one. Like Johnno was the greatest athlete I ever togged out alongside. Powery and Ogie were like lightning. But even ‘Bomber’ was quick you know too, and he was fierce competitive in training.
I remember hitting the wire at the end and I had no oxygen. But I wouldn’t let Dwyer see that. Wouldn’t give in. He was setting me a test and, once I passed it, he was happy. That was the mentality.
Tomás: Who was the toughest opponent you came across?
Jacko: I’d say (Brian) Mullins. He was tough as nails. He wasn’t fast, he was just dogged. A fierce competitor, he’d do anything to win. But I came across some great footballers in the Railway Cup too. Peter McGinnity of Fermanagh, one of the best I ever saw. Eugene McKenna was a great footballer, he was like a seagull going up for the ball. He could hang in the air like Darragh.
Hugo Clerkin I always found a difficult man to play against. He was a real man there to do a job. Like (Gerry) McEntee was tough. You earned your oats against these fellas.
But probably the midfielder I learned most from playing against was Paudie Lynch. Pound for pound, he was some footballer. He had a brilliant knack of giving you this little nudge with his hip just as you were arriving at the ball.
Basically you had to learn to come in late against him. But if you got a full body hit off Paudie Lynch or Páidí ó Sé, I swear t’was like hitting off a wall.
Tomás: How do you think your team would fare if ye had a crack off today’s five-in-a-row Dubs?
Jacko: I think if we put in the amount of time training they have done, we’d have a good go at them. I’d have no fears. The movement and fluidity of our team when they were on song, the kicking, the catching, like could you question me when I say some of our lads would have been on any team that ever played?
Tomás: What’s your view on today’s Kerry team? David Hickey recently referred to them as “a shower of bluffers”. Does he have a point? Are we too easy to score against?
Jacko: We’re physically too light in defence. Like Dublin have James McCarthy, John Small, Philly McMahon, Jonny Cooper, tough men. We’re too nice. You know what your team had Tomás? Ye had (Paul) Galvin, Declan (O’Sullivan) and Donnchadh Walsh. If a fella passed them out, he’d know all about it.
Same with our team – Ogie, (Pat) Spillane, they’d put the runner under so much pressure. I think Kerry will come, given the ability of fellas like Seánie O’Shea and David Clifford, two fabulous players. But they’re not going to win it on their own.
Like ye had (Mike) McCarthy, yourself, Tom Sullivan, Marc (Ó Sé), Seamus Moynihan. Solid men. My last game for Kerry was Seamo’s first. A serious player with a great attitude. He always wanted to learn.
Tomás: Last question is about your time as Mayo manager. Did you go into that too soon?
Jacko: I don’t regret doing it but, yes, it might be a regret that I went in that bit too quick after finishing playing. But when you’ve been involved for so long, I suppose you want to keep involved. I inherited a Mayo team that had been around for quite a while and I suppose I kind of went with what I had.
We won the Connacht title, but got hammered by Cork then in the All-Ireland semi-final. The second year, I’d decided I needed to unearth some new players. So you had the likes of Kevin O’Neill and Kevin Cahill, Kenneth Mortimer, Ronan Goulding, Ciarán McDonald and James Nallen.
Then, of course, Leitrim beat us in the Connacht final and that didn’t go down too well. I just felt I needed a bit more time. But one thing that was rewarding for me would be that nine or ten of those players that I brought in would have subsequently played in All-Ireland finals for Mayo. They were good young players and I just needed more time with them. But I didn’t get it.