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O Se optimistic for Fitzmaurice's Kingdom reign

KERRY legend Tomas O Se has admitted that he almost retired from inter-county football after the Kingdom's exit at the hands of Donegal in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final.

However, a change in management helped convince the An Ghaeltacht man to stay on and he is looking forward to the upcoming campaign.

"I won't lie. I was questioning whether I was going back or not," O Se admitted at the launch of Newstalk's GAA championship coverage, ahead of Sunday's opener at home to Tipperary.

"It was disappointing last year again, the finish to it. When Eamonn (Fitzmaurice) came in, I was happy that it was freshened up, that the whole back-room team was freshened up.

"Very often when that happens – it happened us before with Pat O'Shea – it gives fellas a boost, so I liked that when I saw it and it swung it for me really.

"I had no problem at all. There was no conversation or anything like that. Eamonn asked me if I wanted a bit of time, but no, I went back early. It was straightforward enough."

The veteran admits that the game has changed dramatically since his early days with a huge emphasis now placed away from the team in possession.

"What you do off the ball and when you don't have the ball is nearly as important as what you do when you have the ball nowadays.

"We weren't emphasising enough on that and I think we weren't doing preparation into what we were doing when we didn't have the ball.

"You can't argue with the teams that have won the All-Ireland the last two or three years. Work-rate and attitude would be two areas.

"We are not happy with the way the last two or three years have gone. To be fair, we've had a great 10, 11, 12 years."

O Se is the country's longest-serving inter-county footballer following the recent retirements of Eamonn O'Hara and Dermot Earley, and on Sunday, he'll add to his appearances record when he lines out for the 84th time in championship.

At 35, it remains to be seen how much longer he will play on, but he can see some of his Kingdom team-mates surpassing his record.

"Even in the Kerry team alone I'd say there will be a few fellas there to push it along," he said. "Records are there to be broken so I wouldn't be holding out on it too long."

Irish Independent