Sunday 18 March 2018

O’Connor on full alert over Tipp transformation as Kingdom bid to repeat their Munster final heroics

Rival minor captains Mark O’Connor of Kerry and Tipperary’s Danny Owens will be hoping to get their hands on the Tom Markham Cup at Croke Park tomorrow
Rival minor captains Mark O’Connor of Kerry and Tipperary’s Danny Owens will be hoping to get their hands on the Tom Markham Cup at Croke Park tomorrow
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

If winning is a habit, then Kerry minor captain Mark O'Connor is addicted.

Tomorrow he'll go for a fourth All-Ireland medal in an 18-month period.

Having already won back-to-back Hogan Cup titles with Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne, he's looking to secure a small piece of history for himself and win a second successive All-Ireland minor title .

O'Connor is quick to point out that he's lucky. Lucky to come up with a freakishly good group in a school with numbers so small they shouldn't be able to compete, let alone win, at 'A' level, and lucky that when he was of age, Kerry produced their best minor teams in a generation.

And he's also fortunate that across those teams he was given the chance to work with some of the best minds in Kerry football in Jack O'Connor and Eamonn Fitzmaurice.

O'Connor has also been coached by the likes of Tommy Griffin and Declan O'Sullivan.

"To have fellas like Eamonn around the school. . . Even in school you'd see him on TV, at the games on the sidelines - to have him on our side is something special and no doubt it helped our development," says the Dingle star.

"We drive him mad sometimes I'd say. He got through it and he knew how to handle us. Eamonn knows nearly everything about the game and his knowledge is always expanding.

"He doesn't let emotions get in the way either. He is always keeping a rational mind. When he's watching a game, he never reacts to anything really, he's always thinking, similar to Jack, he does kind of see it like a chess table.

"It's great to work under him (Jack) and get the experience of such a classy manager. He is very easy to talk to as well. He's very hard working. He's just as dedicated as the players, and he's non-stop thinking."

Kerry have looked impressive on their run to the final with Cork providing the stiffest test to date when they brought O'Connor's side to extra-time.

They saw off tomorrow's opposition Tipperary in the Munster final when the Kingdom hit 2-6 in the opening 15 minutes to effectively close out the tie, O'Connor believes the Premier boys have improved since then.

"They are very disciplined and they made Kildare look very average at times in the semi-final, and we rated Kildare highly, after playing them in a challenge," he says. "So despite beating Tipp in the Munster final, we are going into the final with our eyes wide open.

"They are a different team, they can focus on football now that the hurling is finished, we know they are a very strong, physical team and we will not be getting cocky or complacent at all."

Irish Independent

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