KERRY’S Jack O’Connor insists that last weekend’s win over Tyrone will not lead to his team partially focusing on Clare this Saturday evening. While Clare haven’t played a competitive match since losing the Munster final (3-16 to 0-13) to Cork on July 8, Kerry have racked up consecutive qualifier wins over Westmeath and Tyrone. Beating Tyrone in Killarney last Saturday evening resonated deeply with Kerry, who were beaten in the 2005 and 2008 All-Ireland finals by Tyrone.
“We’ve a lot of work put in all year and it’s good to finally see our work coming together. But from Monday on, our thoughts have been on Clare and that’s where they will remain for the rest of the week. The time to be looking back at the Tyrone game is later on in the year, if we get time. But for now certainly our two eyes are on Clare,” O’Connor told The Clare Champion on Tuesday.
The three-times All-Ireland winning Kerry manager has enough experience of playing All-Ireland qualifier football to know that one poor display can evict a county from the championship.
“We realise at this stage that every game is knock-out, so there is no point in playing well last weekend and dropping our guard this weekend. I don’t think there’s any danger of that because we know that unless we’re tuned in, our performance levels drop. We know that from the previous week against Westmeath. We were well below standard. Our intention is to be well tuned in for the game and hopefully give a good account of ourselves,” the South Kerry man stated.
“You’d be hoping that fellas can put the Tyrone game behind them because I know the kind of spirit they have in Clare. I played a bit of football with the Clare lads over in New York in the 1980s and they were very spirited lads, who always gave 100%. I’m certain that Micheál McDermott and Liam McHale will have the Clare lads well prepared for the next evening and we’re expecting a big battle.
“We’re well aware that Clare have a lot of good players and have lads that played with Munster. Gary Brennan and David Tubridy are very good players and we’re well aware of that,” he stressed.
While acknowledging that Clare were well beaten by Cork in the Munster final, O’Connor insists that Limerick’s excellent, albeit losing, display against Kildare last Saturday indicates that Clare are a decent team.
“If you look at the form book, Clare beat Limerick and got into a Munster final. You saw what Limerick nearly did to Kildare last weekend, so the form lines for Clare are good. But for they [Clare] conceding a couple of soft goals to Cork, they were well in that game as well.
“We know that Clare, if they get a good day, can trouble the best of teams. That’s the big challenge for us; to be as up for the game next weekend as we were last weekend and that’s what we’ll be endeavouring to do,” he maintained.
What is helping O’Connor this week and last is the fact that Kerry are match sharp. Saturday’s game will be their third championship game in successive weeks.
“Our fellas are enjoying their football at the moment because we’re out for the third weekend in-a-row and that’s what players want. They get tired of training and going through the same routine.
“They like to get on with matches and this is another new challenge for us, travelling away to The Gaelic Grounds, which is a good pitch.
“We had great Kerry support up in Mullingar two weekends ago, so we hope a good crowd will go this time because it’s not a huge distance, especially for the North Kerry supporters,” he noted.