New Kerry boss Jack O’Connor has rubbished claims that he was already guaranteed the Kingdom job again when he quit as Kildare manager last month just days after admitting interest in a return to his former role with his native county in a podcast.
Pundits rounded on O’Connor when he was appointed to the Kerry position for a third time after Peter Keane’s three-year deal came to an end but, speaking for the first time since his return, the Dromid man rejected the claims of a done deal.
Speaking at a media briefing in Tralee, O’Connor insisted, “Look, I enjoyed my time in Kildare and had a great two years up there. I was glad of the opportunity to get back into inter-county management with them and I want to thank them for that. The players, the backroom team and the county board were fantastic to work with even though the nine-hour round journey to Newbridge was tough going. My two sons were up there which gave me an incentive to go up.
“I left because my management team had basically broken up. When I weighed it all up I didn’t have the energy to continue in Kildare.
“The people that mattered to me, the county board and the players, knew that I was struggling to commit for another season.”
Asked about the Kerry appointment process, O’Connor stressed, “There was a five-man committee that deemed me the best candidate. It hadn’t a whole lot to do with me and it was out of my control.
“The chairman addressed those matters with the delegates at the meeting last Monday night. He covered it comprehensively and as far as I’m concerned I just want to move on and begin the real work. There is a big job to be done and I’m looking forward to getting ahead with that.
“I’m busy at the moment trying to organize a backroom team and a few other things, so that’s my focus. I’m looking forward to meeting the players, talking to them and getting feedback from them on how we go forward.”
With Kerry fans confident that O’Connor can deliver a fourth All-Ireland to the Kingdom as manager, he insisted, “I’m well aware of the expectations, I’ve been there before. There’s always pressure in Kerry. I’m prepared to live with that. There are no certainties in life, no guarantees that Kerry will win an All-Ireland but if you don’t take chances in life you’ll never get anywhere.
“I’m retired from the teaching post; I’ve a good bit of time on my hands, a good bit of energy and the interest. I see it as a big challenge working with lads I had as minors in 2014 and 2015 and seeing can we get that ultimate success at senior level.
“Kerry will always have a certain style of playing. Johnny Culloty said when he was involved with me in 2004, ‘Jack, not only have you to win in Kerry, but you have to win in style.’”
*This report first appeared in the October 13 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.
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