Darran O’Sullivan repays Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s faith and more than justifies his selection
Forward does want to be more than just an impact sub
Kerry’s Darran O’Sullivan takes on Paudie Kissane of Cork during the Munster SFC final. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
There are lots of good reasons to spend the summer in Kerry, especially with weather like this. Banna resembled Waikiki at lunchtime yesterday – the sunshine and crowds and gentle surf – and over at Glenbeigh the late afternoon heat had to be felt to be believed.
It was here that Darran O’Sullivan dipped his legs into the cool Atlantic, still the perfect post-match recovery, especially after Sunday’s Munster football final played in a sweltering Fitzgerald Stadium.
But O’Sullivan is not spending the summer in Kerry for the fun of it. Just turned 27, and having played a part in every one of Kerry’s championship matches for the past eight seasons, O’Sullivan had recently earned a reputation for being the courageous impact sub – and he didn’t exactly like it.
Being based in Dublin didn’t help, he felt. He went back to college last September, starting a marketing degree at DIT, having been formerly employed by Ulster Bank.
He shared an apartment in Dublin with fellow forward Donnchadh Walsh, and although they travelled back to Kerry for one session a week during the league, it wasn’t the same as being there for every session. O’Sullivan felt his absence was playing against him.
So, with college out for the summer, O’Sullivan returned to Glenbeigh, and with that was available for all of Kerry’s training sessions. He didn’t start against Tipperary or Waterford, but then provided all the talk when manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice selected him to start against Cork last Sunday, ahead of Kieran Donaghy.
Secure starting place
O’Sullivan fully justified his selection by helping steer Kerry into a comfortable half-time advantage, his point on 23 minutes typically opportunistic. It turned out to be a lot closer in the end than Kerry, and indeed Cork, expected, and yet O’Sullivan looks to have done enough to secure his starting place, although lots can change in the four-week countdown to their All-Ireland quarter-final.
“Yeah I’ve only moved home in the last five or six weeks, so it’s my first run at training without missing anything,” he says. “I think I’m finally feeling the rewards of putting the hard work in the last couple of weeks. I’m feeling good and I’m sure a few of the boys are looking and feeling good at the moment as well.
“But being at home definitely helps, of course. The first two games, I kind of knew coming down, I wasn’t going to be on the team. So I just put my head down and luckily enough he stuck his neck out and took his chance on me, and it’s worked out so far.”
Yet Fitzmaurice and all the Kerry team were left with plenty to ponder after Sunday’s game, and how Cork got it back to 1-16 to 0-17, when Kerry were up by nine points on 46 minutes.
“At times we moved the ball well but there’s a lot of stuff we have to work on yet. When we moved the ball quick like that it’s a good game to play as a forward. But Cork will always be hard-fought, they are one of the top teams in the country. They have been for the last 10 or so years, and they were always going to have a purple patch.
‘Enjoy the success’
“But the plan was to win the Munster Championship, three games at home and get to Croke Park. That’s done now, so we’ll enjoy the success for a few days and move on next week.
“When you see a team come back, you’re going to find the negatives that you let them back into it. But the positive is we stood up and fought away until the end, and we finished fairly strongly.”
The four-week break affords Kerry the chance to work on their own game, given they won’t know for a couple more weeks yet who exactly they’re facing. “You can only really worry about yourselves. There’s the county championship next week, that’s a week gone. But we’ve normally timed it fairly well going into Croke Park. We’re just hoping we’re on an upward curve and there’s more to come from us.”