Jack O’Connor: ‘I think that I’m better able keep things in perspective now’

Returning Kerry manager believes his time with Kildare has improved him as a coach

New Kerry football manager Jack O'Connor has spoken about the pressures of the position and also how he believes he has improved as a manager in the nine years since he last held the position.

He said that his first term in 2004 had been the most stressful, as he was taking over from Páidí Ó Sé – a fully minted hero of Mick O’Dwyer’s golden age – even though he had been a selector with Ó Sé on All-Ireland winning teams in 1997 and 2000.

Since 2012, he has managed Kerry to minor All-Irelands and Kildare to promotion to Division One and a Leinster final. He was asked in what way he felt he would be a better manager.

“I think that I’m better able keep things in perspective now. I don’t take criticism as personally as I used to that time. I’m not saying that I like criticism, but I can deal better with it. I’d be a bit more thick-skinned than I used to be. And I now know the areas where you need to direct your energy.


“I think I was going into a lot of areas when I first became manager that really weren’t that productive from the point of view of helping the team or whatever. I don’t want to go into too much detail there, but you learn techniques over the years.

“There’s a saying that you get 80 per cent of your results from 20 per cent of your effort. And you need to know where to plug in to that effort. I’ve even found out in the last few years that you get ferocious gains from man-managing players, from spending time talking to players one-on-one.

“I would have done a good bit of that in Kildare and I feel it worked dividends. And I feel now that I have the time to spend doing that kind of work because it’s a tough environment, particularly in Kerry for players.

“There’s all kind of expectation and they have their own issues and sometimes just sitting down with somebody and letting them tell you what their issues are, suddenly you know them better as people. Not just players that you see three or four times a week.

“So I think I’ve a better perspective on things. I’ve a better handle on where to direct my energy to get the best results.”

His All-Ireland winning minors from 2014 and ’15 are now part of the senior panel. O’Connor was asked if bringing them through at senior All-Ireland level was a motivation.

“Sure of course, you’d love if you could close the circle by bringing lads from that age group right through and make seniors out of them and ultimately to try and manage them as seniors and win something with them.”

He also sees a value in the two years put in with Kildare and not just for the experience of working individually with players. Collectively, the team was operating in a very competitive environment and struggled in his first year before winning promotion back to Division One.

“I think it’s always good to go outside the county because you are experiencing different cultures and different ways of looking at the game. Kildare play their football in Division Two for the last couple of years where teams tend to set up very defensively.

“There is a great challenge in trying to break that down and trying to get your own game going at the same time. So I am delighted that I went outside the county for a couple of years and I learned a lot in Kildare and sometimes you have to go outside of your own place to really appreciate the game and the way its developing.”

On the subject of his likely panel for next season, O’Connor said that he would be keeping his eye on the club championships over the next two months both with a view to uncovering new players and checking the form of former panellists: the retired Peter Crowley was mentioned as was former Footballer of the Year James O’Donoghue, who stepped away from the county earlier this year.

During his previous tenure as manager, he persuaded Michael McCarthy to come out of retirement and won an All-Ireland with him in 2009. Had he a message for senior players like David Moran and Tommy Walsh, both veterans of his previous stint?

“Ah look, if I was giving them a message I’d be giving it to them privately.

“There’s a lot of club football to be played in Kerry between here and the middle of December. We’ll be on the lookout for players who can improve the squad. Are those players out there? I think there might be a couple out there. Are there more than a couple? That remains to be seen in the weeks ahead.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times