Jack O’Connor’s Kildare exit puts cat among Kerry pigeons

Kingdom currently getting ready to make a managerial appointment for next year

Could Jack O’Connor be set for a return to Kerry after leaving his role with Kildare. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Could Jack O’Connor be set for a return to Kerry after leaving his role with Kildare. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Jack O’Connor’s announcement on Monday morning that he was leaving the Kildare manager’s position after two years of a three-year appointment set the cat among the pigeons in Kerry, as the county gets ready to decide on a managerial appointment for next year.

The former All-Ireland winning manager cited the length of the commute from South Kerry to Newbridge as a primary factor even though indications were that he was to stay on, just over two weeks ago.

A statement from Kildare said that “he and his management team were at an advanced stage of planning for 2022 but he has now decided not to stay on for a third year.”

Kildare chair Mick Gorman added: “We hold Jack in the highest esteem and the impact of his experience, influence and commitment as a manager will leave a lasting impression. We wish Jack the very best of luck in his future endeavours. He will always be welcome here in Kildare.”

Outgoing manager Peter Keane’s tenure as Kerry manager ended with the All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Tyrone and he has been given time to think about his future and whether he wants to apply for a further term in charge.

The first sign that O’Connor might be interested in what would be a third spell in charge of Kerry came in the ‘The Irish Examiner’ football podcast a week previously when he told Paul Rouse: “That team has to win an All-Ireland. That team has to win maybe a couple of All-Irelands. That brings its own pressure but it’s a great environment to be coaching in.”

Having signalled that the Kerry job had his interest, this latest development indicates his potential availability.

O’Connor has been the most successful manager of the post-Mick O’Dwyer era in Kerry, landing three senior All-Irelands in 2004, ‘06 and ‘09. He also added a couple of minor All-Irelands in the course of which he would have worked with a number of the current Kerry panel.

“This was a very difficult decision for me and one that I agonised over during the past few weeks. I have been made feel very welcome during my time in Kildare and I have worked with some great people up here.”

The vacancy is unlikely to be decided for a few weeks, as Keane will need to indicate his position shortly and after that a process will be agreed for the appointment with a sub-committee likely to be tasked with surveying the candidates and recommending one to the county.

There aren’t a vast number of declared candidates. There is a question over whether Keane’s predecessor, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, who led Kerry to the 2014 All-Ireland, would want this swift a return to duty. He’s only out of the position three years and is currently principal of Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne in Dingle and has a young family.

In Kildare, Davy Burke, who managed the 2018 All-Ireland winning under-20s and recently stepped down as Wicklow manager having kept the county in Division Three, is considered a likely front runner to succeed O’Connor.

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