Kerry's class attacking acts, league ambitions under Jack and injury battles

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THREE GAMES IN to the third coming of Jack O’Connor and it’s smooth sailing so far in the return to the Kerry hotseat.

Top of Division 1 of the league. Still unbeaten. The potentially awkward assignment in Newbridge, given his personal history with Kildare, negotiated with a draw claimed.

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Dublin defeated at home on a wild night in Tralee. Donegal dealt with comfortably yesterday on an afternoon of weather turbulence in Killarney.

In O’Connor’s previous two spells as manager, he began with a National League title in the opening season (2004 and 2009).

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What are Kerry’s current motives surrounding the competition?

“Look we’ll assess it this week, it’s not a huge priority to win the league or anything like that,” said O’Connor.

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“But if we can experiment a bit and win a few matches that’s basically it. Very tough (conditions) but our fellas showed a good attitude and adapted well to it. The goal was important because it just gave us the breathing space to be able to play with a bit of freedom and confidence then.”

The manner in which Kerry closed out this game pleased O’Connor. A fortnight ago they only posted a single point when facing the second-half wind against Dublin. They didn’t retreat into their shell in a similar fashion yesterday, closing the match down, and indeed outscored Donegal 1-4 to 0-5 in that time frame.

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Kerry's class attacking acts, league ambitions under Jack and injury battles
© James Crombie Jack O’Connor and Patrick McBrearty.

“We probably got too defensive against Dublin and didn’t push on. We knew at half-time we’d have to score because seven points (as a lead) was never going to be enough and it was very pleasing that we scored the 1-4 into that gale.”

O’Connor praised the ‘fantastic attitude’ of Adrian Spillane and the emergence of defensive newcomer Dan O’Donoghue.

“There’s plenty of football in Dan. He can play it both ways, he can mark a man and he can play ball, so it’s great for im and we’re delighted.”

Kerry's class attacking acts, league ambitions under Jack and injury battles
© James Crombie Ryan McHugh and Dan O’Donoghue.

But on a day consisting of some humdrum fare, it was the contributions of Sean O’Shea and David Clifford that were most valuable. Clifford’s presence on the pitch after his second-half arrival boosted Kerry. He finished with 1-1, albeit his goal stemmed from Shaun Patton fumbling a shot that looked straightforward to take care of.

O’Shea eclipsed him with 0-7, dazzled throughout and back in his customary berth of centre-forward, seems at home in directing attacking operations.

Last August the pair scored 0-16 out of Kerry’s 0-22 tally against Tyrone, they remain absolutely critical to the county’s hopes.

“Obviously David gave us a great lift when he came in. He’s fine, he’s played a lot of games in the last three or four weeks and it was great to be able to bring him on there.

“Seanie had a great second half. Great leader and he kicked some savage scores today, including a sideline in the first half, when scores were hard to get. So he’s playing great football and probably back in his best position, which is good for him.”

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On the injury front, Gavin White (hamstring) and Mike Breen (leg tendon) continue their recovery, while David Moran, Stefan Okunbor and Joseph O’Connor are others that are a few weeks away from a comeback.

It has been a fractured start to the year in terms of preparation with the club campaigns of Austin Stacks and Na Gaeil, along with the Sigerson Cup involvement of UL and MTU Kerry, particularly pertinent for Kerry.

All the football focus is on Kingdom matters now for their players. Monaghan, Armagh and Tyrone await before the end of March, then they will face Cork in Munster on 7 May.

“Training has been a bit disjointed, there’s times when we have been missing seven or eight players and then you have a few injuries on top of that, so our panel has been pretty stretched, but hopefully it will settle down.

“We may use more of the panel in the next couple of games to try and get as many fellas as possible up to speed. We’ve a tough game next week above in Monaghan and it’s a place where you will find out a lot about people and players.

“Can they handle that kind of atmosphere? Monaghan are going to be fighting for their lives for points, they were very good (Saturday) night against Armagh.”

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