Tomás Ó Sé expects Kerry and Derry to bounce back from defeats to Dublin

The former Kerry defender thinks the Oak Leaf men could be on the verge of something special

EirGrid GAA Football U20 Championship launch
In attendance at the launch of the 2024 EirGrid All-Ireland U20 Football Championship are Kerry U20 manager, Tomás Ó Sé (right); newly appointed Dublin U20 manager, Ciaran Farrelly (left); and Kildare U20 captain, Niall Dolan Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile (Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

KERRY great Tomás Ó Sé says Derry have the capacity to do ‘something special’ under Mickey Harte this summer.

Ó Sé was part of Kerry sides that lost All-Ireland finals to Harte managed Tyrone teams in 2005 and 2008.

He said that Sam Maguire Cup holders Dublin ‘flexed their muscle’ recently when they beat both Derry and Kerry, their two closest rivals in his opinion, comfortably in Division One.

But the current Kerry U20 boss predicted that both Derry and the Kingdom will be much improved when the Championship comes around.

He said that in Derry’s case, the back-to-back Ulster champions have earned the right to feel that nothing short of an All-Ireland win will suffice.

“I think Kerry and Derry will be different come the summer, I think Mickey Harte is, last year when you looked at Derry, you’d see the same players starting and finishing games and then one, two or three of the same subs coming in all the time,” said Ó Sé at the launch of the EirGrid 2024 All-Ireland U20 Football Championship.

“I think what Mickey has tried to do is use a lot more players this year and I think that’s what he’ll be trying to do if Derry are to make that step and it’s a great sign for them.

“Look, nothing but an All-Ireland would please them now, that’s how far they have come. That’s not looking down on Ulster or anything like that, the reality is that this Derry team has the capability of something special.”

Despite that, Ó Sé feels that Dublin still fired a couple of significant warning shots by beating Kerry and Derry with plenty to spare in rounds four and five of the League.

“I just think that in the space of a week, and fellas can say, ‘Derry were shy of players, it’s the League’ and I do buy all of that but don’t tell me Kerry went up to Croke Park to let what happened to them happen, or Derry in Celtic Park either,” said Ó Sé.

“Dublin are going well at the moment and they flexed their muscle in a week and blew the two teams that probably are closest to them out of the water. That’s not to say it’s going to happen again during the summer but at the same time they probably got inside their heads a little bit for sure.”

Ó Sé said that his native Kerry have a couple of key areas to focus on before they can even start thinking about beating Dublin.

The first is the ankle injury suffered by full-back Jason Foley against Roscommon. Boss Jack O’Connor is awaiting a full diagnosis but he will miss Sunday’s round-seven tie against Galway and, if they make it, a League final.

“When people mention key players in Kerry, they always mention the Cliffords, Seanie O’Shea and Diarmuid O’Connor but he (Foley) is the guy who puts out the fires at the back and he is vital to them,” said Ó Sé.

“Jason Foley is an outstanding player but if Kerry have any ambitions of winning All-Irelands, they must have enough defenders in there to provide cover until they get him back. And look, they are not talking about him being out for the full season or anything like that.”

The other problem area for Kerry is at midfield where boss O’Connor is still trying to find like-for-like replacements for David Moran (retired) and Jack Barry (travelling). Joe O’Connor has started all six League games so far but is relatively untested in the Championship, while Diarmuid O’Connor and Barry Dan O’Sullivan are the other possibilities.

“What I find is, Kerry will get away with it against nearly every team in the country and it will only come to light whenever they come up against the top two or three teams in the later stages of the Championship,” said Ó Sé.

“But I think that if they do progress through the Championship, it will be an area where other teams will look at.”

On the U20 front, Kerry boss Ó Sé said he isn’t a fan of the scheduling of the competition.

“I can’t see why they can’t run this competition in line with the senior competition,” he said.

“I think it’s silly when it’s run so early in the season because you’re trying to get panels and squads together and you’ve colleges’ football, schools’ football, it’s smack bang in the middle of their exams and Freshers stuff.

“It’s a juggling act, they play the games midweek on a Wednesday so we’ll have lads in Dublin, Cork Limerick, they’ll be coming from everywhere. I just think it would flow a lot better in the middle of the summer. Let it off at that stage, with their exams over and finished with and give them a break.”