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Kerry boss O'Connor not looking beyond Munster final meeting with Limerick

Kerry manager Jack O'Connor says his sole focus is on today's Munster final against Limerick in Killarney Picture: Philip Walsh.
Jason O'Connor

Munster SFC final: Kerry v Limerick (today, Fitzgerald Stadium, 3pm, live on RTÉ 2)

While there might be a general tendency for many in Kerry to look beyond today, manager Jack O’Connor certainly wasn’t falling into the trap of allowing his thoughts to stray further into the summer.

The Kingdom have only failed to win the Munster Senior Football Championship twice since 2010 and are currently the bookies’ favourites to lift Sam Maguire but O’Connor, who already has three All-Ireland titles to his name as Kerry manager, was giving today’s opponents Limerick every bit of

“My only ambition as of today is to win the Munster Championship on Saturday. How do you think Limerick would feel if I was answering questions about trying to win an All-Ireland today,” he said.

O’Connor knows well about Limerick from his previous two terms as Kingdom boss. In 2004, Kerry needed a dramatic late intervention from Darragh Ó Sé in catching three dangerous high balls under the posts in ensuring a draw in that year’s Munster Final at the Gaelic Grounds.

In 2010, Limerick made a strong comeback in the second half in Killarney before going down by 1-17 to 1-14 in the end.

The two Championship meetings between the sides in 2011 at Munster and All-Ireland level were the last time the two counties have faced each other at this level. O’Connor himself was in his second stint as Kerry boss that time.

“I cannot say I was following them (Limerick) very closely but I have seen a bit of them this year and you would have to say that Billy Lee is doing a great job with that group of players,” added O’Connor.

“They had a great League, reaching the final and getting promoted and now reaching a Munster final so they are in real bonus territory. I saw them against Tipperary and they are very energetic and very fit so they have nothing to lose coming to Killarney and we are expecting a good challenge from them,” he said.

Kerry will be without Dara Moynihan again today as his quad injury continues to cause problems. He has not played for the Kingdom since their Allianz League Final win over Mayo back in April. Both Stefan Okunbar and Daniel O’Donoghue have also been ruled out by O’Connor with their own injury troubles.

Meanwhile, it hasn’t been an easy road for Billy Lee and Limerick in getting back into a major GAA fixture like a provincial football final since he first took over the team in 2017.

After sealing promotion in the Allianz Football League Division Three, they will play Division Two football for the first time since 2007 next year.

However, Newcastle West clubman Lee is being realistic about a first Munster final appearance since 2010.

“Our priority is ourselves and getting ourselves right mentally and physically and it's as simple as that - the big thing is to be relaxed and focused. You can’t get too caught up in what it is about - it's just a game of football," stressed Lee.

“We’ve seen in the past, in Killarney especially, that when Kerry get goals they get momentum and the crowd behind them and the crowd wants to see them playing positive, attacking and free-flowing football. It’s like a tidal wave coming against a team at that point.

“We’ve got to be mindful of that. At the same time we have to back ourselves and believe in ourselves and attack the game and be positive. We’re here to enjoy it - I keep saying that to the lads, sport is to be enjoyed.

“If we go to Killarney to come up with a plan that’s going to be horrendous for the lads to enjoy it, they’re not going to be able to get to the pitch of it because they won’t be enjoying themselves. We’ve got to get the balance right. It can’t be all just worrying about what they’re going to do so we’ve got to focus on what we can do as well,” the Limerick boss said.

 

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