Sport

Small moment had a massive impact says Kerry manager Jack O'Connor

Kerry led by three points twice in the second half but couldn't force victory in the All-Ireland final. Picture: Philip Walsh
Kerry led by three points twice in the second half but couldn't force victory in the All-Ireland final. Picture: Philip Walsh Kerry led by three points twice in the second half but couldn't force victory in the All-Ireland final. Picture: Philip Walsh

IT will be a long winter in Kerry after a defeat like this.

Twice in the second half they led by three points and had the Sam Maguire in their hands but the Dubs refused to lie down and, when they got their noses in front in injury-time, they kept them there.

So Kerry’s two in-a-row dream was dashed and their manager Jack O’Connor understandably was bitterly disappointed.

“Ah look, it is never easy lose an All-Ireland final,” he said with a shovel of understatement.

“It is a tough one because I thought there were stages of that game in the second half when we looked like we were, I won't say in control, but that we were playing within ourselves.

“I just thought the goal (scored by Paddy Small) was a huge turning point. It gave massive energy to Dublin playing into the Hill. And while our boys reacted really well to the goal, I felt that the effort it took to come back from the goal and go back up three, that that possibly took it out of our fellas in the last five-10 minutes.

“Once Dublin smelled it, they have the extra bit of experience and know-how that has seen them get over the line in tight games before. This one was no different.”

So much was expected of David Clifford and Kerry’s talisman created a goal for Paul Geaney and scored three points but he was well harnessed by limpet-like man-marker Michael Fitzsimons who, along with James McCarthy and Stephen Cluxton, won his ninth Sam Maguire. O’Connor denied that Clifford (who so tragically lost his mother during this season) had been affected by the pressure on his shoulders.

“There is a lot on David Clifford’s shoulders every day he plays,” he said.

“David Clifford has been magnificent for us all the year. We were hoping upon hope that we would get him up the steps, himself and Páidí today, after the tough year he’s had, after the long year he’s had…

“But I don’t think there is a player that has ever had a player like David Clifford has had since last January when he won the All-Ireland junior here, right through to now. He’s been a magnificent captain for us, and just a great man.”

Kerry survived when Con O’Callaghan hammered a shot off their crossbar early in the second half but Shane Ryan was unable to keep out Small’s deflected effort which levelled the game after 46 minutes. That was the key moment, said O’Connor.

“The last thing you want to give Dublin playing into the Hill is a goal because it just gives them huge energy,” he explained.

“It’s like a bolt of electricity goes through the whole ground and even though we reacted tremendously to it, it just gave them a sniff that they were back in the game, because I think up to the goal, I thought we were well on course to win the game. It’s just one of those things, slippy ball, tough conditions, these things happen.”