BY KIERAN McCARTHY
REIGNING All-Ireland and Munster minor football champions Kerry have been warned to be more consistent over the hour in Wednesday night’s Munster MFC semi-final in Tralee – or else risk relinquishing both their crowns.
Kerry boss Jack O’Connor wasn’t pleased with his side’s second-half performance in their quarter-final win (0-14 to 0-3) against Clare last month, and he has insisted that a repeat showing won’t be good enough against Cork.
‘We were happy enough with the first-half display against Clare but we only kicked 0-4 in the second half – that wouldn’t do at all against Cork. We need to be more consistent throughout the hour,’ O’Connor told The Southern Star.
‘It’s do-or-die. Whichever team loses is finished for the year. We don’t want our season over in the middle of May. We’d be looking at ourselves and saying “what the hell are we going to do for the summer now?” because being knocked out early isn’t something that we are used to. We’ll be leaving no stone unturned to make sure that’s not the case.’
O’Connor has had to assemble a new team this year, with only one starter against Clare (Mark O’Connor from Dingle) featuring in last season’s All-Ireland winning team. The Kerry boss feels whichever team deals better with the nerves of the occasion will hold the upper hand in Wednesday night.
‘We realise that it’s a massive challenge as Cork have a very good team this year,’ O’Connor said.
‘They are highly rated, especially their forward line. We came up against some of their forwards last year in the Munster final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and they gave us a lot of bother so we face a huge challenge to curtail them on Wednesday.
‘There won’t be a whole pile between the teams. It will come down to the night, and sometimes nerves play a part with young fellas, especially when it’s knock-out. Whoever can handle the occasion and nerves the better will hold an advantage.’
Another perceived advantage is that Kerry have home venue for this Munster semi-final, despite some initial confusion when it was reported that this game would be held in Páirc Uí Rinn.
‘It’s hard to know whether you are better off at home or away,’ O’Connor said.
‘We played all our three Munster championship games last season away from home and it didn’t do us any harm. The fact that we have already played a game in Austin Stack Park means that the lads have a feel for the pitch, and we’re training there as well, so it should be an advantage, albeit just a minor one.’