JACK O’CONNOR SAYS his retirement from teaching in May left him in a position to take on the Kildare senior football job.

Since departing as Kerry boss for the second time in 2012, O’Connor hasn’t managed an inter-county side at senior level. He led the Kingdom minors to two All-Ireland titles and spent four years in charge of the U21s/U20s.

Given the lengthy journey from Kerry to Kildare, O’Connor said it wouldn’t be possible had he still been in full-time employment. 

“I’m looking forward to it because I retired from my teaching job there in May so it’s the first time since I started managing that I’d have the time and the full-time commitment to give to this job,” he told KFM Sport. 

“I needed that with regards the logistics of coming from home in Kerry to Kildare. It really wouldn’t work if you had a full-time job so I’m glad to be able to get a good shot now.

“The logistics of it might be difficult but I can’t let that interfere with the job because that’s not an excuse really. I’ll be fine, I don’t mind driving. I do a lot of my thinking and phone calls or whatever in the car while I’m driving anyway so that’s fine.

“I’ll treat it as my office kind of thing. I’ve been up and down anyway the last few years, my two lads are up here and they’ve played with Moorefield for the last three or four years so I’ve been up and down, so I know what’s ahead of me.”

Jack O’Connor with his wife Bridie and sons Eanna and Cian of Moorefield after the 2018 Kildare SFC final.

Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

O’Connor has established links with the county that stretches back to his own playing days. His sons Cian and Eanna play with the Newbridge club and their father has been involved in the backroom team in recent years.  

The 58-year-old won a Kildare minor medal with Leixlip 41 years ago, while he also represented the club at U21 and senior grades.

“I think it was 1978 when I was going to Maynooth College. I was actually living in Leixlip with my brother Paddy who played with Leixlip as well. I only saw a picture the other day, I’d nearly forgotten about it.

“Happy days, yeah. We actually played in a Kildare U21 final as well against Johnstowntownbridge when Paddy O’Donoghue was playing with them.

“We lost that one I think by a point so that’s why there’s no picture of that one. I played senior with Leixlip as well for a year or two so my connections go back a good bit yeah.”

O’Connor said his intention is to put together the strongest squad possible, with promotion to Division 1 their immediate aim.

Daniel Flynn opted out of the panel in 2019, while Niall Kelly returned from travelling halfway through the campaign. Paul Cribbin, Kevin Flynn and Paddy Brophy all struggled with injury which greatly restricted their involvement. 

“My intention is to try and get the best players in Kildare involved in the panel for next year. 

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“Sometimes that’s not possible for personal reasons and players make decisions to go travelling or whatever. That’s okay, you have to respect that. But we’ll try and get the best players in Kildare in and give ourselves the best chance to have success.

“There’s good footballers in Kildare it’s just a matter for us now to get the best players available in Kildare involved in the panel and try make a proper team out of them.

“We’ll be taking it year by year and competition by competition. But at this juncture, it would seem like a priority to try and get promotion from Division 2 with the big guns in Division 1 and trying to consolidate in Division 1.

O’Connor on the sideline with Moorefield during the All-Ireland club semi-final.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“That’s where the real action is I suppose. Now, Division 2 is very, very competitive when you see the teams that are in there and two good teams coming down from Division 1 last year Roscommon and Cavan.

“You saw what Roscommon did this year they really had improved under Anthony Cunningham so it’s going to be a very difficult ask but that will be our first priority I would think to get promotion out of Division 2.”

His coaching ticket will include Moorefield manager Ross Glavin and former Laois, Westmeath and Offaly boss Tom Cribbin, who was also involved under Cian O’Neill last season.

The remainder of his backroom team will be confirmed “over the next couple of weeks.”

“I worked with Ross and he’s a good man with a great head on him. Tom absolutely has a lot of experience and I think the fact he was involved last year is a help.

“You need some bit of a connection with the present panel rather than just coming in cold from the outside. I’m very happy with the two lads and I think we’ll work well together.” 

O’Connor has no concerns about the seven years he’s spent away from senior inter-county management. 

“I’ve been involved in some shape or form right up to this year so I don’t think it will be that difficult a transition.

“The game certainly has become faster, more attritional, more defensive at times so that’s a challenge in itself but that’s where the joy of coaching comes in.

“The challenge of trying to break down stuff like that and trying to figure out a way around it and so on. That’s where the challenge is and that’s where the satisfaction is in coaching. That’s what we’ll be trying to do.”

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