Kerry's hunt for the successor to Peter Keane came to an unsurprising end this evening when Jack O'Connor was selected to lead the Kingdom for a third time.
O'Connor's management team will include his former players Michéal Quirke and Diarmuid Murphy as selectors. There are still rumours that Paddy Tally and/or Colm Cooper will be involved in the back room team, which will be confirmed next month.
The third coming of Jack O'Connor
The Kerry County Board released a very terse statement this evening confirming the news:
The Management Committee of Kerry GAA will be proposing the following names for ratification at our next County Committee meeting scheduled for Monday, 4th October 2021.
Jack O’ Connor (Manager)
Diarmuid Murphy (Selector)
Micheál Quirke (Selector)
Former Kerry footballer Stephen Stack was unsuccessful in fronting a ticket that featured the great Seamus Moynihan and the eminently-respected Donie Buckley. We're none the wiser if Peter Keane sought another run at the job. Strangely, the Kerry County Board has yet to thank him for his time as manager, as a source of ongoing disquiet on social media.
The pressure will be heavy around Jack O'Connor's shoulders from the moment his name is ratified at the county board meeting. There are not many managers given a third chance at an intercounty management role, especially in a position as esteemed as the Kerry job. O'Connor certainly brought a sense of positivity back to Kildare football before he left the role following Kerry's defeat to Tyrone in August: they were promoted to Division One and gave Dublin a game in the Leinster final.
But it's been seven long years since Kerry won the All-Ireland. O'Connor's last match as Kerry manager came way back in 2012, when Kerry came up against Jim McGuinness's Donegal side, who were far stronger and destined for an All-Ireland. No one would have guessed then that Kerry would be turning back to O'Connor ten years later to restore them to glory.
But Jack O'Connor is familiar with this group: he managed the likes of Gavin White, Sean O'Shea, Tom O'Sullivan and Shane Ryan to minor All-Irelands in 2014 and 2015.
Minor success did not prove transferrable for Peter Keane, sadly.
Gaelic football has evolved astronomically since O'Connor's last run in Kerry. He's proven he can restore credibility to a county down on its luck. Now he has to prove he still has the golden touch. The pressure will be immense.