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Jack O'Connor Identifies How Kerry Have Changed After Previous Failures

Jack O'Connor Identifies How Kerry Have Changed After Previous Failures
By Gary Connaughton

What a game!

This afternoon's All-Ireland semi-final between Kerry and Dublin was billed as a meeting between the two best sides in the country, with expectations high that we were about to see an all-time classic in Croke Park.

While such hype can often lead to somewhat of a damp squib, that was not the case on this occasion.

Kerry would emerge victorious after an absolute thriller, with the game being decided by the most dramatic of circumstances. With the sides level deep into injury time, Sean O'Shea had the opportunity to win it from a long range free. The Kenmare Shamrocks man would make no mistake.

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It was certainly a winning score befitting of the occasion.

Jack O'Connor opens up on Kerry's mental toughness

Speaking to RTÉ after the game, Kerry manager Jack O'Connor was full of praise for the resilience shown by his team in the closing stages to see out the result.

It's not good for the heart, the heart got a good workout there in the second half. Dublin are very, very strong, their big players came to the fore...

The resilience our fellas showed, all the momentum was going towards Dublin and there was a strong wind out there. Our fellas just somehow found a way, that's the way it's been all year.

They're showing great resilience, they've dug out results. We referred last week to a league game down in Tralee against Mayo, there were similar circumstances in that we had the game lost but found something in the last ten minutes to come strong.

It was a savage kick by Seanie [O'Shea], into the wind and into Hill 16, it doesn't get any tougher than that.

Jack O'Connor celebrates with David Clifford after their side's victory in the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Dublin and Kerry. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

In years gone by, it has been said that this Kerry team crumbled when the going got tough.

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In each of the last two seasons, they were knocked out of the championship by sides that many people would have considered to be inferior to the one possessed by The Kingdom. Against both Cork and Tyrone in 2020 and 2021 respectively, they did not seem all that up for a battle when things started to go against them.

This year feels different. Dublin had all of the momentum in the closing stages of that game, but it was Kerry that pulled it out of the fire at the decisive moment.

Jack O'Connor believes that may not have been the case in the recent past.

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Just coming off the field there, I had a word with Ciaran Kilkenny. When the game was in the fire, the game that man had in the last quarter-of-an-hour was savage. Even though the man that was on him, Brian Ó Beaglaoich, had a tremendous game for us, Kilkenny has always been their main man and he very good and dangerous late on.

Hats off to our fellas. Jack Barry wanted to come off with ten minutes to go, but we couldn't afford to take him off because we were going to run out of bodies. Mentally we were preparing for extra-time...

I think maybe a couple of years ago, this group might not have won that game. We have a pile of work done on the mental side of the game.

We spoke about resilience, that if we got setbacks we had to put them aside and keep the blinkers on.

We got a few body blows. The (missed) penalty would have given us a great comfort blanket at halftime, but we came out the second half and kicked the first point.

Kerry will now face into an All-Ireland final against Galway in two weeks time, a game in which most will consider them as favourites to win.

After coming through the ultimate test this afternoon, they won't be taking their eye off the ball in their quest to win a first Sam Maguire since 2014.

SEE ALSO: Canavan Says Ref Right To Not Send Off Kerry's Sean O'Shea Vs Dublin

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