Jack O'Connor saw a big improvement from his Kerry side on Saturday evening in Tralee, as they fought their way past a dogged Armagh to take their second win of the 2023 league campaign.
The defending champions had a tough time of it in defeating Kieran McGeeney's Armagh, pushing on in the closing stages to win by a point and get their campaign back on track after two losses from their first three games.
O'Connor, however, does not seem too concerned with pushing for success in the league this season. Speaking to RTÉ after the final whistle, O'Connor confirmed the fears of many Gaelic football pundits by saying that he and Kerry were not determined to win the league, and would be happy with a reasonable mid-table finish.
Jack O'Connor confirms Kerry are not pushing to win the league
Jack O'Connor is in the midst of his third stint as Kerry manager, and came face-to-face with one of the stars of his first two periods in charge on Saturday night.
Ex-Kerry player Kieran Donaghy has taken up a role as one of Armagh's selectors, and his team gave Kerry a good run for their money at Austin Stack Park in Tralee.
Despite rallying in second-half injury time, Armagh would narrowly lose out by 0-12 to 0-11, and Jack O'Connor's side moved to four points and towards safety in division one.
O'Connor spoke to RTÉ post-match and confirmed that, given Kerry's late return to training after the winter, combined with the close proximity of the league final to the beginning of the championship, his side were not particularly pushed about winning Division One:
I said before the league started that I'd be delighted if we just finished in the middle of the table this year. We were obviously late back training, we were at least a month and maybe six weeks, or two months behind some teams.
We'll be happy enough to get two more points and safety, because we don't need to win the league this year. We just need to survive in Division One and put the heads down and prepare for the championship.
O'Connor's remarks may not necessarily come as a surprise, but they do confirm the fears of many punters that the big contenders for Sam Maguire will choose to cast aside any aspirations of winning Division One in favour of prioritising championship preparations.
Mayo legend Lee Keegan was among those earlier this week who suggested that nobody would want to win Division One. Kerry's circumstances are admittedly different to many of their rivals. The Kingdom's players took a holiday in Mauritius late last year to celebrate their All-Ireland win, and only returned weeks after intercounty training returned on November 28.
Nonetheless, the candidness from O'Connor will concern the league organisers, and suggest that the proposed move to rid the GAA calendar of league finals may have been the right move after all.