VIDEO: Alan O’Connor: Six weeks ‘intense training’ to ‘bully’ Kerry

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By Peter McNamara

Alan O’Connor’s astounding performance for Cork in the Munster SFC final was the talk of the nation last week.

Everybody wondered how a man that had such minimal preparation time, in contrast to his footballing peers, could end up as the man-of-the-match against the All-Ireland champions.

Darragh Ó Sé went as far as to say O’Connor ‘bullied’ the Kingdom. Good old-fashioned cute Kerry hoorism? Was that wily character Ó Sé heaping praise on the Leesider hoping Kerry respond in kind on Saturday night? Perhaps.

Still, O’Connor did dominate the middle-third for the Rebels, especially after David Moran was black-carded. Yet, O’Connor is too long in the tooth to dwell on any of the kudos targeted in his direction.

“Darragh will talk things up as he does,” O’Connor, smiling, quips. “What happened the last day happened the last day. It won’t have any bearing at all on the replay, either.

“Going down there to Killarney, no matter what position, we said we’d try and set the tone and win our own battles. And we did that. Hopefully we’ll be able to do likewise on Saturday.

“We won’t be getting carried away with our own performance the last day though.

O’Connor knows Kerry will have a more aggressive approach this weekend, and says Cork are focused on what they can do.

He said: “They will bring something different and be more aggressive than they were in the drawn match.

“We’ll bring a new dimension to the mix ourselves and relish the chance to win in Fitzgerald Stadium too.”

Still, people were fascinated by O’Connor’s capacity to excel in the provincial final despite only rejoining the squad in advance of the semi-final tie, yet the midfielder stressed there was no secret to his display.

“Not really. I suppose I just keep my general shape fairly good.

“Thankfully, I’m in good shape and had a decent basis to build on. I wouldn’t be out socialising often or anything like that.

“I had six weeks of hard, intense training before the Clare game. I put the head down in the hope of being selected and thankfully I was by the management,” O’Connor explained.

Similar to goalkeeper Paddy O’Shea who also came out of inter-county retirement with Cork, O’Connor was unsure if he would accept the invitation given to him by the Leesiders’ management.

However, the thought of plucking high balls from out of the skies in the likes of Fitzgerald Stadium and Croker proved too great a lure for the St Colum’s player.

Alan O’Connor competing against Kerry’s David Moran in the Munster Football Final in Killarney earlier this month.

“Owen Sexton gave me a call the week of the league final against Dublin and it caught me off-guard.

“Initially, I was angling towards not coming back because I was happy as I was.

“Then, thinking about the positives and negatives of the whole lifestyle and day-to-day of it, opportunities to play in Killarney and Croke Park in big games are things that stay with you.

“That feeling lasts with you a long time and I felt if I got the chance for more of those feelings of performing in the likes of Killarney that it would be worth it,” he illustrated.

Did the nerves tingle before the initial tussle with the Kingdom, his vast experience aside?

“Look, everybody, I suppose, is nervous on the big days,” he stated. “Maybe heading down to Killarney I was a bit more comfortable with it than some of the younger lads.

“Having played there before you can visualise the setting, the dressing rooms, the atmosphere, the pitch itself, all the different elements of it.

“And I think experience was a big plus for us against Kerry.”

Padraig Hughes awarded Kerry an extremely controversial penalty which James O’Donoghue scored in the first instalment.

Cork’s Mark Collins reacting as referee Padraig Hughes’ awards a penalty for Kerry in the Munster Football Final earlier this month.

At full-time, and speaking to the media later, boss Brian Cuthbert was correctly aggrieved with the decision as TV replays indicated it was a poor call by the referee.

Therefore, the Leesiders would have been forgiven for being incredibly frustrated with the result.

O’Connor, though, offers a more pragmatic outlook to the stalemate.

“Ah yeah, but equally it could have been a disappointed dressing room. I supposed the game ending in a draw was just how the cards fell.

“We could have won. Kerry could have won. Maybe the fairest result was the draw.

“Cork just had to keep their heads up and not get too disappointed about it because there is another day there for us.

“It’s half-time now so we just have to drive on the next day,” he stressed.