Seán O'Shea: ‘It has been very enjoyable’
By Cian O’Connell
It was just beginning to get dark on a sultry evening at Kerry GAA’s splendid Centre of Excellence in Currans when Seán O’Shea rambled through the car park about to leave, press duties finished, when four teenage boys, who were deep in conversation, suddenly stopped talking.
O’Shea had been spotted and when he said ‘hello lads’, the youngsters evening was made and they briskly returned chatting about the sporting issues of the day.
Only a few short years ago O’Shea was the boy watching decorated green and gold figures parade their skills on fields throughout the country.
This, though, is an exciting time for Kerry with O’Shea delighted to be part of the cocktail of emerging and established players readying themselves for Sunday’s All Ireland SFC Final against Dublin at Croke Park. “It is,”O’Shea replies instantly.
“You have a lot of minors starting to come through now coming on to the senior panel. We had four very high profile retirements last year which is tough to take for any squad. Other fellas in the 28 and above bracket have really stepped up this year. They have shown us the way really so it is great to be learning from these fellas.”
The experienced campaigners in the Kerry panel continue to set high standards which is critical according to O’Shea, who is part of the new wave of talent.
“Definitely, coming in you really don't know what to expect,” O’Shea admits. “They help you as best as they can and give you the advice as much as they can. It is great to have those fellas around the place.
“Any young fella coming in you really just want to take in as much as you can. Even just watching them on the training and how they carry themselves, how they get the best out of themselves is a great place to be.”
Dublin, seeking an historic fifth All Ireland crown on the spin, will provide the most demanding test imaginable, but it is examination O’Shea will relish.
“Absolutely, we are under no illusions about the size of the challenge ahead of us,” O’Shea states. “We are looking forward to it.
“We know how good Dublin have been this year and in the last number of years so it is obviously a massive challenge for us. We will go up to give it our best shot.
“It is great, it is what you dream of when you are a young fella, to be playing in an All Ireland final. We are really looking forward to it now.”
In 2016 O’Shea featured as a successful Kerry minor under Peter Keane, who has stitched a solid senior outfit together.
Significant promise exists in the Kingdom. “We are a young enough team,” O’Shea adds. “We have a lot of young fellas around.
“It has been good this year, new management coming in fellas had to maybe prove themselves again and it was a fresh start for people. It has been very enjoyable, it is a good place to be and a good bubble to be in.”
Important and valuable lessons were learned by Kerry’s developing players in 2018 according to O’Shea. “That is the thing with most of the fellas, we are learning as we go, learning on the job,” O’Shea accepts.
“Any game you play, you learn a lot more from games than you do in training. To get games under our belt last year, even though things didn't work out for us, you'd take a lot from what we learned last year. You'd try to bring that forward to this year. It was a very good learning curve.”
The focus and steely determination Kerry brought to their All Ireland SFC Quarter-Final Group Phase opener was the ultimate case in point. Losing to Galway at that stage hurt deeply and Kerry couldn’t recover. So it was critical to be primed for their Fitzgerald Stadium encounter against Mayo.
“Yeah, in the Super 8s the first game is massively important, we saw that last year when we lost to Galway,” O’Shea recalls.
“We were under savage pressure then so this year we really targeted the first game. It was a home game which made it even more important, but it was a great start to carry some momentum into the rest of it.”
Kerry have carried out their duties efficiently and effectively during the past month. O’Shea, one of the most exciting attackers in the game, is enjoying the journey.