Stephen O'Brien confident that Kerry can cope without Donie Buckley
Kerry footballer Stephen O’Brien is confident that the departure of Donie Buckley from the coaching set-up won’t leave a vacuum.
Buckley was let go from Peter Keane’s management team last March and the Kerry County Board have said there is no plan to replace him.
O’Brien was a big fan of Buckley’s coaching ability, but believes Kerry already have enough coaching expertise in the group to cope without him.
“Yeah, Donie is a very astute and experienced coach,” says O’Brien. “It's unfortunate that it didn't work out.
“But with the trainers and coaches that we have, Jason McGahan is doing the physical training and he's brilliant. Then we have Tommy Griffin who has won a lot both as a player and a coach with the minors. Like, the training, there wasn't really a huge impact on it. But, yeah, we all probably stopped training the week after.
“I suppose there's an opportunity in every change. You could say the same if a player gets injured or retires, it's an opportunity for other people to step up and it's the same in the management team.”
Kerry have yet to play a match without Buckley as part of the coaching ticket because the Allianz Football League was suspended shortly after his departure by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kingdom are currently second in Division 1 after three wins, a draw, and one defeat from five matches, and O’Brien believes the team was showing it could continue on an upward curve after losing last year’s All-Ireland Final after a replay.
“Yeah, I suppose we'd been having a positive League campaign. We started with a game against Dublin in Croke Park and it was a cracker of a game that ended up a draw. I suppose good performances from both teams.
“The following week we played Galway in Tralee and after a nail-biter finish we were lucky enough to get over the line and win by a point. I suppose you saw what Galway have done in the rest of the League campaign, I think that was the only time they didn't win a game, so that probably made the result look a little bit better.
“We played Tyrone then above in an absolute storm and came out the wrong side of that by a point. It was still a reasonably good performance and they were on a high because they were just after getting Cathal McShane back.
“Then we beat Meath in Killarney and then had another weather event up in Mayo. We travelled up the Friday night and had to stay around until Sunday to have the game.
“People were saying at the that you'd go off the head doing nothing around the hotel with nothing to do. That was some preparation for the lockdown we're on now where you're spending a load of time just killing time at home.
“But, overall, it's been a good league campaign. We were looking forward to hopefully qualifying for a League Final. It's now in doubt as to whether the League will be finished off.
“But even if you are going to play championship teams will want to have challenge games so why have challenge games rather than a fully competitive Allianz League campaign?”
O’Brien, like every other inter-county player, has been training away on his own since the lockdown came into place and admits it hasn’t been easy.
“It’s not been ideal, definitely,” he says. “I’ve always said that the easiest thing about playing GAA definitely is that the fitness is done for you. Once you show up at training, that’s the hard part.
“Whereas if you have a running session that you can do at anytime of the day, it’s kind of easier to put off. But yeah, it’s not been ideal obviously, by no means it’s the end of the world, but the programmes that we’re on at the moment, even if you weren’t with Kerry or you weren’t training, you’d still have to be staying physically active, what we’re doing it’s no different to that.
“It’s good to have the plan laid out by our coaches you know that you don't have overthink what you're doing or what you need to be doing, you just follow the plan, which I enjoy."
O’Brien at least still has some structure to his daily routine because he works as a chemical engineer with PM Group in Ringaskiddy and is classed as an essential worker.
What he’s found toughest of all to cope with though has been his inability to travel home to Kenmare since the lockdown came into place.
“I'm working in Cork for the last number of years,” he says. “I haven't been home to Kenmare now in five weeks, which is very unusual. You'd obviously be down to Kerry during the week for training. And I'd possibly go home to Kerry at the weekend as well for training, maybe Saturday morning.
“But yeah, I'm staying in touch with my family as much as I can. Kenmare, we're a tourist town. We're just coming into the tourist season when this thing struck. So it's going to be difficult economically for a lot of businesses.
“My mother runs a bed and breakfast at home as well. Clearly there's been no guests now since it's started, so that's going to be difficult for her to run a business like that. That's no different for business owners across the country.”
In February, Allianz Ireland along with the GAA announced the renewal of Allianz's support of communities across Ireland through a five-year extension of its sponsorship of the Allianz Football and Hurling Leagues. Spanning 33 years and encompassing the 2025 season, Allianz’ renewed commitment to the competition makes the Insurance provider one of the longest standing supporters of Gaelic Games.