KERRY’S 2012 CHAMPIONSHIP campaign drew to a close last Sunday week in Croke Park when they suffered an All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Donegal and in the wake of that loss, Jack O’Connor called time on his reign in charge over the weekend.
The Kerry county board must now start the crucial hunt for the man to guide them for the 2013 season and here’s a guide to some of the names that may crop up on their shortlist.
The favorite for the job according to the bookmakers and most likely the preferred choice for the county board yet those statuses are misleading. Fitzmaurice brings a wide array of qualities from his playing days, has banked plenty experience as a member of the Kerry back room team in recent years and is at the coalface of the game in the county with his work as a coach of school sides in Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne and as a player with Finuge. It’s persuasive evidence to hand the 35 year-old the job but while Fitzmaurice looks likely to be Kerry manager some day, that day may not be now.
He has close relationships with some members of the current panel which may compromise his ability to manage successfully and is likely to want to complete his term with the Kerry U21 side after making progress this year in his debut season. Fitzmaurice has come across as a shrewd observer of football in his columns for The Irish Examiner and may be astute enough to recognize that the timing is not right for him to take over.
It would be a remarkable whirlwind tour if Evans was to get the Kerry job given that he was the Tipperary manager until last March and then moved onto Meath where he slipped into the role of coach to Seamus McEnaney’s side. Has already voiced his interests in the Meath position but if his native county came calling, he would seize the chance. Despite the difficulties currently facing Kerry football, Evans would relish the opportunity to take the position and has a track record with Tipperary and Meath of helping to brighten the outlook of a team when taking over. It is 16 years since he steered Laune Rangers to the All-Ireland club title and after working outside the county borders, he would gratefully accept a shot at taking the reins locally.
Mickey Ned O’Sullivan
Twenty years after he stepped down as Kerry boss following their sensational Munster final defeat to Clare, could O’Sullivan secure a second spell a boss? He spent five seasons with the Limerick senior footballers from 2006 to 2010 and while provincial championship silverware did elude them, he did turn their fortunes around from the low of the 13-point thrashing they suffered against Cork in 2007 to nearly defeating Cork and Kerry in the 2009 and 2010 deciders.
A key component of his success during that time was the installation of Donie Buckley as coach, a move that embellished the credentials of the former Castleisland Desmonds player. Buckley is highly rated by the current Kerry players and if O’Sullivan, who is in charge of the Kerry minor team that contests the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin on September 2nd, was appointed the potential presence of Buckley could make his coaching package very attractive.
Liam Kearns, while managing Tipperary club Aherlow two years ago. Pic: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan
Another former Limerick manager who would be enthused by the prospect of taking charge of his native county. Had a successful stint in reviving the fortunes of the Limerick footballers as they reached two Munster finals in 2003 and 2004. He then moved on to take the reins in Laois as he succeeded Mick O’Dwyer but despite reaching the Leinster final in 2007, his tenure came to an end in 2008.
Did lead Aherlow to the Tipperary senior football title in 2010 and they subsequently almost caused a major shock against Dr Crokes in the Munster club championship before losing out after extra-time. Was involved with Kerry club Rathmore for a period this year and would have some support for the job.
An outside bet but one that should not be discounted. For starters O’Neill has an excellent record in club management in steering Dr Crokes to the county title in 2000 and then after the Killarney club had suffered a luckless run of final day defeats, he was at the helm when they triumphed in 2010 before then retaining the title in 2011. Also won a Munster club crown last year against UCC before losing out in the All-Ireland club semi-final last February against Crossmaglen Rangers.
O’Neill would have a knowledge of the player base in Kerry from his club involvement while his role as masseuse to the Kerry team at stages over the last decade has lead to him forging links with many of the current players. Was drafted on board as Kerry U21 selector for this season by Eamonn Fitzmaurice but could be tempted by the senior job.