Aidan O’Mahony: Jack O’Connor will never be forgiven at Kildare

There's grudge matches and then there's this.

Aidan O'Mahony

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Former Kerry GAA star Aidan O’Mahony has pulled no punches ‘the great turncoat debate’ ahead of the Allianz Football League clash between Kildare and Kerry this weekend.

Ex-Kildare manager Jack O’Connor jumped ship, leaving the Lilywhites high and dry last year when he re-joined his native county in the Kingdom in the wake of the 2021 championship.

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Now both sides meet in a fascinating clash at St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge this Sunday and there’s plenty of bad blood.

Our resident GAA expert and Kerry great Aidan shares his views on O’Connor, and all that lies ahead as the GAA season kicks into full swing.

YOU’RE NEVER FORGIVEN ONCE YOU MOVE

When Kerry were beaten by Tyrone in the All-Ireland final, Jack O’Connor made it known that his heart is at home and he wanted the Kerry job. It all just unfolded from then.

He was obviously Kildare manager at the time, so from the perspective of Lilywhite supporters, it’s like when a manager moves from one club to another in the Premier League.

You’re never forgiven once you move.

When there’s a breakdown and you leave mid-season it’s never going to end well. As for the welcome he gets from them this weekend, I’m not sure they’ll be too kind to him.

There won’t be much shadow boxing on the sideline between the management and backroom teams of Kerry and Kildare either. There will be a lot of bite in this game on Sunday with Jack returning to his old hunting ground of Kildare as Kerry’s manager, and it’s a mouth-watering one for the first game of the year.

There’s going to be massive talk about it, but Jack doesn’t pay any heed to outside voices.

It’s just the beauty of the draw the way it worked out that the new manager of Kerry is now the ex-manager of Kildare and he’s travelling to Kildare to face them in his first match – you couldn’t ask for a better backdrop to Sunday’s game.

KERRY ARE THE TEAM TO BEAT – BUT MAYO WILL RUN THEM CLOSE

I think Kerry are in a great place now, and they’ve gone full strength from the start of the season.

You can talk all you like about the McGrath Cup and the league, but it’s all about the championship in Kerry and the players know it. There’s been a bit of a famine since 2014. The pressure is on Kerry this year and Jack knows it too.

He will use the league to blood players. If they get the jersey, it’s up to them to keep it for the rest of the year. It’s great for any team that when a new manager comes in, there’s new ideas and it gives players who weren’t starting last year some hope.

But if I was looking for a league winner, I’d look at Kerry as the team to beat and Mayo as a close second.

KILDARE NOW HAVE EVERY PIECE OF THE JIGSAW

You nearly have a full All-Star team in the backroom of Kildare now – you’ve all the Kildare greats in there – and someone like Paul Galvin coming in, who is a deep thinker when it comes to games, will bring something different. Obviously, Glenn Ryan saw that in him.

If you’re ever looking at a nucleus of a backroom team that you wanted for any county, then you’ve every piece of the jigsaw there in Kildare.

As a group, the Kildare management might feel Dublin aren’t the invincible team that they used to be and that they can be got at. If Galvin can bring an extra two or three per cent to the panel, then he’ll be a big addition to the group.

But ahead of this weekend’s game, who better to have in the Kildare set-up than one of Jack’s past pupils!

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