Kildare football has been given a renewed lease of enthusiasm as the players work hard to impress new manager Jack O’Connor, according to Kevin Feely.
The Kerry legend was announced as the successor to Cian O’Neill in August and given his football pedigree, it is no wonder that he instantly commanded the respect of the Lilywhites.
The senior squad returned to training earlier this month and Feely admits that since his arrival, standards have risen across the board.
“Sometimes it’s nice to just freshen things up altogether and he’s a big change in that regard. He brings so much experience and he had the instant respect of the squad from what he’s done in the game already and stuff like that.
“That wasn’t an issue, respect. And then his training sessions have been a breath of fresh air, lads seem to be really, really enjoying them.
“Everyone is, not on edge, but so eager to impress. Without even knowing much about him you want him to think you’re good because of what he’s done in the game, straight away.
“We’ve got a huge panel at the moment. Because he’s new to the Kildare scene he has to get a whole view of all of the club scene in Kildare so it’s a really big panel at the moment.
“The new lads coming in has made the established guys think, ‘Jesus, I need to up my game’. Not only to keep your place on the squad, but to impress someone with Jack’s reputation. Yeah, in that regard everyone’s standard and level has gone up automatically.”
Though the team recorded some memorable results under Cian O’Neill, his tenure came to a disappointing end in 2019 as they failed to make it to the Super 8s or to Division 1 of the National League.
Knowing what the side are capable of, Feely is hoping to see more consistent performances from the team but he maintains that, before they can focus on consistency, they must first improve their overall standard.
“We seem to be consistently a middling team, if that makes sense.”
“Whenever we get into the top eight teams in the country, we seem to either give a brilliant performance and get a brilliant win, or else we crumble under the pressure.
“I’d love a little bit more consistency in that regard but we’re probably a little bit behind that at the moment. Our major aim will be getting out of Division 2 and getting back up into that upper echelon.
“In some regards, we need to be more consistent but we need to first establish a higher standard before we even think about that.”
O’Connor could be just the man to inspire Kildare to new heights given his infectious enthusiasm for the sport which is already rubbing off on the players, according to the 27-year-old.
“That’s one of the first things you notice when you meet him. He’s obsessed with football and it rubs off on you so much. It’s total enthusiasm. He would happily talk about football all day long with you.
“He’s really able to relate to every situation that every player has come across because he’s seen it all before, which is really good. He also has the experience of working with minor teams, and U20 teams recently.
“So he’s not out of touch with the younger lads either. He can relate to every level of player there at the moment. His enthusiasm is definitely rubbing off on us.”
Waterford hurler Austin Gleeson, Kildare footballer Kevin Feely, Cork footballer Brian Hurley, Tipperary Hurler Jake Morris and WIT Camogie Player Shauna Quirke, pictured along with David Beirne, Senior Vice President, UMPC, Paul Flynn, CEO GPA, and John Horan, Uachtarán Cumann Lúthchleas Gael at the announcement of UPMC as Official Healthcare Partner to the GAA/GPA.
UPMC, which offers trusted, high-quality health services at UPMC Whitfield Hospital in Waterford and other facilities in Ireland, will work with the GAA/GPA to promote the health of Gaelic Players and the communities in which they play.