If history is to repeat itself then Kerry could win their 38th All-Ireland title on Sunday.
In Jack O'Connor's first coming as manager 2004, Tyrone were the reigning Sam Maguire holders, but the Kingdom proved too good for all en-route to winning back the famous trophy. A ravenous Red Hand roared back in 2005, edging out their Munster rivals in the final.
With Tyrone failing to advance beyond the qualifiers in '06, Kerry found such a route to their liking and were champions again come September. Jack's second term began as Mickey Harte and co were again savouring another All-Ireland triumph in 2008, but Kerry's name was back on the roll of honour list in '09.
Back for a third time in charge of Kerry and Jack O'Connor is well aware of the "challenge" that lies ahead, while county chairman Tim Murphy stands over the integrity of the process that led to O'Connor's return @Kerry_Official #rtegaa @PaschalSheehy pic.twitter.com/2HpLQeYK25— RTÉ GAA (@RTEgaa) October 8, 2021
And then in September of last year, Tyrone players were again on the steps of the Hogan Stand receiving Sam. A few weeks later, Jack was back for a stint at the helm. With the green and gold through to another final on Sunday next, will it be a case of the county again following Tyrone?
The other common denominator is Kerry winning a league title in year one of O'Connor's terms. That sequence was continued when Mayo were put to the sword last April. Sequences, however, are there to be broken. Galway are most likely to prove stiffer opposition to what Mayo and Cork offered up on the days when O'Connor last delivered All-Irelands. The 2022 finale will see two traditional footballing teams locking horns. A clash that would delight purists looking down from above.
O'Connor, while having been an advocate of kick and pass football, knows only too well that the game has changed since he started working alongside the late Páidí Ó Sé in the Kerry set-up. There were moments, particularly in the second half of the semi-final win over Dublin, that Kerry played a lot of 'keep ball'. They frustrated the Dubs. More crucially, the defence forced Dessie Farrell's side into bad shot selection during the opening 35 minutes. Paddy Tally's influence no doubt coming to the fore.
Yet Tally is seen as more than just a defensive coach in the Kingdom, with word circulating that he is the 'head coach'. O'Connor was keen to get him involved; indeed he had him lined up to take on a role with Kildare, all before the keys to the Kingdom became available again.
Stats so far this year would indicate that Kerry have tightened up considerably, just the three goals conceded in 12 league and championship games. In last year's All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone, three green flags were raised against them. Go back a few months and Dublin got in for four goals in a league game. Kerry, a soft touch then, despite their undoubted talent up front. O'Connor has sought to make them more solid across the whole pitch.
The project has been relatively successful so far, with selectors Mike Quirke and Diarmuid Murphy, along with former Clare hurler Tony Griffin in a performance coaching role and S&C coach Jason McGahan, all playing key roles.
Dublin, however, without the likes of Con O'Callaghan and Paul Mannion, did ask questions of the project the last day. You couldn't go so far as to say it was 'stage fright' from the Kerry lads, but the momentum may have been with the Dubs if the game had gone into extra-time. Talk of whether Seán O'Shea's clinching point will now herald a period of unbridled success for Kerry is, perhaps, fanciful, at this remove.
Yes, Jack O'Connor is the 'serial winner' when it comes to Kerry football in recent times. Over half of the current senior squad were under his care when he managed the county to All-Ireland minor success in 2014 and '15.
Many were still involved as O'Connor then took charge at U-21/20 level. With all that talent, senior success is sure to come, though with other contenders sniping, it may not be a period of complete domination.
The current house that Jack is building is being buttressed with sturdy walls to ensure that Sam Maguire is won at the first available opportunity. Those walls did creak at times against Dublin, but still the Kingdom stood tall. A sign then of where the side are currently at.
"There are no certainties in life, no guarantees that Kerry will win an All-Ireland but if you don't take chances in life you'll never get anywhere"
On that resolve, O'Connor told the media after the game: "That's why I’m saying we had a lot of knocks, a lot of setbacks, a lot of things going against us but we have a good bit of work done. Tony Griffin has worked an awful lot with the boys on the mental side of the game. Staying resilient, when you get setbacks, just driving on to the next ball or whatever and it took all that focus and resilience to keep going."
Another hurdle to jump against Galway, another test of their resolve. At the helm is a man who is maybe little bit more mellow than when he first held the keys. He is still the boss, though, still fuelled by the expectation of what he can deliver. Speaking to RTÉ Sport last October, just after his third appointment, he said: "I'm well aware of the expectations, I've been there before. There's always pressure in Kerry. I'm prepared to live with that.
"There are no certainties in life, no guarantees that Kerry will win an All-Ireland but if you don't take chances in life you'll never get anywhere."
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