Kerry footballer Sean O'Shea joined OTB AM to talk about dealing with the pressure from fans, and the influence of Declan O'Sullivan on his football.
O'Shea was a standout performer in Kerry’s All-Ireland performance in 2019, scoring 10 points in the first final against Dublin, and five in the replay.
The 21-year-old is also the reigning Young Footballer of the Year, having beaten teammate David Clifford for the honour on the back of last year’s championship.
The Kenmare native was not affected by the huge crowds at some of his biggest matches, he said.
“Honestly, I don’t think the amount of fans there come into account,” O'Shea said.
“It is something that even now with empty stadiums, it is the same thing; you kind of block it out.
“You do your best to block it out and just try and get into your zone and just pretend that you are back in your home field.
“It is something that you’ve done thousands and thousands of times, and [you] just try and get into that mindset and block out everything else.”
In the first match of the All-Ireland final, O'Shea almost lived in infamy after conceding a free in the dying minutes of the match.
His side were saved from a loss, and sent into a replay, after Dean Rock missed the free, keeping the scores level.
“Obviously [I was] very nervous,” O'Shea said.
“I was just hoping that it wouldn’t go over and that we would get another chance at it.
“Those things happen in games, and I suppose you just have to react to it.
“It was the last kick, so I knew that was it if it went over, but they were doing everything they could in the line to stop it as well.
“It is something that I need to learn from; it was a poor enough challenge out by the sideline.”
O'Shea on the best Kerry team in recent memory
Although O'Shea was only four years old at the time, he remembers the skill and the ability of the 2002 Kerry team, particularly the influence of Declan O'Sullivan on his own playing career.
“That Kerry team [of 2002 onwards] were just unbelievable,” O'Shea said.
“You looked up to all of them; in the back garden you were trying to emulate what they were doing on the pitch after matches.
“Declan [O'Sullivan] was obviously a huge part of that team, and thankfully, when I was a minor, he was involved with us, so it was great to see him from that point of view.
“It was great to learn a few bits off Declan.”
With a lot of the games from the past being rebroadcast during the first lockdown, O'Shea noticed the difference in styles.
He suggested that even as recently as 2002, the type of football that is played has changed significantly.
“All the games that you watch during lockdown, when you watch them back, it is mad how things change,” O'Shea said.
“You can be watching some games there and they would be getting the ball at half back and they’d be driving 70, 80 yards into the full forward line.
“If you do that today you’d be taken off; you would be under pressure to hold your place.”
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