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'As a player I'd be okay with it, but I don't know if it's feasible' | Kerry's Stephen O'Brien

Kerry footballer Stephen O'Brien says he'd be in favour of GAA matches being played behind-closed...

'As a player I'd be okay with...

'As a player I'd be okay with it, but I don't know if it's feasible' | Kerry's Stephen O'Brien

Kerry footballer Stephen O'Brien says he'd be in favour of GAA matches being played behind-closed-doors, if that is the only option as the impact of Covid-19 lessens.

The Kenmare clubman, an All-Ireland winner with the Kingdom in 2014, says he and his Kerry teammates are well used to training in empty stadiums.

"I'm of the opinion that... we usually train during the summer in Fitzgerald Stadium when there's no-one there, so you're used to playing in stadiums but with no crowd there.

"The few challenge games we've played over the years have been behind-closed-doors as well. From a player's perspective, once the ball is thrown in you don't really... it doesn't bother you too much.

"Now I don't know if it's feasible to play games behind-closed-doors... for people to not go to matches and see them in-person would be a big thing.

As a player I'd be okay with it, but I don't know if it's feasible."

9 January 2020; In attendance at the Allianz Football League 2020 launch in Dublin is Stephen O'Brien of Kerry. 2020 marks the 28th year of Allianz’ partnership with the GAA as sponsors of the Allianz Leagues. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Selector Donie Buckley made a surprise departure from the Kingdom management team last month, and O'Brien says that while his departure is a big blow, there are other excellent coaches involved.

"Donie is clearly a very astute and experienced coach so it's unfortunate that it didn't work out. But with the trainers and coaches we have - Jason McGahan, is head of physical training, he's brilliant.

"And we have Tommy Griffin who has won a lot both as a player and a coach so far so there wasn't a huge impact on training. Although I suppose we stopped training the week after.

"Like I suppose there's an opportunity in every change, same if a player gets injured or there's a retirement. It's an opportunity for other players to step up, maybe it's the same in the management and training aspect."

Before the outbreak of Covid-19 brought an end to the Allianz Leagues, Kerry were sitting second in the top tier standings behind Galway, and in a good position to reach the league decider. O'Brien says he'd like to see the league finished before the championship eventually takes place.

"I think so. They talk about going to club action first and that makes perfect sense. It's probably only one or two per cent of GAA players are inter-county players so you probably have to go to club first.

25 January 2020; Referee Seán Hurson indicates to Stephen O'Brien of Kerry where previous incidents had happened before showing him a yellow card during the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 1 match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

"I think to finish off the Allianz Leagues would definitely be positive. You don't want to go into your first championship game undercooked, you want teams to be performing at the top of its level.

"So if you were going into your championship you'd probably be looking to play challenge games before it. You could treat those last two rounds of the league as the most competitive challenge game you could get.

"So I'm definitely in favour of finishing out the league... Kerry were in a good position, now you probably wouldn't even play the league final [at this stage] but I'd be in favour of playing those games and finishing off that competition."

O'Brien, who scored a crucial goal in last year's All-Ireland semi-final win over Tyrone, is still working - but has had a bit of spare time to watch shows, and classic GAA matches back.

"I've been watching The Last Dance - that's almost been like live sport as well, same as the games being shown by TG4.

"It's cool when you know a lot of other people are watching it at the same time and you can talk about it the next day or whatever.

"It's great to see the mindset of Michael Jordan and his teammates back then. There's been a lot of Netflix watched... I suppose I'm lucky in that I'm able to come to work during the day as well - it gives structure to the week and it's really only the weekend that you're actively looking to fill time."

Kerry footballer Stephen O’Brien was at the launch of the Allianz Football Leagues in January this year. In February, Allianz Ireland along with the GAA announced the renewal of Allianz's support of communities across Ireland through a five-year extension of its sponsorship of the Allianz Football and Hurling Leagues. Spanning 33 years and encompassing the 2025 season, Allianz’ renewed commitment to the competition makes the Insurance provider one of the longest standing supporters of Gaelic Games.

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Donie Buckley GAA Kerry Kerry GAA Off The Ball Stephen O'Brien