KIERAN O'LEARY INTERVIEW WITH GAA.IE

Kieran O'Leary admits it was a tough one to swallow. Watching Kerry's U21 team lose the Munster final to Cork by 22 points should have come with a health warning.
"Anyone that thinks that Kerry underage is not going the greatest is mistaken."
The doom merchants latched on to the result and used it as compelling evidence of Kerry's decline as an underage force, a sign that the Kingdom's famed conveyor belt of talent was in need of an overhaul.
The Dr Crokes man is more qualified than most to give his opinion on the matter,having starred on the last Kerry team to win an All-Ireland U21 title, in 2008.
More than half of that gilded team, which beat Kildare in the final thanks to a man-of-the-match winning performance from O'Leary, has already filtered through to Jack O'Connor's Senior squad.
It was their first All-Ireland title at U21 level for ten years, while the win in Munster came in the middle of a period of unprecedented Cork dominance which yielded six provincial titles that decade.
It's hardly surprising that O'Leary doesn't see the need for panic after Wednesday's defeat.
"It was disappointing because everyone had it lined up to be a 50-50 game but Cork seemed to be that bit physically stronger on the night," O'Leary says in an interview with www.gaa.ie.
"There is no doubt that Kerry will be back again because they have a lot of those fellas underage again. But it was a disappointing result and a hard one to take.
"I know a lot of those lads personally and they all have a good attitude. I played with a lot of them.
"Anyone that thinks that Kerry underage is not going the greatest is mistaken. They always crop up with something.
"They will be back. I'm confident that there will be no problem there."
For now, O'Leary's focus is on Sunday's vital Allianz League game against Down in Killarney, which, if Kerry win and Cork lose, would see the Kingdom qualify for the League final against Dublin at the end of the month.
It's Kerry's first meeting with Down since they were beaten by the Mourne men by six points in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final.
That defeat precipitated what many feel will be a period of rebuilding and transition in Kerry football, something O'Leary is expected to play a key role in.
"Over the years Jack (O'Connor, the Kerry manager) is always willing to give a fella a fair crack of the whip once he is training well and once the attitude is right," he says. "If a fella is playing well, in fairness to Jack, he gives him game time.
"But you can only give the games to fellas that are performing and he is well able to do that. He will show plenty of faith in you if he thinks you are good enough. That's a good thing."
After a sensational first year in Senior Championship Club football with Dr Crokes in 2005, O'Leary made his inter-county debut as an 18-year-old in a League game against Mayo the following spring during Jack O'Connor's first spell in charge.
O'Leary was on the fringes of the squad when Kerry won All-Ireland titles in three of the next four summers, but he was never able to break into a celebrated forward line.
However, his form in Dr Crokes' Munster Club success has catapulted the now 23-year-old back to the forefront of O'Connor's thoughts.
"I concentrated this year on working hard, trying to do as much as possible. But I am always learning things off the lads inside: the ‘Gooch' (Colm Cooper), Kieran Donaghy and all the lads around me. They are a very positive influence on me.
"I'm delighted to be getting a bit of game time because that's where you want to be. You want to be playing in the green and gold and hopefully that will lead up to a Championship debut.
"As far as I am concerned I would love to get any sort of game time, but it is very hard to break into the forward line because of the caliber of forwards that are there.
"I am just going to keep a positive attitude and keep doing what I do. Who knows what will happen in the future?"
Meanwhile, O'Leary hasn't given up on making the League final just yet.
"We are concentrating more on getting the performances right and the most important thing is that everyone is on the same wavelength," he says.
"We have to continue to do what we are doing, keep winning games and it would be absolutely fantastic if we could make a League final because it's a big competition and you want to be there at the business-end of things."