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20 key questions for Kerry ahead of the 2020 campaign



Who will captain the team? Can Kerry make the most of the advanced mark? Will Paudie Clifford and Tony Brosnan make the grade? Ahead of Kerry’s National League opener against Dublin on January 25, Adam Moynihan takes a look at the 20 burning questions for 2020


It’s a glorious time of year to be a football fan. The weeks leading up to a new season are always filled with optimism; after all, until the first ball is kicked in two weeks’ time, we are all level on zero points. Technically, no one holds an advantage at this stage of proceedings – not even Dublin, who have more money and resources than the rest of us.

However, it is also a time of great uncertainty. Issues which remain unresolved from the previous year roll over and are joined by new vexations, fresh concerns and a host of hitherto unfathomable conundrums. Some of these questions will be answered quickly enough, others may not be answered at all, at least not fully, but one thing is for sure: Kerry supporters will ask them anyway.

Here are the 20 burning questions for 2020.


  1. Club before county?

The GAA confirmed this week that the All-Ireland Intermediate and Junior Club finals will take place in Croke Park on January 25, the same venue and day as the National League Round 1 match between Dublin and Kerry.

Na Gaeil are in the final of the Junior following yesterday’s extra-time victory over Kilmaine of Mayo, so midfielders Jack Barry and Diarmuid O’Connor will be unavailable for their county.

Unfortunately, Templenoe were unsuccessful in their bid to reach the Intermediate final as they fell to a 1-12 to 0-12 defeat to Galway champions Oughterard. Templenoe’s loss will be Kerry’s gain, however, as this frees up Tadhg Morley, Gavin Crowley, Adrian Spillane and Killian Spillane to line out against the Dubs on Saturday week.


  1. How seriously will Peter Keane take the league?

Although the Kerry manager experimented with tactics and personnel during last year’s league campaign, his side remained competitive throughout and were probably the most consistent outfit in Division 1 (the final against Mayo aside). Kerry built momentum in the spring, which undoubtedly stood to them in the summer, so Keane is unlikely to change a winning formula by going through the motions in the league. Expect Kerry to go for it.


  1. How will the new gear look on the players?

A key question for the fashionistas amongst us. The unorthodox new home shirt was greeted with a lukewarm reception when it was unveiled in November (the exceptionally attractive 2017-18 jersey was a hard act to follow) but how will the yellow-sleeved version look on the players on the pitch?

Diehard fans got their first glimpse of the new kit in action in the McGrath Cup tie against Cork. The jury is still out, if we’re being honest. The away shirt might be nicer.


  1. Are any All-Ireland-winning minors ready for the next level?

It is perhaps too soon for prodigious 18-year-olds Paul O’Shea and Paul Walsh to make their mark at senior level, though the former caught the eye by scoring 1-3 for an U20/senior amalgamation against Tipperary in the McGrath Cup.

St Senan’s midfielder Barry Mahony and Castleisland half forward Adam Donoghue, both of whom played on the successful Kerry minor team of 2017, have been called up to the extended panel proper.


  1. Which new players will make the grade?

Eoghan O’Brien, Michael Potts, Pa Kilkenny, Seán T Dillon, Cormac Coffey, Barry Mahony, John Mark Foley, Paudie Clifford, Ronan Buckley, Adam Donoghue and Tony Brosnan have been added to the extended panel for 2020, bringing the number of players involved to 46 by this journalist’s count.

Six of the new gang (Kilkenny, Dillon, Coffey, Mahony, Buckley and Donoghue) featured in the McGrath Cup while the others will be hoping to impress at training in the coming weeks.


  1. Who will captain the team?

East Kerry have the honours this year following their historic win over Dr Crokes in the county final and despite being just 20 years of age, star forward David Clifford appears to be the frontrunner for the role. The captaincy has become something of a poisoned chalice in recent times but that is unlikely to phase the two-time All-Star. Nothing does.

In fact, the omens are good. The last time East Kerry had to nominate a captain they chose Glenflesk legend Séamus Moynihan, who led The Kingdom to their 32nd All-Ireland title in the year 2000.


[caption id="attachment_29718" align="alignnone" width="628"] Will David Clifford captain Kerry in 2020? Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.[/caption]


  1. How dependent are Kerry on East Kerry?

A bit, but not very. The issue of East Kerry’s continued dominance at U16, minor and U21 level was raised at a recent county board meeting, with Secretary Peter Twiss stating his concern that Kerry teams will become “very dependent” on a small geographical area.

This year, 16 out of the 46 players on the extended panel hail from the district of East Kerry. Roughly a third. When you remove the senior clubs from the equation, only five players were eligible for East Kerry in 2019.

It’s a healthy contingent for sure but we’re not at the “very dependent” stage just yet.


  1. Can Kerry make their (advanced) mark?

On paper, the new rule will benefit burly target men like Tommy Walsh, but catching the mark is only half the battle. Walsh is a decent kicker but he’s not a free-taker and some of the marks he made last year were just outside his range.

From Kerry’s perspective, the ideal scenario is to get your best passers – the likes of David Moran, Seán O’Shea, Tom O’Sullivan and James O’Donoghue – in position and seek out 6’2” marksman David Clifford.

The 2018 Young Player of the Year can score from any and all angles so a mark anywhere within a 35-metre arc of the goal would be as close to an automatic point as you could get. Of course, it’s far easier in theory than in practice – no ball Clifford goes to catch will be unchallenged – but he has all the tools to make the new rule work in his favour.


  1. Who needs a big year?

Everyone needs a big year if Kerry are to stop Dublin but going by last year, there’s more in Gavin White, Jack Barry, Paul Murphy and Paul Geaney. If Peter Keane can keep them fit and get them firing on all cylinders, Kerry will be in serious shape.


  1. Have Kerry found their perfect 10?

Dara Moynihan, Micheál Burns, Gavin O’Brien, Jonathan Lyne, Adrian Spillane, Diarmuid O’Connor and Gavin White all had a cut off the right half forward position in 2019 and you’d have to say that they all had their moments, although the talents of Spillane, O’Connor and White are perhaps more suited to deeper-lying roles.

The spot remains vacant for any of the aforementioned to stake a claim again this year but the addition to the extended panel of Paudie Clifford has set tongues around Kerry wagging. Clifford was exceptional for East Kerry in both 2018 and 2019 and with his athleticism, tenacity and ball skills he seems like a viable option for half forward.

Clifford’s East Kerry teammate and fellow newcomer Ronan Buckley, who excelled on the wing and midfield in last year’s County Championship, is another interesting alternative. The Listry clubman lined out at No. 10 and captained the side in the McGrath Cup games against Cork and Tipperary, and was one of only four players to play every minute of both.


  1. Will Tony Brosnan cut wreck at county level?

Plenty of observers had been campaigning for Tony Brosnan to get the call for quite some time. Well, he’s here now. Can he seize his opportunity?

The Dr Crokes sharpshooter is electrifying on his day and he has more days than most. It will be fascinating to see how he gets on at intercounty level. Could a full forward line of Geaney, Clifford and Brosnan be on the cards?


  1. Who do Kerry need to beat?

Dublin, naturally. Beyond that, Donegal and Mayo are sure to be there or thereabouts. Tyrone are also a threat, although much will depend on the availability of key player Cathal McShane who is currently training with the Adelaide Crows in the AFL. If the burly target man makes the switch to Aussie rules it would be a crushing blow to his county's All-Ireland prospects.

And don’t forget about Cork, who are on an upward trajectory and would love nothing more than to turn Kerry over in a Munster semi-final.


  1. What do the bookmakers think?

Despite being under new management with Dessie Farrell replacing Jim Gavin, Dublin are odds on favourites to win both the league and their sixth All-Ireland in a row, with Kerry priced at 3/1 for both.


  1. Has Shane Ryan cemented his place in goal?

The Rathmore man had a decent first year between the sticks but there’s always room for improvement. He showed a very cool head with ball in hand and overall his kicking was good, but mistakes like the one in the National League final will have to be eradicated.

Brian Kelly will be ready and willing to step in if needs be, while St Brendan’s and Churchill stopper Eoghan O’Brien has come in to add extra cover.


  1. Is there a sweeper in our ranks?

The dreaded sweeper position has been a bit of graveyard for Kerry defenders down through the years. Many have tried but not too many have succeeded. It’s a difficult role to assess because sometimes it may appear as though the sweeper is doing nothing, but if the ball isn’t coming near him then isn’t the sweeper, in a way, doing his job?

Of course, if the ball is going in over his head uncontested, that’s a problem.

Paul Murphy and Jack Sherwood are options but you would perhaps prefer to see them elsewhere. It’s a fairly specialised position; can we find a specialist to do the job?


  1. How much can Keane squeeze out of David Moran?

It’s no coincidence that Kerry’s rip-roaring performance against Mayo in Killarney came on the same day that their talismanic midfielder made an explosive return to form. Moran’s importance to Kerry cannot be understated but the team’s primary midfielder, who will be 32 in June, has been no stranger to the treatment table.

Keane may use Moran sparingly in the spring, with one eye firmly on the summertime.


  1. What will David Clifford do next?

Captain Kerry to an All-Ireland?


  1. Can James O’Donoghue replicate his club form?

The Legion forward shrugged off a couple of injuries in 2019 to arguably emerge as his club’s Player of the Year. His impact at intercounty level was less marked but if he can transfer his club form over to the green and gold in the league, Peter Keane will have some tough decisions to make.


  1. Who will have a breakout year?

Diarmuid O’Connor is a good shout. The Na Gaeil midfielder/half forward did really well when called upon towards the tail end of last year and he was the standout performer for his divisional side, St Brendan’s, as they reached the last four of the County Championship. The talented 20-year-old could play a big part for Kerry in 2020.


  1. What will Kerry fans be expecting in 2020?

A 38th All-Ireland.


Pics: David Fitzgerald & Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.



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Lissi’s love of nature nets prize

After a successful launch year in the Isle of Man in 2020, ‘The Young Nature Blogger 2021’ went international as Kerry Biosphere and Dublin Bay Biosphere joined the competition. Open to anyone under 21, entrants were asked to write up to 500 words about their favourite experience or place in nature. Each Biosphere participating awarded […]




After a successful launch year in the Isle of Man in 2020, ‘The Young Nature Blogger 2021’ went international as Kerry Biosphere and Dublin Bay Biosphere joined the competition.

Open to anyone under 21, entrants were asked to write up to 500 words about their favourite experience or place in nature.

Each Biosphere participating awarded local prizes with the top entry from each being submitted to the international competition between the three.

This week the two judges for the international element Author Dara McAnulty and Professor Martin Price, Chair of the UK Man and the Biosphere Committee, have unanimously chosen ‘The Otter’ by Lissi Nickelsen (Kerry) as winner of the inter-Biosphere Young Nature Blogger 2021.

“I absolutely love the observational detail in this piece,” Dara McAnulty, author of ‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’ and the youngest ever winner of The Wainright Prize for nature writing said:

“You can really feel that breathless excitement and tension of seeing an otter. The drawing shows how multimedia can be used to great effect in a blog.”

Professor Martin Price added that it “is a beautifully written blog about a very special encounter”.

“I really get the feeling of what Lissi observed so carefully, and her joy about spending time with an otter! And the drawing is wonderful too!”

Lissi will receive a young naturalist writing set from Dara McNulty, a framed otter picture from Wildlife photographer Vincent Hyland, Wild Derrynane, and a family kayak trip in the Kerry Biosphere.

The winning entry can be read on the Kerry Biosphere website

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The only certainty is uncertainty

By Michael O’Connor    “History is just one damn thing after another” – Arnold Toynbee Late last week, the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa sent shockwaves worldwide, upending what had been a reasonably quiet week for the stock market. On Friday last, a steep sell-off left the S&P 500 and the […]




By Michael O’Connor   

“History is just one damn thing after another” – Arnold Toynbee

Late last week, the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant in South Africa sent shockwaves worldwide, upending what had been a reasonably quiet week for the stock market. On Friday last, a steep sell-off left the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq down 2.2% and 3.5%, respectively.

This 147th twist in the pandemic tale got me thinking about how much we think we know when really, we know nothing at all.

At the start of the year nobody would have predicted that 2020 would have played out the way it did. Very few would have predicted that 2021, with promising vaccines and a return to normality would have represented so little change, but here we are.

Everyone loves to pretend like they fully understand what this all means and what will happen next. I get it; who doesn’t love the warm cozy allure of certainty. We all want to exist in a world where we know what lies around the corner.

History is a perpetual stream of mistaken opinions and unpredictable outcomes, but the predictions won’t stop. People will cast their views with deluded certainty about what to expect next by extrapolating the current conditions out into the future, but the current conditions aren’t a constant, and the game is always changing.

Unfortunately, the reality is, nobody knows what’s next, and the sooner you can discard any naive sense of conviction, the easier it will be in both life and investing. While this statement may seem morbid on the surface, loosening our grip on our need for certainty can be liberating.

Remember, while it is important to have expectations and predictions, predictions are not fact, and you will be wrong. Not always, but you will be wrong, so try not to be overly tethered to your current version of the truth.

Lean into the uncertainty

Accepting that nothing is certain can often be cast as an impotent statement in a world obsessed with knowing all the answers.

In an industry where uncertainty is the ultimate enemy, telling investors to submit to it is often met with disdain, but accepting the inevitability of uncertainty is so important if you want to avoid going stir crazy as you try and hold for the long term.

Of course, discarding uncertainty is easier said than done. Worrying about factors beyond our control is an inherent part of the human condition. However, simply being aware that the game is not predictable and nobody truly knows the final outcome may help you reduce your craving for certainty.

My advice

Stop reaching for perfection in a world of constant uncertainty. Stop obsessing about making the right decision one hundred percent of the time. Even the best investors in history have had their fair share of howlers. Ultimately you just need to be right more often than you are wrong.

The solution

Create an investment portfolio centred around what you believe to be the most probable outcome based on available information and incorporate enough diversification to function as a buffer.

In a world where anything is possible, all you can do is focus on what is most probable, allow for a margin of error to support you when your assumed outcomes don’t play out and simply let go of the rest.


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