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Opinion: Players must speak up to change the status quo

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Soccer players in Kerry are not happy.

I knew that before I wrote last week’s article but things have come more sharply into view over the past few days. In addition to my own personal grievances, which have been echoed by players from clubs all over the county, a slew of other complaints have come to light, ranging from the irritating to the downright infuriating.

Paying to get into Mounthawk Park when you’re playing a match is a major gripe and people outside of Kerry were appalled when they heard that this is common practice in the KDL.

The issue of the floodlights in Mounthawk being used too sparingly was also verified by another player from North Kerry, who stated that the many teams who use KDL headquarters as their home venue are charged extra if they require the lights, but it’s often nearly dark before they’re switched on.

Meanwhile, the practice of deciding the league title by having a playoff between the top two teams has been heavily criticised by a number of observers who consider it unfair on the side who finish first. It’s entirely possible that the league leaders could finish way out in front but end up losing the title in the one-off, end-of-season final, which is always played at Mounthawk Park.

As has been stated previously, players are also charged at the gate for these finals.

The scheduling of fixtures is another bone of contention. As matches are only fixed 5-7 days before they are due to take place, it is impossible for players and management to plan holidays or events during the season without running the risk of missing an important game. You could go four or five weeks without playing and then have two fixtures in a week. It’s very unpredictable.

WALKOVERS

Walkovers are also a concern for players and while the league might argue that it isn’t their fault if a club fails to field a team, I would suggest that the manner in which the league is currently being run is pushing players away from soccer and leaving many clubs short-handed.

In total, four teams have withdrawn from the Premier Division during the course of the past three seasons.

In the 2016/17 season, Tralee club St Brendan’s Park, traditionally one of the strongest teams in the county, pulled out of the Premier A halfway through the campaign as they were struggling to fulfil fixtures. They were subsequently regraded to Division 2A, the fifth tier of Kerry soccer.

It’s staggering to think that a big town club like Park, who won the league as recently as 2011 and have an excellent underage set-up, could no longer field a team.

Rattoo Rovers, Mastergeeha and John Delaney’s old club Tralee Celtic have also been forced to withdraw from the top flight since 2018.

Tralee Dynamos, the most successful club in the history of the Kerry District League with 13 league titles, also struggled last year and ended up getting relegated, although they were later reinstated to the Premier A when Mastergeeha, who avoided relegation on the final day of the season, were voluntarily demoted to Division 2A.

NEW TEAMS

A number of new teams have been formed in Kerry in the last few years and there are now 10 clubs in Tralee alone. Perhaps this goes some way towards explaining why traditionally bigger clubs have faltered over the past few years.

Most of these new senior teams have no underage structure to produce new players and no facilities of their own. The vast majority play all of their home games in Mounthawk Park.

Of the 39 clubs in Kerry’s six divisions, 17 of them call Mounthawk home. Including B and C teams, 19 of the 49 teams competing in the KDL play at the league’s flagship facility on the outskirts of Tralee.

Home teams are charged to rent the pitch (extra if they need the lights) and away players must pay €2 a head at the gate. If my calculations are correct, 148 league games will be played at Mounthawk Park this season.

Some people say that these Mounthawk teams, who are also disparagingly referred to as “pub teams”, have weakened the league but even if those people are right, the horse has already bolted. It’s not as though you can force them to disband now. That simply wouldn’t be fair.

FORCING CHANGE

These are all issues that have irked soccer players in Kerry for quite some time but despite some of them being raised at league meetings in the past, there appears to be no real appetite to tackle them as far as the powers that be are concerned.

Naturally enough, a lot of us are frustrated with the people at the wheel but I think we have to look at ourselves as players and ask if we have done enough to force change.

It’s one thing complaining down the pub, we’re all capable of that (I’m fairly good at it myself), but in reality that’s not going to make any difference. And in a functioning league, it shouldn’t take anything drastic to change the way things are being done. The KDL should be answerable to its clubs and clubs should be answerable to their players.

If senior players get together, even for a few minutes after training, have a chat and put down in writing whatever it is that they’re unhappy about, they can then pass this on to their clubs. You would hope and assume that the clubs would listen to their players and take their concerns seriously.

If the clubs communicate these issues to the league, and there is a consensus on certain issues (which I strongly believe there is), then surely the league would be left with no choice but to act.

At the moment league officials can hide behind the fact that they don’t know for certain what the players and the clubs want. If that excuse is taken away from them and they still fail to take action, then the league simply isn’t fit for purpose.

So I would challenge players to speak up and make your voices heard. There has been far too much silence for far too long.

Pic: Konrad Paprocki.

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Possible return to campus for college students

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By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

The announcement by the Department of Education this week, that the Leaving Cert results will be issued on Friday, September 3, was followed by confirmation from the Central Applications Office that CAO Round 1 offers will be issued online, four days later on Tuesday, September 7 at 2pm.

This is about three weeks later than normal, although it is earlier than the 2020 dates. Coinciding with the release of these dates comes the news from Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, that it is the priority of Government to get college students back on campus for the 2021/2022 academic year. Because of the later issue of Leaving Cert results and CAO offers, this means that First Year students will start college a couple of weeks later than those who are returning to college in Second, Third and Fourth Year.

From the point of social distancing, the staggered start may be an advantage, as we will still be living with certain restrictions due to COVID-19. There are a number of contributing factors what will influence a safe and successful return to the college campus for students according to Minister Harris. They include the roll-out and take-up of vaccinations in the college-age cohort by September, the use of rapid testing on campus which has been run as a pilot in several universities this year, and a varied approach to face-to-face lectures. It is hoped that smaller classes, practicals and tutorials can be operated as before with social distancing while the larger lectures may need to be facilitated using a blended approach. It is also felt that if cafés, restaurants and bars are open everywhere else, there is no reason why they can’t open on campus. This of course is all based on vaccinations and public health guidelines.

ACCOMMODATION

A big concern for First Year students following the announcements is the fact that they will be looking for accommodation later than all other students. This is an issue every single year because when CAO offers are issued, many students get offers for colleges in locations where they have not secured accommodation. Naturally it is of particular concern to rural students and mirrors a greater societal shortage of accommodation. Minister Harris has also stated that he is bringing a proposal to Cabinet in the coming weeks to implement legislation which means that the owners of purpose-built student accommodation will only be allowed to charge rents a month in advance rather than insisting on payment of rent for half of the college year, something which has put enormous strain on students and their families over the years.
So, while any kind of certainty surrounding a return to ‘normal’ college life isn’t possible, it is both hopeful and exciting for new and returning college students to be able to look forward to the next college year with the prospect of getting to enjoy a real college experience and all that has to offer.

WEBINAR

I will be hosting a free webinar for Leaving Cert parents on June 16 at 7pm on ‘How to help your son/daughter with CAO Change of Mind and other career options’ ahead of the CAO deadline on July 1. 

To register see links on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: @mycareerplan or email me on info@mycareerplan.ie. 

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Career Consultant. For details see www.mycareerplan.ie or follow @mycareerplan on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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Deadline for health and well-being fest fast approaching

Friday June 25, the closing date to register an interest in hosting an activity or event during the 2021 Kerry Mental Health and Well-being Fest, is fast approaching. This year’s #KerryMHWFest will run from October 9 to 16. It is held annually to highlight World Mental Health Day on October 10. Organised by an interagency […]

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Friday June 25, the closing date to register an interest in hosting an activity or event during the 2021 Kerry Mental Health and Well-being Fest, is fast approaching.

This year’s #KerryMHWFest will run from October 9 to 16. It is held annually to highlight World Mental Health Day on October 10.

Organised by an interagency steering group, the key focus of the Kerry Mental Health and Well-being Fest is to promote mental health and well-being in Kerry through a fun and interactive programme of events.

“The Kerry Mental Health and Well-being Fest aims to create awareness of, and schedule events that empower people to engage with the Five Ways to Well-being – Connect | Give | Take Notice | Keep Learning | Be Active – as well as raising awareness of the available supports and services in the county,” Chair of the Steering Committee, Donagh Hennebry, said.

“The Fest has a wide reach across Kerry and we want to continue to build on its success in 2021. But we can’t do this without you! We are inviting anyone who is interested in helping us achieve our goal, by hosting an event(s) during #KerryMHWFest, to register online as soon as possible.”

The organising committee is a collaboration between Connecting for Life Kerry, Healthy Kerry, Kerry County Council, the HSE, NEWKD, SKDP, Kerry Mental Health Association, Jigsaw Kerry, Munster Technological University/Kerry, and Kerry Volunteer Centre.

To register your interest to host an event for the 2021 Kerry Mental Health and Well-being Fest, visit www.healthykerry.ie before close of business on Friday, June 25.

For more information about registration, promotion, or the Fest in general, please contact the interagency steering group at: kerrymhwfest20@gmail.com.

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Free and subsidised higher education courses for Kerry

  11 free and subsidised higher education places have been announced for Kerry under the Springboard+ 2021 and Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1 initiatives. The courses, which open for applications today (Wednesday), will run at Munster Technological University Kerry. The courses on offer include a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy Management & Practice, a Certificate in […]

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11 free and subsidised higher education places have been announced for Kerry under the Springboard+ 2021 and Human Capital Initiative (HCI) Pillar 1 initiatives. The courses, which open for applications today (Wednesday), will run at Munster Technological University Kerry.

The courses on offer include a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy Management & Practice, a Certificate in Retail Food Service Operations and a Postgraduate Diploma in Bioeconomy with Business.

Over 10,000 places are available across both programmes nationwide in 2021.

Springboard+ provides free courses for people who are unemployed, people who have taken time out of work or education to raise their families or care for loved ones, or people who want to upskill. Now in its 10th year, over 75,000 people have benefited from Springboard+ to date.

Courses under the HCI Pillar 1 programme are aimed at graduates and offer incentivised places for them to reskill in areas of skills shortage and emerging technologies. These are being run alongside, and complementary to, the Springboard+ offerings.

For those in employment, the Government will fund 90% of the cost of a Springboard+ or HCI Pillar 1 course. The programmes are managed by the Higher Education Authority on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills.

Launching the programme, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD said, “As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we will need to ensure that people have the skills they need”.

Helpline

Candidates who wish to participate will find full details on the approved courses on www.springboardcourses.ie. Experienced guidance counsellors will be available to advise potential Springboard+ and HCI Pillar 1 participants on their options on the freephone Springboard+ helpline: 1800 303 523. The helpline is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday.

 

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