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Traditionalism trumps common sense as Kerry clubs vote to keep captaincy rule

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The captain of the Kerry senior football team will be selected by the county champions again in 2021 after a motion seeking to defer that decision to the team’s manager was defeated at a county board meeting on Monday night.

It’s not the first time this motion has been shot down (and it might not be the last) but critics of the existing rule were hopeful that this would finally be the year. A number of important voices have openly called for change, most notably ex-players like Tomás Ó Sé and Kieran Donaghy, the previous bainisteoir Eamonn Fitzmaurice and even current players who know what it's like to have the full weight of the captaincy thrust upon them.

Speaking on Monday, Kerry GAA chairman Tim Murphy said that Peter Keane and his management team were also in favour of the motion as “they feel they have been entrusted to represent Kerry and win All-Irelands… [and] they feel the current system doesn’t necessarily allow them the best chance of doing so.”

In the end, 50 clubs listened to the men at the coalface and voted in favour of the motion, but 48 voted against; a majority, but not the two-thirds majority needed to abolish the long-standing practice, which is only adhered to by Kerry and the Kilkenny hurlers.

REMARKABLE

To be honest, I think it’s fairly remarkable that some club officers assume to know better than Peter Keane when it comes to deciding what’s right for his team. The men making these calls are by and large completely removed from the inner workings of the Kerry senior football team, they don't know how an intercounty dressing room works in 2020, and they don't understand the kind of pressure modern-day footballers are under. Surely it makes sense to listen to the people who do?

There’s no denying that certain delegates from championship contenders voted to stick with the status quo because the current system is likely to result in footballers from their own clubs being nominated in the future, and to an extent I get that. We all want one of our own to captain Kerry. It’s a big deal for any club. Naturally, this being Kerry, thoughts immediately turn to August and the prospect of a homecoming.

But are officers really comfortable with potentially hurting the chances of their county winning an All-Ireland just to improve the chances of their own club having a captain?

There seems to be this attitude in certain quarters that all is rosy in Kerry’s garden, and that there’s no need to alter the way we do things. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” is a common refrain around these parts. That’s all well and good – unless, of course, it actually is broken.

This might come as a shock to Kerry supporters of a certain vintage but the 1980s (aka The Golden Years) were 40 years ago. Things haven’t been so spectacular since.

Powered by all-time greats like Colm Cooper, Seámus Moynihan and the Ó Sé brothers, Kerry won five All-Irelands in the 2000s but the 1990s (one All-Ireland) and the 2010s (one All-Ireland) were the county’s two least successful decades since the 1890s.

Of course, allowing the county champions to choose the Kerry captain isn’t the sole root of these relatively barren spells, but you have to ask yourself the question: has it helped?

FAILED

Looking at the recent past in particular, it's clear that the system has failed. Of the last six nominated captains, five have not started in, or have been dropped for, Kerry’s final game in that year’s championship. The other was withdrawn at half-time.

When Kerry needed leadership in their biggest moments, more often than not their nominated captain wasn’t even on the pitch.

And that’s not to be critical of any of the guys in question. They are all excellent players and in many cases they simply had the captaincy imposed upon them at inopportune times, when they were either new to the team or not guaranteed starters. In other instances, they were simply unlucky.

Back in 2018, Shane Murphy was captain on his championship debut. Whatever about the team, how is that fair on him?

That same year, Micheál Burns was handed the captaincy in Murphy’s absence and he later admitted that it adversely affected his performance. Maybe it was "time to look for the most experienced and well-placed person”, he noted.

In recent years, being asked to captain Kerry was a bit like being asked to sleep with the Queen. It’s a great honour, but no one wanted to do it.

David Clifford may well have captained Kerry at some stage if it were up to the manager, but at 21 years of age? I don’t think it will phase him because he’s a freak of nature and nothing does, but if the Kerry captain was selected by general election then I doubt Clifford would have put his name on the ballot. Not yet, anyway.

I find it bizarre that club officials in Kerry will readily sign off on large sums of money for the latest gym equipment, nutritionists and sports psychologists, presumably to give their team every possible edge in a sport that has become increasingly aware of the fine margins, but when it comes to something as fundamental as choosing a team captain, they’re willing to leave it to chance.

This week’s outcome is a disappointing one for many observers, although in truth I doubt anyone is massively surprised.

This is the GAA, after all, where blind traditionalism often trumps basic common sense.

 

ABOVE: Shane Murphy leads Kerry out on his championship debut against Clare in 2018. Pic: Matt Browne/Sportsfile.

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Ian makes his debut as a radio presenter

By Sean Moriarty Ian O’Connell said he is delighted with the messages of support following his first broadcast as a presenter on Radio Kerry this week. The well-known and popular Killarney man was left with life-changing injuries after falling from his bike in Killarney National Park in 2017. Since the accident he has been a […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Ian O’Connell said he is delighted with the messages of support following his first broadcast as a presenter on Radio Kerry this week.

The well-known and popular Killarney man was left with life-changing injuries after falling from his bike in Killarney National Park in 2017.

Since the accident he has been a champion for the less fortunate under his mantra: “If you can’t stand up – standout”.

This was the inspiration behind his brand new radio show which aired for the first time on Wednesday evening.

‘Stand Out with Ian O’Connell’ will feature interviews with people who have overcome great adversary to reach even greater heights.

His first guest was fellow Killarney man Jordan Lee. The Paralympian represented Ireland in the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

“I was used to being in the studio from people interviewing me, but this time I turned the table,” he told the Killarney Advertiser.

“It was great to have Jordan on, two Killarney men! I really enjoyed it, it got a massive reaction and I got loads of emails and messages afterwards and into Thursday morning.”

Ian will reveal his guest for the show on the previous Monday through various social media channels.

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Sinead is queen of the court

By Con Dennehy With a mix of excitement, drama and impressive solo performances on offer, the Spa/Killarney Handball Tournament on Monday night showcased the best of upcoming talent in the sport. Competitions for Beginners and Advanced players at the magnificent Spa GAA facility has ensured the long term success of the sport in the greater […]

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By Con Dennehy

With a mix of excitement, drama and impressive solo performances on offer, the Spa/Killarney Handball Tournament on Monday night showcased the best of upcoming talent in the sport.

Competitions for Beginners and Advanced players at the magnificent Spa GAA facility has ensured the long term success of the sport in the greater Killarney region.

One of the most impressive performances on the night was in the Beginners Category where local star Sinead Moriarty secured a number of electrifying victories to win the overall title.

“This was a very competitive competition. In the opening games Neill Horgan was defeated by Rosin King from Glenbeigh 13-15 with Sinead Moriarty getting the better of exchanges with Bríd Horgan (Spa) 15-8. In the other game Niamh Faulds from Glenflesk lost to Elena O’Donoghue (Spa) 15-10 despite a very brave effort from Niamh,” said Eoin O’Donoghue, secretary of Spa Killarney Handball Club.

In the semi-finals Sheila Kelliher lost to Elena O’Donoghue (Spa) 15-11 with Sinead Moriarty defeating Rosin King 15-12.

“In a pulsating final Sinead saw off the dogged challenge of Elena O’Donoghue 15-11. While Sinead dominated this game, she looked in control and played a brilliant tournament throughout and was a deserving overall winner.”

In the Advanced category there were wins for Evan Enright and Eoin O’Donoghue in the opening games.

In the quarter finals Even Enright saw off the challenge of Brendan O’Donoghue 15-8 while Eoghan Daly defeated Eoin O’Donoghue 15-11, Aoife Walsh (Currow) defeated Maggie Quirke (Glenbeigh) 15-7 and Brian McEvoy beat Michael Clifford 15-6.

Semi-final success for Evan Enright and Eoghan Daly saw them battle it out in a pulsating final with Daly taking the title on a 15-12 scoreline.

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