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Adam Moynihan: Fair play to Celtic but what does their reign say about Kerry soccer?



I know all about how good Killarney Celtic are. I’ve played against them more times than I’d like to remember and I’ve seen first hand how talented and committed their players and officials are.

They deserve all the silverware they’ve amassed over the past five years and nothing I’m about to say here is to take away from that success.

But there’s no escaping the fact that one team dominating a competition is not the sign of a healthy competition. Monopolies are bad and they sometimes bring to light broader issues within the game.

Celtic’s stranglehold over Kerry soccer is no different. Following last week’s victory over Camp, they have now won four consecutive league and cup doubles. And it’s not just the trophies, it’s the manner in which they’re securing them. This season they won every single one of their 14 league games and finished 19 points clear of their closest rivals, Killarney Athletic. They secured twice as many wins as Athletic and scored twice as many goals.

The format of the league – which is decided by a final playoff between the top two regardless of points totals – gives off some semblance of jeopardy, but Celtic are invariably overwhelming favourites regardless.

The main question is: where are the other big clubs in all this? First let’s turn our attention to Tralee, Kerry’s biggest town and the traditional home of soccer in the county.

Despite Celtic’s recent haul, Tralee Dynamos are still the Kerry District League’s most decorated club. While they weren’t a million miles off second place this season, they have flirted with relegation in the recent past and their last league title came in 2015.

The third most successful club in Kerry, St Brendan’s Park (also of Tralee), were forced to drop out of the Premier Division in 2017 due to a lack of numbers at senior level. This came as a shock to many observers considering their solid underage structure.

They were repositioned to the bottom division and they have since been working their way back up the pyramid; next season they will play in the Premier B, i.e. the second tier. Park’s most recent Premier A title came in 2012.

There are a number of factors that could explain the demise of the traditional Tralee clubs, but the amount of senior teams now drawing players from the Tralee area is surely one of them. There are currently nine teams from the town in the Kerry District League and eight more in the area (roughly) between Tralee and Listowel. The vast majority use Mounthawk Park, the league's headquarters, as their home pitch.

Suffice to say footballers from this general area now have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a club.

Nine does seem like a lot for a town of Tralee’s size. For comparison, there are six clubs in the whole of East Kerry. The end result is that you effectively have all of the talent in Tralee town spread out across nine teams. In Killarney that number is two (or three if you include MEK Galaxy who train in Fossa and also attract some players from the town).

Meanwhile, Dingle Bay Rovers, the last team outside of Killarney to triumph in the Premier A, now find themselves in Division 1B, i.e. the fourth tier.

As for other competitors, my own club Killarney Athletic are tipping away and getting to finals (we were the last team besides Celtic to win the league, in 2017) and Castleisland tend to be competitive, as do Listowel. But, in truth, the gap between Celtic and the chasing pack is wide.

Getting players to commit is a major challenge for every club and if players aren’t committing then closing that gap becomes very difficult indeed. Kind of knowing that Celtic are going to run away with it every year doesn't help in that regard.

Another reoccurring issue that keeps coming up in conversations with stakeholders is the way fixtures are scheduled. Whereas most sporting bodies set their fixture schedule at the start of the season, or at least on a competition-by-competition basis as the year goes on, the KDL still arranges its fixtures on a weekly basis.

That makes it impossible for players to plan ahead with regards to work, holidays, or social events. I should know. It’s precisely why I stepped away from Athletic earlier this season. (No great loss, says you.)

The fixture uncertainty also breeds crazy situations like the one we’re seeing right now as one season runs from September to August, and the next season starts up again in September.

The league will argue that changing the system won’t work but I would argue that the current system isn’t working either. So what have they got to lose?



Kerry Camogie vow to back players in shorts/skorts controversy



by Adam Moynihan

The Kerry County Board will back their players if they decide to defy the rulebook and wear shorts after officials at the Camogie Association’s National Congress voted to keep the controversial skort.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, Kerry Camogie chairperson Ann Marie Russell confirmed that she is fully behind the players, the vast majority of whom want the skort to be binned.

“I know there have been calls for a protest, that they would all go out the first weekend of the championship and wear shorts,” Russell said. “If the players felt that was something they wanted to do, Kerry Camogie would absolutely support them.

“It should be up to the people who it affects. It doesn’t matter to me what the players wear or what they look like. They should be comfortable.”

The punishment for not wearing the correct playing gear is a yellow card which can be followed by a red card for dissent if not rectified.

Players say the skirt-like garment is not comfortable and they were hopeful that it would finally become a thing of the past when the issue was raised at Congress in Kildare last weekend.

However, a motion by Tipperary and Kerry to replace it with shorts was defeated by 64% to 36%. A similar proposal by Great Britain and Meath which would have given players the option to choose between skorts and shorts also fell well short of the two-thirds majority required (55% against, 45% in favour).

Voting was carried out by delegates from the various county boards as well as members of central and provincial councils. The majority of voters were female.

As one of Kerry’s two delegates, Russell confirmed that she voted in line with the players’ wishes, but she fears that delegates from some counties didn’t do likewise.

“Our job as delegates is to speak on behalf of the players and I definitely felt as though that wasn’t reflected by some of the other counties. I don’t know any girl in any age group at any level that goes to training in a skort. That, in itself, should speak volumes to the powers that be. Even the counties that wanted to keep the skorts, there’s no way their girls go training in skorts. I know they don’t.

“When camogie first started, women weren’t allowed to wear pants, so they had no choice but to wear skirts. They were longer at the time and things have evolved since then. The design is better. But there is a misconception that there are shorts underneath the skirts so ‘what’s the big deal?’ They’re not shorts, they’re compression shorts. That’s not the same thing.

“And look, I’m not wearing the skorts so it doesn’t matter to me. You have to listen to the players. That’s what I feel.

“We’re making decisions that really have little relevance to us, so we really have to take our players’ opinions into it. I’m not sure how many delegates go back and ask their players about these motions before they vote on them.”

Also speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, Kerry senior player Niamh Leen outlined the specific issues players have with the skort.

“If you went around the country, I guarantee you that you’d only find a handful of girls actually training in a skort,” the Clanmaurice woman said. “I’ve never been to a training session where someone was wearing a skort. We’re all in shorts.

“The practical side of it is that they’re really uncomfortable. They’re constantly rising up and I spend the majority of the match pulling the skort down instead of concentrating on the game. It shouldn’t be that way.”

According to Leen, the discomfort felt by players is not just physical. There is also a psychological discomfort involved.

“I am very paranoid about the skort, especially the length. You spend a lot of time bending over to pick up the ball and I am conscious of it. Even if you size up, it’s still too short. The only way to counteract it is to wear Skins (base layer) underneath which I don’t really like doing because that’s not overly comfortable either.

“It should be a players’ vote at the end of the day. We’re the ones who actually have to wear them and we should be the ones having the say. But, unfortunately, it’s not up to us.

“It’s very, very annoying. I could use harsher words but it is just frustrating, you know? We’ve wanted this motion to be passed for so many years.

“Nobody I know likes playing in a skort and it’s frustrating that our own organisation aren’t taking the players into account.”

This is not the first time a proposal to replace the skort has been rejected and players will have to wait another three years for the next Congress to try to alter the rules on an official basis.

Leen believes that she and her colleagues should not have to wait that long and questions the reasoning of those delegates who voted to keep the status quo.

“Honestly, I think it’s to keep the tradition and to keep us unique, and maybe they see the skorts as being more feminine, which is just mind-boggling for me. I just don’t understand how that could be a reason to keep something that’s making girls uncomfortable.

“I understand that it’s the tradition, but sometimes traditions have to move on.”


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MATCH PREVIEW: Kerry name strong team for league final showdown with Armagh



by Adam Moynihan

Lidl National League Division 1 Final

Kerry v Armagh

Sunday 3pm

Croke Park

Live on TG4

The Kerry ladies return to Croke Park on Sunday hoping to retain their Division 1 crown and managers Declan Quill and Darragh Long have named a strong-looking line-up for their battle against Armagh.

Kerry mostly used the league for experimenting but they still managed to win five of their seven matches, enough to secure a top two finish.

Now almost all of The Kingdom’s big hitters are back in play, as evidenced by the team they have selected for this weekend’s Division 1 decider at HQ.

Eleven members of the side that lost to Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland final have been selected to start against Armagh. The four “new” starters are goalkeeper Mary Ellen Bolger, full back Deirdre Kearney, midfielder Mary O’Connell and full forward Emma Dineen.

Dineen has rejoined the panel following a spell abroad and has slotted seamlessly into Kerry’s full forward line. She will be flanked by Footballer of the Year Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh and the skilful Hannah O’Donoghue, who scored 1-2 against Galway a fortnight ago.

The only really notable absentee – apart from veterans like Emma Costello and Louise Galvin who haven’t yet featured for the team in 2024 – is Síofra O’Shea. The dynamic attacker, who heroically came off the bench in last year’s All-Ireland despite damaging her ACL in the lead-up to the game, is still rehabbing that serious injury.

Meanwhile, the return of All-Star defender Cáit Lynch bolsters Kerry’s back six. The Castleisland Desmonds woman has been used sparingly so far this year and she came on at half-time in that final regulation league game versus Galway.

Quill and Long are likely to call on substitutes Amy Harrington and Danielle O’Leary to make an impact if and when required.

Kerry’s sole loss in the league came at the hands of their final opponents, Armagh, who are looking to emulate what The Kingdom achieved last season by winning Division 1 at the first attempt after gaining promotion from Division 2 the previous season.

The Orchard County beat Kerry by 3-14 to 1-13 at the Athletic Grounds just over a month ago.

They flew through the regular phase of the 2024 competition, winning six games in a row before losing to Dublin in Round 7 with many key players being rested.

Star forward Aimee Mackin has been in blistering form. She has racked up 6-21 (4-15 from play) to date, including 2-6 (1-6 from play) in that meeting between the eventual finalists in March.

Armagh had not yet named their team for the final as this article was being published.

This match forms part of a double header with the Division 2 final between Kildare and Tyrone (1pm). Both games will be televised live on TG4.

Kerry team to play Armagh:

1. Mary Ellen Bolger (Southern Gaels)

2. Cáit Lynch (Castleisland Desmonds)

3. Deirdre Kearney (Na Gaeil)

4. Eilís Lynch (Castleisland Desmonds)

5. Aishling O’Connell (Scartaglin)

6. Ciara Murphy (MKL Gaels)

7. Kayleigh Cronin (Dr Crokes)

8. Mary O’Connell (Na Gaeil)

9. Anna Galvin (Southern Gaels)

10. Niamh Carmody (Captain – Finuge/St Senan’s)

11. Niamh Ní Chonchúir (Corca Dhuibhne)

12. Lorraine Scanlon (Castleisland Desmonds)

13. Hannah O’Donoghue (Beaufort)

14. Emma Dineen (Glenflesk)

15. Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh (Corca Dhuibhne)

Subs: Ciara Butler, Danielle O’Leary, Amy Harrington, Ciara McCarthy, Ciara O’Brien, Katie Brosnan, Aoife Dillane, Bríd O’Connor, Kate O’Sullivan, Eilís O’Connor, Fay O’Donoghue, Jess Gill, Róisín Smith, Siobhán Burns, Keri-Ann Hanrahan.

Follow Adam on Twitter/X for all the latest updates from the Ladies Division 1 final at Croke Park


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