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?
Paudie Clifford returns and scores wondergoal as Kerry dismantle Monaghan
Adam Moynihan reports from the Fitzgerald Stadium
National League Division 1
Kerry 3-16 Monaghan 0-14
HT: Kerry 0-10 Monaghan 0-6
A spectacular second-half goal by surprise inclusion Paudie Clifford helped Kerry to an impressive 11-point over Monaghan in Killarney this afternoon.
The All-Star forward wasn’t named on the initial panel of 27 but when his name was called out as No. 26 before the game, a loud cheer rang out around the O’Sullivan Stand. Kerry fans had to wait until the 46th minute to see the Fossa captain make his first appearance of the season but it didn’t take him long to make his mark.
After soloing all of 80 metres, the elder Clifford dispatched a perfect finish beyond the reach of Rory Beggan to send Kerry nine points clear with 51 minutes on the clock.
In truth the game was drifting away from Monaghan before Clifford’s cameo but his sensational contribution made absolutely certain.
With two points on the board and David Clifford and Seánie O’Shea waiting in the wings ahead of Mayo away in two weeks’ time, Kerry manager Jack O’Connor will be a happy man leaving Killarney this evening.
Monaghan stayed in touch with Kerry for the first quarter, thanks in the main to a string of needless fouls that gifted the away team some easy scores.
Conor McCarthy broke the deadlock with one such free in the 6th minute and Tony Brosnan got Kerry off the mark two minutes later with a placed ball of his own.
The reliable Dessie Ward and Kerry’s bustling full forward Darragh Roche exchanged scores before Micheál Bannigan tapped over a free to re-establish the Farney’s early lead.
Kerry then went on a mini-run, instigated by a neat team move that saw Tony Brosnan and Micheál Burns combine to tee up the excellent Tom O’Sullivan for a close-in score.
Good work by Barry Dan O’Sullivan from a hop ball led to another Brosnan free, and then a high, skyscraper of a point from the stand side into the scoreboard end by Donal Down O’Sullivan gave the hosts a two-point lead.
However, two more avoidable fouls handed Monaghan’s free-takers McCarthy and Bannigan a point apiece and midway through the first half, the scores were level at 0-5 each.
The Kingdom finally began to inject some pace into proceedings in the second quarter with Dara Moynihan and Micheál Burns especially active. The All-Ireland champions scored five of the next six points with Roche, Brosnan (free), Moynihan, Donal Down O’Sullivan and Burns all hitting the target.
A tasty individual effort by Monaghan’s best forward, Conor McCarthy, left the scores at 0-10 to 0-6 at the break.
Monaghan’s good work in the first half was rather quickly undone in the second as Kerry exerted their dominance in all sectors. By the time Darragh Roche evaded Beggan and goaled in the 39th minute, the home side led by eight (1-12 to 0-7) and the result already appeared to be beyond question.
In fairness to Vinney Corey’s charges, they rattled off three unanswered points over the next 10 minutes – and they would have scored a goal but for a great save by Shane Murphy – but then Clifford’s introduction set the tone for the remainder.
Adrian Spillane’s goalbound effort was tipped over in the 49th minute (Spillane was the last of Kerry’s six forwards to score) and then Clifford gathered the ball inside his own 65, sprinted straight for goal, and finished emphatically to make it 2-13 to 0-10.
Things got worse for Monaghan four minutes later when Ryan O’Toole saw red for a high tackle on Stefan Okunbor. In the next attack, Tom O’Sullivan sauntered forward to drive a trademark outside-of-the-boot shot between the uprights and Kerry led by double scores (2-14 to 0-10).
Stephen O’Hanlon was one of Monaghan’s shining lights and he scored two of his three points in the final quarter, but they counted for little when all was said and done.
TG4’s Man of the Match Donal Down O’Sullivan capped a fine full debut with a nice goal in stoppage time as Kerry picked up their first league win of the season.
KERRY: S Murphy; G O’Sullivan, J Foley, T O’Sullivan (0-2); P Warren, T Morley, P Murphy; J Barry, BD O’Sullivan; M Burns (0-1), D Moynihan (0-1), A Spillane (0-1); T Brosnan (0-4f), D Roche (1-2), D O’Sullivan (1-3).
Subs: P Clifford (1-1) for Moynihan; S Okunbor for BD O’Sullivan; K Spillane (0-1m) for Roche, G Horan for Warren; R Murphy for A Spillane.
MONAGHAN: R Beggan; T McPhillips, K Duffy (0-1), R Wylie; C Boyle, D Ward (0-1), K Loughran; K Lavelle, C Lennon; S O’Hanlon (0-3), M Bannigan (0-3, 2f), J Wilson; C McCarthy (0-5, 4f), K Gallagher (0-1), S Carey.
Subs: D Treanor for Lennon; G Mohan for Wilson; T McPhillips for Lavelle; S Jones for Carey; S Slevin for Wylie.
Handball continues to shine in Killarney
By Con Dennehy Handball in the Killarney region can look back at 2022 as a year of continued progress, the promotion of handball in East Kerry and the introduction of […]
By Con Dennehy
Handball in the Killarney region can look back at 2022 as a year of continued progress, the promotion of handball in East Kerry and the introduction of the sport to a new generation.
It has been a phenomenal and successful year for the Spa Killarney Club. At the Annual General Meeting of the club this week, one of the highlights of the year singled out for mention was the hosting and promotion of a One Wall National Tournament which attracted players from all over Ireland to the Killarney venue in March.
There was joy for the home club at the tournament when Currow native and Spa Killarney Club member Aoife Walsh had an impressive victory in the highly competitive Ladies B championship.
There was also an international dimension for the club in 2022 when four players took part in the European One Wall Tournament in London. At this event Eoin O’Donoghue won gold in the Open Doubles B championship where he partnered with John Joe Quirke from Glenbeigh and Brendan O’Donoghue won a silver medal in the Over 40 Doubles final.
“As a new club we were delighted with the success we achieved in 2022. In January Aoife Walsh and Sinead Moriarty took home silverware in the highly competitive She’s Ace competition in Tyrone. This really was our springboard for success during the year and resulted in some of our players competing in the One Wall national finals in Roscommon in July. We are looking forward to an exciting 2023 and hopefully welcoming new members to the club,” said Eoin O’Donoghue, PRO of Spa Killarney Handball Club.
The club rounded off a memorable year in October when they hosted the Munster One Wall championships and the Kerry Handball Board AGM in November where club members Kieran O’Brien was elected president of Kerry Handball and Brendan O’Donoghue was appointed delegate to the Kerry GAA Board.
Officers Elected for 2023/2024: Brendan O’Donoghue (Chairman), Sinead Moriarty (Vice Chairperson), David Gillespie (Secretary), Eoin O’Donoghue (PRO) and James O’Brien (Treasurer).
Spa Killarney Handball Club will host an Open Night at the Spa GAA Club on Monday night (February 6). This will be an opportunity for attendees to savour the thrill of handball, have a taster game and meet the club players. It commences at 7pm and all over 18s are welcome.
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