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Adam Moynihan: Some of the criticism aimed at the county board has been unfair

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As Tim Murphy patiently waited for some of the delegates to put themselves on mute, he didn’t look entirely comfortable in his seat. Monday’s County Board meeting was about to begin via Zoom (once the background noise had ceased), and the Kerry GAA chair knew what was coming.

The manner in which he and his fellow officers had handled the recruitment process to find the “next” Kerry manager had been criticised in certain quarters. The Brosna native was about to get it in the neck.

Sitting in the pavilion in Austin Stack Park with just Peter Twiss (secretary) and Leona Twiss (PRO) for company, Murphy invited and then noted a string of questions and concerns from eight club representatives. The words “transparency”, “bias”, “unfair treatment” and “mishandled” came up more than once. One delegate spoke of being contacted by people who are “very unhappy and annoyed” at the way the situation played out. Another referenced a report on Off The Ball in which “sources” had claimed that Jack O’Connor had sewn up the gig before the others (Keane and Stephen Stack) had even interviewed.

The fact that many of the concerns and most of the criticism came from clubs associated with Peter Keane or his selectors is worth noting. St Mary’s (Keane and Maurice Fitzgerald’s home club), Listry (where Keane lives), Laune Rangers (from Killorglin, where Keane has his business), Beaufort (a team Keane was previously involved with), and Kilcummin (James Foley’s club) all had their say. That’s not to say that their concerns weren’t genuine or valid, but it does appear to indicate that the old GAA mantra of “looking after our own” was at play, at least to some extent.

More telling was the fact that the vast majority of clubs in the county raised no concerns at all.

Nevertheless, Murphy had to field the questions that were asked and he did so quite well. He stood over everything he and his five-person sub-committee had done and he bristled at the suggestion that there was anything untoward about the process.

“This suggestion about it being a done deal going back three weeks ago or four weeks ago is totally erroneous, totally untrue, totally unfounded,” he said.

“I think it’s disgraceful. It’s the lowest of the low.”

After the chairman had addressed everyone’s concerns, Jack O’Connor was ratified without so much as a peep of dissent from anyone. That probably shows you where most of the clubs really stand on this whole episode.

I, for one, think the County Board have been unfairly criticised over the past few weeks. And readers of this column will know that I wouldn’t be one for praising boards or administrators just for the sake of an easy life.

The interview process was a smart way to go because there were doubts about Keane and there were no obvious alternatives. Firstly, it gave Keane the opportunity to present his case and maybe offer up some solutions. It has been reported in the media that if Keane was to stay on, the players would have liked to have seen a fresh face or two in the backroom team. Maybe if Keane had indicated that he was open to freshening up that side of things, the sub-committee would have viewed his application more favourably.

Secondly, the process allowed O’Connor and Stack to present their own cases and make an impression on the board. Evidently, O’Connor made the best presentation. Is it possible that he was the preferred candidate from the start? Absolutely, but there will be favourites for every role. It doesn’t mean that the others had no chance of overtaking him.

If Keane didn’t end up getting the job, it was always going to get a bit messy, but that’s life. And that’s Kerry football. As Murphy suggested, the circus was created by other parties – predominantly the media and the fans. The board remained tight-lipped throughout.

Not thanking Peter Keane ahead of O’Connor’s ratification irked many observers (Murphy did so after O’Connor was officially appointed) and maybe that could have happened a bit earlier.

Having said that, the board were roundly criticised for not thanking Keane when announcing that the process for finding the “next” Kerry manager had begun. How could they thank him then when he was still in the running? Even after it was announced that the sub-committee would be nominating O’Connor, what if there was uproar at the county board meeting and the Dromid man wasn’t ratified?

Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? No.

For his part, Keane didn’t help matters with his statement claiming that “all the players” were behind him - that muddied the waters for sure. It was a crazy thing to say. No manager in the world has that kind of support, and Keane absolutely did not.

All in all, Murphy came out of the meeting largely unscathed. His five years are up in December. He will be hoping that this was the last controversy of his tenure.

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James O’Donoghue retires from intercounty football

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James O'Donoghue during the Munster GAA Football Senior Championship Final. PICTURE: BRENDAN MORAN/SPORTSFILE

by Adam Moynihan

Former Player of the Year and two-time All-Star James O’Donoghue has announced his retirement from intercounty football.

The Killarney Legion forward stepped away from Peter Keane’s panel in 2021 to focus on club football, leading to speculation surrounding his future in the green and gold.

O’Donoghue has not featured under new manager Jack O’Connor and today, speaking to Off The Ball, he confirmed that he had actually privately retired last year.

“It’s all over, it’s all over bar the shouting,” the 31-year-old said.

“Last year, I was fighting an uphill battle. Realistically, I stepped away from the panel just before the going got very serious because I wasn’t really contributing. I told them at that stage that I was retiring but because Kerry were going too well, we decided not to put out a statement and throw all the good vibes out of the camp. So we just kept it under wraps.

“It’s a painful one, it’s definitely something that’s going to be hard, but it’s the right thing.”

Although he had initially resigned himself to stepping away for good, O’Donoghue did admit that he tried to get himself right for another cut under Jack O’Connor.

“I know Jack well, very well and have always got on great with him, and I know that if I was right, I could have picked up the phone and rang him and said ‘I’m thinking about changing my mind, what do you think?’

“I actually did give a go at getting into very good nick for it, just to see if I could give it one last go, but do you know what – my body wasn’t up to it, just that the way it is. I’ll go back to the club now, tailor my programme and I guarantee you that I might not see another injury, just the slight drop in intensity might suit me.

“If I was right I could have picked up the phone and we’d have had a chat, but it just didn’t feel right.”

O’Donoghue was speaking on The Football Pod, the OTB podcast which he will now host alongside Paddy Andrews and Tommy Rooney.

Despite his battles with injuries, the Killarney native enjoyed a memorable career for The Kingdom. After making his league debut in 2010, he soon became a key figure in Kerry’s forward division and was integral when Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side won the 2014 All-Ireland final against Donegal.

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Killarney girls prepared for Munster final duel

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U16 Munster League Final

Killarney RFC v Ennis

Saturday at 1pm

LIT

The Killarney RFC U16 girls’ team are heading for Limerick today (Saturday) hoping to cap a magnificent season with a trophy.

This talented group of players, many of whom are new to the sport, have taken on all comers en route to the decider and now Ennis stand between them and provincial glory.

Even reaching the final is a great achievement for the Aghadoe-based club. Coach Diarmuid O’Malley says his charges will need to find “another level” to get over the line.

“We have seen [Ennis] play on a couple of occasions this season and what’s clear is that they have being together for many years,” O’Malley said. “We again will need to step it up to another level in order to be able to compete effectively against them.

“I look back on the success of the Limerick hurling team when they reached the All-Ireland final in 2018, not many gave them much of a chance at the time. The common theme was that “it’s a young team and their time will come”. They not only took the opportunity in 2018 but have since won three out of the last four All-Irelands.

“Finals are all about being present, patient and taking your opportunity, and not letting the occasion get to you. These girls have a great approach to everything they have done in the most challenging environment this year in the current global circumstances.

“It’s going to be one hell of a battle against a very good Ennis team and they are very much favoured to win, but nothing is beyond this capable bunch of Killarney girls.”

If Killarney are to cause an upset, their defence will be key.

“We have had a phenomenal run to get to the final and all through the journey the girls have not compromised on the quality of the rugby they are playing. The most pleasing aspect of our semifinal win against Bruff was keeping them to zero as we have put huge emphasis on our defence all season.

“We will very much approach the final versus Ennis in the same way.”

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