Connect with us

Sport

Bad luck, ‘yerrah’ and backs in the forwards: Analysing the Peter Keane era

Published

on

by Adam Moynihan

It began so promisingly but, following the shock defeat to Tyrone in the All-Ireland semi-final, the Peter Keane era has ended in failure.

The Cahersiveen man's popularity took a nosedive in the immediate aftermath of that disappointing defeat in Croke Park: a poll carried out by the Killarney Advertiser revealed that just 23% of Kerry fans wanted Keane to stay on and lead the team again in 2022.

That figure had dropped to 18% by the middle of last week so it came as no surprise when the County Board announced that Jack O'Connor would be returning for a third spell in the hot seat.

Keane proved to be a divisive figure over the course of his dramatic three-year reign. Some of the natives warmed to him, some didn't. In the end, it was the lack of All-Irelands that sealed his fate.

He doesn't strike me as the type of character who will be feeling sorry for himself at the moment but privately he must be thinking to himself that, with a little rub of the green, things could have turned out very differently indeed.

THE DUMPS

When Keane took over as manager in September of 2018, the Kerry senior football team was in the dumps. They had failed to advance beyond the Super 8s that summer and previous manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice resigned, stating his belief that he had become “a lightning rod for negativity and criticism”.

Kerry had now gone four years without an All-Ireland. To make matters worse, each of those four titles were won by Dublin.

There was some cause for optimism, however: the minors had just sealed their fifth All-Ireland in a row - three of which had come under the guidance of the new senior bainisteoir. Talent was on its way and, in the form of David Clifford and Seán O’Shea, some of it had already arrived.

Still, expectations were low at the start of 2019. According to a Killarney Advertiser survey, just 18% of Kerry fans thought Sam would be returning to the county later that year. The vibe back then was that the team was still in transition. They had a new manager - a new lightning rod, if you will - and it would take time.

They weren’t yet ready to challenge the Dubs.

SIDESHOW

Keane must have been cursing his luck when troubles off the field provided an unwanted sideshow during his first 100 days in office. One Kerry player was convicted of assault following an incident that had occurred in 2017, and three others who had reportedly represented Kerry “at some grade” were accused of the same offence around the New Year. (It later transpired that none of the trio had played for the seniors at that time but, at a tetchy press conference, the new Kerry manager nevertheless faced some challenging questions.)

Despite this unwanted media attention and low expectations locally, Keane led Kerry to seven wins out of eight in the league, including a morale-boosting victory over Dublin in Tralee. The Kingdom came up short against Mayo in the final but they looked solid in the championship, the highlight perhaps coming on a sunny July day in Killarney when they trounced Mayo by 1-22 to 0-15. Keane’s young guns accounted for Tyrone in the semis to set up a dream final against Dublin.

The Dubs, now seeking an unprecedented five-in-a-row, were strong favourites but Keane’s players were brilliant and came within inches of clinching one of Kerry’s greatest ever All-Ireland final triumphs. Unfortunately, a silly turnover gifted Dublin a chance to equalise at the death, and they didn’t pass it up.

The replay was not so close but had Eoin Murchan’s goal been ruled out (as it should have been) for overcarrying, who knows what might have happened.

Still and all, it was a positive first year for Keane and his team. Something to build on for 2020.

COVID

Sadly, as it turned out, 2020 wasn’t much of a year for building. COVID-19 cast the GAA season into disarray and forced teams to effectively disband for a number of months and train from home. This was a challenge that all intercounty bosses had to face but, in terms of Kerry managers, Keane has the distinction of being the only one to have a pandemic landed into his lap.

After lockdown things went from bad to worse. Kerry won the rejigged National League but it felt like a hollow victory. No final took place due to time constraints and when David Clifford lifted the trophy in an empty Austin Stack Park (having beaten an understrength Donegal outfit), he looked half embarrassed.

Then came that rain-soaked nightmare in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Kerry looked to be heading for the Munster final when they led by a point in a brutally dour match, but once again poor decision-making led to a turnover. We all know what came next. A freak goal hit Kerry like a shovel to the face.

And the defeat came at the ultimate price. The championship had also been rejigged, which meant no back door. Goodnight and good luck to you. An entire year down the drain.

So not only was Keane the first Kerry manager forced to deal with a pandemic, he was also the first in 20 years forced to deal with a straight knockout championship. If the back door was open, could Kerry have bounced back? Kerry fans would like to think so.

Anyway, as it was, Dublin made it six.

Keane was probably feeling a little bit hard done by at this point but if he thought his bad luck was over for the year, he was sorely mistaken. Days after the Cork match, the Kerry manager had to be rescued by emergency services after taking a fall up Carrauntoohil. He had dislocated his shoulder. A week to forget for sure, although he’ll do well to achieve that particular feat.

FREE-FLOWING FOOTBALL

For a million reasons, we all hoped that 2021 would be different. A more blessed year. After another lockdown, the early signs for Kerry were positive.

They emerged from the off-season playing free-flowing, attacking football. With newcomer Paudie Clifford pulling the strings, the goals were flying in from all angles. They ripped through the league and shared the title (once again no final was played). Later, a ferocious hammering of Cork capped an easy run through the Munster Championship.

It was all going swimmingly – especially considering the relatively shaky form of the defending All-Ireland champions – and confidence within the county was higher than it had been in years. Alas, more misfortune was around the corner for Keane and co.

Kerry’s semi-final opponents Tyrone had a COVID outbreak, the fallout from which is fresh enough in our minds without poring over it again. Long story short, the match was postponed twice, Kerry’s preparations were far from ideal, and they got ambushed in Croke Park by an excellent Tyrone performance.

Although Kerry underperformed, they had opportunities to win the game or at least force penalties at the end of extra time. Again, the on-field decision-making at crucial junctures left plenty to be desired.

Fortune did not favour Kerry that day. In truth, it did not favour Kerry on many big days during Peter Keane’s three-year reign.

Keane and Kerry were always likely to part ways after the disappointment of the Tyrone loss but the manner in which the County Board handled the changeover proved contentious. Keane's contract was up as soon as Kerry exited the championship but it became clear that he wanted to stay on. Kerry GAA were not so sure, though, so they accepted applications from other candidates, while also inviting Keane to reapply for the job. After going through the interview process, the outgoing boss lost out to Jack O’Connor, a man who had previously held the role almost a decade before him.

Whatever you think of Peter Keane you will surely have to agree with this much: he certainly wasn't the luckiest Kerry manager to ever take on the role.

CRITICISM

But (and there’s always a ‘but’) it is often said in sport that you make your own luck. As marginal as Kerry’s failings were under Keane, the manager is the key decision-maker. If targets are not reached, he must accept the responsibility. And the criticism.

The general consensus is that Kerry’s shock extra-time defeats to Cork in 2020 and Tyrone in 2021 were the result of the team’s tactical approach for each game. Against Cork, Kerry were alarmingly defensive. They got dragged into a wrestling match in the mud when staying upright and working the jab was probably the way to go.

Cork got a slice of luck with the winning goal but Kerry should never have been in that position; they should have been out the gate in normal time.

This year, Kerry played completely into Tyrone’s hands by repeatedly carrying the ball into contact, and then failing to recognise that their approach was not working. Defensively, Keane’s side did not look structurally sound and the three goals that were leaked were the winning and losing of the match.

Critics will also point to Keane’s team selection both days. Although that's always going to happen when Kerry lose a big match, choosing to start Brian Ó Beaglaoich at half forward against Cork was a mistake. Ó Beaglaoich is a fine player and had a very good season in 2021 at corner back, but playing a natural defender in the forwards signalled Kerry's intent to set up defensively.

It was a major boost to Cork psychologically and their players have admitted as much since.

It wasn't the first time Keane had named a defender or midfielder at half forward. Generally, this was a trend that supporters did not warm to.

Against Tyrone, Keane's predilection for backs came home to roost when Kerry found themselves shy of attacking options down the stretch. With David Clifford injured and other forwards misfiring, Kerry lacked replacements who were capable of kicking scores.

The one alternative Keane did have it his disposal, Micheál Burns, was left sitting in the stand for 85 minutes.

RELATIONS

Another perceived flaw of Keane’s relates to man management. Though some former players have spoken privately of the strong relationships Keane forms with his charges, and there was a core of Kerry players who remained loyal to him to the death, he did seem to rub some squad members up the wrong way.

The first controversy of his reign came with his very first squad announcement when he failed to notify outgoing regulars like Barry John Keane and Fionn Fitzgerald that they were no longer Kerry footballers. The oversight was significant enough to be flagged at a county board meeting, with Chairman Tim Murphy admitting that “things fell through the cracks”. Keane, however, defended his approach.

Over the course of his term, several players left or were dropped from the panel on bad terms. The Kerry manager is bound to step on toes along the way – that much is unavoidable - but from the outside it did seem as though more toes were stepped on than necessary.

Upon retiring, Shane Enright spoke of being frustrated by the lack of communication from the manager after he lost his place in the team.

Most recently, former Footballer of the Year James O’Donoghue left the squad mid-season after effectively being deemed surplus to requirements. O'Donoghue, highly regarded as one of the best players of his generation despite his injury woes, was reportedly left out of an internal A versus B training match, basically rendering him the 13th choice forward (at best) in the extended panel.

In light of the aforementioned dearth of attacking options available/utilised during the Tyrone defeat, many fans bemoaned O'Donoghue's absence in the days and weeks that followed.

There are also question marks about how well Keane worked with his backroom team. Defensive coach Donie Buckley was sacked in 2020 after apparently falling out of Keane’s favour, and there were unconfirmed reports at one point that another selector was growing frustrated with his role within the regime.

It must be reiterated that these reports were unconfirmed, and similar rumours about squad unrest were strenuously denied by the County Board and senior players at the end of 2020.

However, even those who have worked with Keane and hold him in high regard accept that he can be obstinate.

This type of stubbornness is a fairly common trait amongst football managers but it could also explain his apparent hesitancy in drafting in Tony Brosnan and Paudie Clifford, two stars at club level who were not introduced to the set-up as quickly as many supporters would have wished.

EVASIVE

When it came to the media side of things, Keane was nothing if not evasive. His tactic of playing dumb in interviews charmed many observers for a while, this journalist included, but his refusal to be drawn on certain matters, and his relentless self-portrayal as a simple country man who “wouldn’t know much about that kind of thing”, did get a little tiresome at times. Some journalists lapped up the yerrahs. Others rolled their eyes. The same is probably true for Kerry supporters.

This attitude towards the media would have been tolerated far more broadly if Kerry managed to win an All-Ireland in any of the past three years. The same is true of most, if not all, of the criticism levelled at him above.

Ultimately, that was Keane's downfall. He was unable to get the most out of the undoubted talent at his disposal and, in a county where All-Irelands are the only currency, it's almost always a case of three "barren" years and you're out.

All in all, he carried himself with a fair amount of dignity and naturally all of us in Kerry must thank him for his efforts. There were good days, even if the bad ones are likely to live longer in the memory.

Good luck to you, Peter. All things considered, you’re probably due a drop of it.

Sport

Killarney Valley AC named Club of the Year at national awards ceremony

Published

on

Members of Killarney Valley Athletics Club had cause for celebration on Wednesday as they picked up the prestigious Development Club of the Year prize at the 123.ie National Athletics Awards.

The award is handed out annually to a club who have made a positive impact on behalf of the sport within their community.

Sprinter Sarah Leahy of Killarney Valley and UL was also honoured with the Female University Athlete of the Year award.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, coach and committee member Tomás Griffin said he and his clubmates were “delighted” and “very proud” to accept the Club Development award on behalf of all their athletes, coaches and administrators. The opening of their new track alongside St Brendan’s College in 2020 has been crucial, Griffin explained.

“The facility a catalyst but the passion was always there and we had people doing their best and coaching long before there was a track. To see the momentum that came with the opening of the track being maintained is great. We now have a waiting list of people looking to join the club.

“Did we see ourselves winning an award like this, in an organisation of 53,000 members and 400 clubs? No. But was it always possible? Yes. Killarney as a town across all sports – Gaelic football, soccer, basketball, cycling, judo, rock climbing – it’s a place where people excel. The bar is already raised. But being able to reach this level and achieve what we have in just two years shows what other talent is out there.”

Killarney Valley now boast five Irish internationals, 320 registered members and 22 Athletics Ireland accredited coaches. The club won 107 provincial and national medals in 2022, and they had 155 graduates from their Couch to 5k programme. Many of these participants are now regulars in the local Park Run and are continuing their personal health and fitness journeys with the club.

Nine Killarney Valley representatives attended the awards ceremony on Wednesday: Tomás Griffin, Jerry Griffin (chairperson), Bríd Stack, Gene Courtney, Con Lynch, Karen Smith, Sarah Leahy, Jordan Lee, and Madie Wilson-Walker. Sarah’s parents Mike and Marie also made the journey.

Continue Reading

Sport

Jiu-jitsu champion Wilson da Silva sets sights on world title

Published

on

This week Adam Moynihan called to the Movement & Fitness Club on New Street to catch up with Killarney man Wilson da Silva. The 38-year-old Brazilian recently won gold at the European Championship for Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and now he’s gunning for a world title.

Wilson, congratulations on your latest success in Rome and Abu Dhabi.

Thank you, Adam.

Before we chat about that, let’s go back to the start. How did you end up living in Killarney?

I came here around 15 years ago because I met someone from Killorglin and we went out for five or six years. After we broke up, I came to Killarney. I’m pretty much half-local, half-Brazilian now.

What part of Brazil are you from?

The northeast. A place called Recife. If you look at the map, it’s the nearest point to Ireland.

Do you get to go home often?

I try to go once a year, you know? I was home earlier this year and then before Covid. But once a year I go home in the summertime.

It must be nice to get some sunshine.

It’s nice, man. Even recently the doctor told me I have Vitamin D deficiency. My skin colour needs the sun! So I go home once a year. I follow the doctor’s advice.

How did you get into jiu-jitsu?

I did it back home in Brazil but I continued here in Killarney. I trained with guys here, Pedro Bessa and Tom McGuire. Then there is another club in Killarney and I trained with them up until four years ago. Things weren’t working out so I started my own gym. I just wanted to do things my way which was to have a clean place, no ego, no drama, no stress, no jealousy. Just come, train jiu-jitsu and help each other. And it’s going well.

Was it hard to go out on your own?

In the beginning it was really difficult because I was opening a second club in the town, on my own. There was really only one guy who wanted to train with me, but then my fiancé (Ewelina) started training and one became two, two became three, and it started to grow. Now we have classes for babies from three years up, kids and teenagers. We’re doing jiu-jitsu and capoeira for all ages. I guess it’s something good for the community.

Can you tell me a bit about jiu-jitsu? Is it similar to other sports?

If you were to describe jiu-jitsu to someone who never saw it, it would be very similar to judo. You have people throwing each other and putting each other on the floor. The jiu-jitsu match is five minutes long and the goal is to checkmate the opponent, to make your opponent quit, or tap out. So there is a lot of ground work, grappling, and wrestling. It’s an excellent sport and great for self-defence. I can’t recommend jiu-jitsu enough.

So there’s no striking?

There is no striking but [in terms of self-defence] there is ducking from striking, turning a strike into a mobilisation. It’s about finding locks on the body – the joint moves this way for example (he turns his arm) – figuring out how the anatomy of the body works.

It seems quite technical and intellectual.

Yes, it’s a very intelligent sport. I trained in weightlifting for a long time, for many years. With time it simply comes down to reps, breaking muscle fibre, and you’re not learning anything. It’s boring. With jiu-jitsu you’re constantly thinking. You’re constantly working your brain.

I compare it to a game of chess. First you figure out how to move the pieces, and then you have to play strategy. Look ahead to the next move and what your opponent can do to you. The moves are complicated and you’re always learning new things. It requires a lot of focus and discipline to get good at it. You don’t get bored with jiu-jitsu.

Is the focus and discipline side of it good for the kids who come to your gym?

Yes, definitely. I find that it is so beneficial for the kids. The kids want to win but if they want to win, they need to learn the moves. In order to learn the moves, they have to pay attention. So straight away it develops focus and concentration and discipline. If they do not pay attention, if they run around the place, they’re going to lose when they spar. It fixes itself. The guys who come in, pay attention, and it makes the others not want to lose so they pay attention and worker hard to learn the moves.

You can see the difference in the kids when they come here. We try to make them comfortable in uncomfortable situations so that when you take the child out of the jiu-jitsu class and they have a to deal with a hard subject in school, or a bully, they are mentally stronger.

I have witnessed that myself. I worked in security for many years and before I dedicated myself to jiu-jitsu, I found it easy to lose the head. But the more hours I put into the gym and training in jiu-jitsu, the more comfortable I became with frustrating situations. You’re able to remain calm. That’s a benefit of jiu-jitsu.

How important is size in jiu-jitsu?

That’s a tricky one. People say that size doesn’t matter. It definitely does. There’s no doubt about that. But the beauty of jiu-jitsu is that once you have the technique, you’re able to apply it against bigger guys. You know, the bigger guys have big muscles and bigger egos, but if the small guy trains hard he will be able to move the big guy’s body in a way that works against him. The big guy who goes to the gym, he’s used to pushing the bar this way (straight out), whereas the guy who knows jiu-jitsu knows that if he moves the bigger guys arms here (upwards), he’s not strong anymore. Now the bench press is worth nothing.

Bigger guys think they are unbeatable. The small guys have to work for it. I always motivate the guys here in the gym to be humble. You always have to consider yourself the second best, the guy who wants to be first. The moment you think that you’re bigger and better than everyone else, you stop working.

Tell me about your recent victories in London, Rome and Abu Dhabi.

Yeah, so I went to the UK and managed to win four golds at the London Open in the ‘Gi’, ‘A’, ‘No-Gi’ and ‘Absolute’ categories. (The ‘Gi’ is a uniform sometimes worn in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. There are categories in which the Gi is worn – ‘Gi’ – and categories in which it is not – ‘No-Gi’. The ‘Absolute’ is an open weight division).

Then a couple of weeks ago I travelled to Rome to compete in the European Championship. The day before that event, the Rome Open was on and since I was already there, I signed up for that too. I won the first fight, submitted the guy, but then in the final I lost. It was a good lesson for me. Coming from so many wins, I thought I was going to smash this other guy. I got a bit cocky. Losing settled me down and humbled me a little bit. I went back to my accommodation and analysed my mistakes. I hoped that the next day I would be able to play a strategy to win.

In the end I managed to win four fights and win the biggest European tournament – the No-Gi European Championship. It was my dream. I have been there twice before and got knocked out in the quarter-final, and came third in the Gi division.

It was really emotional for me. It was a great achievement. Even now when I’m talking, I feel emotional. I don’t train that much with No-Gi so to come first in Europe, it’s hard to believe.

It’s really hard to run and promote a club and also train and win tournaments, a lot of people say it’s not possible, but I’m putting a lot of hours into this and proving that it is possible. When you work so hard, with the help of my training partners, the results have to come.

And you weren’t finished yet. Where did you go next?

Yeah, to finish the story, after winning the European tournament on the Saturday, I flew to Abu Dhabi on Monday for the World Championship. I managed to go there and win three fights before losing the semi-final after getting beat pretty hard. I got my ass kicked by the winner. Then I had to fight to win the third place [match]. So, even though it’s only third place, it’s third place on the biggest podium in the sport.

Is it normal to compete in this number of events in quick succession?

No. It’s crazy to do so many competitions in a short period of time. I usually take a month or two months off before the next competition. It’s expensive too and I must thank Kevin Leahy [from the neighbouring Black Sheep Hostel] for sponsoring me. But after London, I had a feeling that there was no stopping me. I’m healthy. I’m not injured. Now is my moment and I have to take the chance.

It was hard enough to believe that I won the European Championship but to go to Abu Dhabi and fight against the best guys in the world… It’s a dream. Well, it’s not a dream now because it happened. It’s a reality.

Is this it for you now? Have you achieved all you want to achieve?

No, there’s more. Much more. I want to win the World Championship in California next year. For sure I would like to win the European Championship next year too.

But my goal is more than just winning championships, it’s to build champions. I want to teach people and share techniques that are proven to work. As I try to grow the gym, I will continue competing for as long as God blesses me with this health. That’s it.

Attachments

Continue Reading

Trending