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Battling Lakers come up short against league leaders Demons

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by Enda Walshe

National League Division 1
Scotts Lakers 71 UCC Demons 92
Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre

While the result might paint the picture of a one-sided game, it belies the fact that for long periods the home side gave as good as they got against the table-toppers from across the county bounds.

Indeed, early in the second half when Senan O’Leary drained two consecutive three pointers to make it a seven-point game, there was a definite whiff of a competitive game in the air, However, Demons player Stefan Manojovic put any hopes of a home win to bed with four three pointers in the third quarter and the Lakers could not get within touching distance again.

There is no denying that Demons were full value for their win with Kyle Hosford conducting the orchestra, but what could not be hidden was the way the Lakers went about the game as they battled all the way to the end.

It is widely acknowledged that Demons are a Super League team in waiting and though they were slow to settle, they eventually got going in the second part of the opening quarter. Only Jamie O’Sullivan and Rui Saravia got on the scoresheet for the Lakers as Tala Fam Thiam and Hosford helped Demons to a 23-8 lead.

The presence of Paul Clarke, who was still nursing an injury, coincided with Lakers’ best periods as his defence and reading of the game made a big difference. He was central to one of the scores of the night with slick passing seeing Ben Miller laying up and completing a three-point play. With O’Sullivan and Daniel Carroll on song, the Lakers stayed in touch at the break, trailing 31-43.

The Lakers’ cause wasn't helped by a facial injury to top scorer Emilian Grudov. He sat out a lot of the first half and his influence on the game was never really significant thereafter.

The third quarter saw Demons extend their lead to 23 points, despite the best efforts of Saravia (who had his best outing to date), Miller and O’Leary.

A notable introduction to National League basketball came in the shape of 17-year-old Luke Crowley, son of Kerry GAA legend Johnny, and he set about his task with gusto. He was later joined by the highly rated Jack O’Sullivan for his home debut.

Baskets from Grudov, Clarke, Miller and two further three pointers from O’Leary meant the Lakers kept their tempo going to the very end. On reflection it can be noted they outscored their illustrious opponents in the second and fourth quarters.

It's nights like these that the young players learn from and the big home support could fully see and appreciate the wholehearted effort of the squad.

“We played well in periods but at other times we might have held onto the ball for too long, and defensively at times communication was lacking,” head coach Jarlath Lee said.

“This is a process with such a young team, it will take time. But we will get there.”

The Lakers are on the road again on November 27 as they travel to Portlaoise looking to avenge their cup defeat at the hands of the Panthers. The next home game sees Limerick Sport Eagles visit the Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre on Saturday, December 11.

SCOTTS LAKERS: Ben Miller (16), Rui Saravia (15), Senan O’Leary (14), Jamie O’Sullivan (10), Emilian Grudov (7), Daniel Carroll (5), Paul Clarke (4), Lorcan Keane, Mark Sheehan, Jack O’Sullivan, Jason Lee.

UCC DEMONS TOP SCORERS: Tala Fam Thiam (26), Kyle Hosford (17), Stefan Manojovic (14).

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Killarney rugby girls remain undefeated

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U16 Munster League

Killarney 30 Dolphin/Midleton/Youghal 5

Aghadoe

Last weekend a combined Dolphin/Midleton/Youghal side travelled to Killarney for the last U16 league game in the conference.

Played in cold and windy conditions, the Killarney girls started like they meant business. The girls played some terrific running rugby and ran in some very impressive scores. Killarney ran the ball at every opportunity and only kicked from hand once in the entire game.

Leading 20-0 at half-time, the girls kept on scoring in the second half. They conceded a late try to the gallant Cork side, who in fairness kept asking serious questions of the Killarney defence. Some of the Killarney girls tackling was very impressive, led by Player of the Match Ava O’Malley whose tackle count was in the teens. She was supported by Clodagh Foley, Melissa McCarthy, Fia Whelan and Bronagh Dorrian.

Any time the Cork side did penetrate the Killarney defensive wall, fullback Marina Eager dealt with it and counter-attacked very well from all areas of the field.

The defensive play of the day came in the last five minutes when birthday girl Fia Whelan wrestled possession from one of the Cork girls’ hands and put in a superbly timed pass to the onrushing winger Niamh Dorrian, who finished off the try very impressively. It was the last score of the game.

Two of our new recruits made their debuts, namely Gráinne Kennedy and Lucy O’Sullivan. Both girls are relatively new to the game but they made significant contributions and are great additions to the growing squad.

By topping their conference, the girls are now into the semi-finals of Munster. In true rugby fashion, both teams shared a warm cup of hot chocolate and some treats after the game, hosted by the wonderful parents of the Killarney girls led by team manager Anne Gabbett. Many more of the parents were, as always, on hand to support the girls and the club.

To top off a great day, the team then visited the fantastic facilities of the newly opened Reboot Recovery Suite for some richly deserved recovery, team bonding, and of course some pizza.

If you think your daughter may enjoy rugby, training for U14s, U16s and U18s takes place in Aghadoe every Wednesday between 6.45pm and 8.15pm evening. New members always welcome. Give Anne a call on 086 3125722.

KILLARNEY RFC: Annie O’Reilly, Ella Guerin-Crowley, Molly Gabbett, Joanne O’Keefe, Melissa McCarthy, Katie O’Donoghue, Clodagh Foley, Ava O’Malley, Robyn Landers, Fia Whelan (captain), Ali O’Donoghue, Bronagh Dorrian, Holly O’Sullivan, Niamh Dorrian, Marina Eager, Miriam O’Sullivan, Grainne Kennedy, Isabella O’Leary, Kate Mangan, Lucy O’Sullivan, Jess O’Sullivan.

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Killarney buzzing for once-in-a-lifetime Crokes v Legion showdown

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by Adam Moynihan

Kerry Senior Club Relegation Playoff

Killarney Legion v Dr Crokes

December 5 at 12 noon

Fitzgerald Stadium

It’s county final weekend. Tralee is awash with blue and black and amber. Stack Park will be packed to the rafters for Sunday’s decider between Kerins O’Rahillys and Austin Stacks as two fierce rivals meet in one of the biggest games the county’s capital has witnessed in decades. Based on what we have seen from both teams in this year’s championship, it promises to be a fascinating encounter.

But as far as Killarney folk are concerned, that’s all small potatoes. Forget about Rahillys-Stacks. Forget about Covid. Forget about Christmas. There is only one topic up for discussion this week: Legion versus Crokes in the relegation playoff.

Barring a draw (which will result in a replay) one of the town’s biggest clubs will lose their senior status at lunchtime on Sunday.

For Legion, demotion would be a major disappointment. Ever since a talented crop of players that included James O’Donoghue, Jonathan Lyne, Brian Kelly and Podge O’Connor came of age, the Derreen outfit have harboured dreams of winning Kerry football’s top prize: the County Championship.

They came within inches of glory under Peter Keane in 2015, falling to South Kerry after extra time in a replay. Although they haven’t reached a final since, that dream is still there. Relegation would be a significant step in the wrong direction.

For Crokes, dropping down to intermediate is perhaps even more unthinkable. The team from Lewis Road are one of the traditional powerhouses of Kerry football and, after various stints with the now-defunct Dick Fitzgeralds and a combined Killarney selection, they have been out on their own in the senior championship since the 1980s.

The 13-time champions were All-Ireland finalists as recently as 2019. If they were to be relegated now, two-and-a-half years after gracing Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day, it would surely constitute one of the biggest shocks in the history of Kerry football.

Blessed as Crokes are with intercounty calibre players like Gavin White, Micheál Burns, Shane Murphy, Tony Brosnan and David Shaw, not to mention decorated veterans like John Payne, Mike Moloney, Johnny Buckley, Daithí Casey, Brian Looney and Kieran O’Leary, relegation is the last thing they would have expected.

OPTIMISTIC

Some of the more optimistic observers in our community have suggested that Legion and Crokes have too much about them and whatever happens this weekend, they will come straight back up to senior by virtue of winning the 2022 Intermediate Club Championship. The record books suggest that this is far easier said than done. Of the last 10 clubs to have been relegated, only Kilcummin have managed to return to senior. And they have since been relegated again.

Finuge, Currow, St Michael’s-Foilmore, Laune Rangers, Ardfert, Milltown-Castlemaine, An Ghaeltacht and Rathmore have thus far failed to regain their senior status.

In fact, more relegated clubs have been relegated again than have been promoted back to the top table. St Michael’s-Foilmore are now operating in the Junior Premier (third tier), as are Ardfert and Currow who meet in a relegation playoff on Saturday. The losers will join Finuge, another former senior club, in the Junior Championship (fourth tier) in 2022.

On paper, Legion or Crokes would be the strongest team in next year’s intermediate, but it is clearly not an easy competition to win. Just ask Spa.

There is also the small matter of next year’s County Championship. Becoming an intermediate club will make either team’s players eligible to line out for the 2018 and 2019 champions, East Kerry. Although they fell at the first hurdle this time around, the argument has been made that East Kerry already have too many clubs. Adding Legion or Crokes would unquestionably strengthen their hand further still.

That’s if the footballers in question make themselves available. Ever since Crokes “qualified” for this playoff and the idea of them joining East Kerry first entered people’s minds, some fans have wondered aloud if Crokes’ players would be comfortable pulling on the colours of East Kerry when as recently as two years ago the sides were facing off in a county final.

It’s just idle gossip at this point but it might be something to keep an eye on, particularly if Crokes are defeated.

SPARED?

It is perhaps unsurprising that talk has already turned to championship structures and the opinion that there are not enough senior clubs in Kerry is currently being bandied about. Former GAA President Seán Kelly suggested on Twitter this week that there should be “at least 12”. If the number of senior clubs were to be increased for 2022, it would spare the losers of Sunday’s playoff the ignominy of being relegated at all.

While such speculation will be of comfort to Legion and Crokes supporters, who are no doubt experiencing quite a bit of discomfort at present, the reason this debate is cropping up now is fairly transparent. There may well be valid arguments for increasing the number of senior clubs, but the likes of Rathmore, Kilcummin and An Ghaeltacht will be wondering where all this commotion was when it was their necks on the line.

For the time being at least we must work off the assumption that there will be no change in the number of senior clubs next year and that one of Legion or Crokes are going down. If there is a change, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

FATE

Whoever is defeated on Sunday will lose face as all relegated teams do, but added to the mix is the fact that it will be their greatest, most hated enemies who will seal their fate.

It truly is a once in a generation game – maybe even once in a lifetime – and rain, hail or shine it is sure to draw a huge crowd to Killarney’s Theatre of Dreams. So much is at stake and emotions will be running so high that flash points are almost inevitable. Certainly on the pitch, and maybe even off it.

It might be enjoyable for the neutral (it’s safe to assume that Killarney’s third team, Spa, are not too upset about the current situation) but it is shaping up to be a match that the rest of us will have to endure rather than enjoy.

Only one club can survive. For the other, the unimaginable is about to become a reality.

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