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Bolger battles on the streets of Belgium

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by Seán Moriarty

Rising Killarney cycling star Sam Bolger spent much of the summer on the pro-cycling scene in Belgium.

Earlier this year the 18-year-old was selected as one of four riders for the Belgian Project – one of the most prestigious stepping stones for Irish riders with ambitions to turn professional.

Over the last 15 years Northern Ireland-based Belgian Danny Blondell selects between four and six Irish riders and sends them to Belgium where they stay with local families and contest pro and semi-pro races.

Bolger was selected for the Belgian Project while racing the Junior Tour of Ireland with the Munster team in July. He then travelled to Austria with the Munster squad to race in a three-day event before making his own way to Belgium by train.

The Lewis Road man spent three weeks living with a Belgian cycling family in the village of Moorslede in Flanders. In that part of the world cycling is bigger than the GAA in Kerry.

“On my first day, I went with the family to watch a pro-race,” Bolger told the Killarney Advertiser. “There were 40,000 people lining the streets. In Belgium the locals use these events as social occasions and go out and meet their friends.”

This criterium race in Roeselare – on a Tuesday evening – attracted entries from Tour de France stars like Tom Pidcock and Green Jersey winner Wout Van Aert.

During his three weeks there Bolger contested seven races – known locally as Kermesse – each with over 100 junior starters that ran over three or four laps of a town centre course.

“A Kermesse is a short circuit through a town or village which must include a pub and a church,” he added.

“It is all part of the social scene – always loads of people out watching. Even the pro races have bookies on site.”

Races are run over much narrower roads than Irish events. It took a bit of getting used to as any rider trapped in the bunch would find it very hard to get back to the front of the pack.

“Irish races are run on main roads. Any trouble and you just go over to the wrong side of the road and power your way back to the front. There is no wrong side in Belgium, either the road is too narrow or it’s lined with people.”

The road racing season has now closed in Ireland. Bolger’s last outing was the Charleville Two-Day in Cork a few weeks ago where he placed sixth overall in amongst senior riders. He moves to off-road Cyclocross for the winter season.

Sam paid tribute to Killarney Cycling Club and his teammates for all of the support and encouragement throughout the year.

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“Argentina have Messi but we have the Messiah”

By Michelle Crean  Calls for full civic reception for David Clifford Superstar footballer David Clifford has been compared to Argentina’s Messi. At Monday’s full Kerry County Council meeting councillors were full of […]

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By Michelle Crean 

Calls for full civic reception for David Clifford

Superstar footballer David Clifford has been compared to Argentina’s Messi.

At Monday’s full Kerry County Council meeting councillors were full of praise for both the Fossa and Rathmore teams who won their respective finals a day earlier in Croke Park. Fossa became the All-Ireland Junior Football Champions when they beat Stewartstown Harps, while Rathmore secured the AIB All-Ireland Intermediate Club Football title.

Cllr Mike Kennelly said “we are currently witnessing the greatest footballer ever” as he called for a full civic reception to honour David Clifford.

“I think he’s the greatest inspiration to every Kerry person. We, as an authority, as a county need to acknowledge this. We need to acknowledge David’s greatness and inspiration on his unrivalled success over the last 12 months. Argentina has Messi but we have the Messiah and we’ve got to protect him and honour that. Most people will agree with us that he is the greatest we have ever seen.”

However, cautiously Cllr Cahill added that it’s better to hold a civic reception for both teams rather than single out one player.

“I’m not too sure about singling out David. Maybe talk to the family on that. Paudie got an All Star this year and last year and was Man of the Match at several games. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it but tease it out a little bit further.”

The matter was referred to the CPG.

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Exclusive: Paudie Clifford reflects on “emotional” All-Ireland Junior Club final

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by Adam Moynihan

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser this evening (Wednesday), Fossa captain Paudie Clifford reflected on an emotional All-Ireland Junior Club final against Stewartstown of Tyrone.

Fossa emerged victorious on a scoreline of 0-19 to 1-13 but much of the talk in the aftermath has been focused on ill-discipline. Clifford was one of six players to be sent off in the second half, although he himself was the victim of arguably the worst offence: a vicious elbow to the face in the first minute of stoppage time.

Thankfully, the Kerry star was not badly injured in the incident.

“I’m good,” Clifford confirms. “I’ve a cut on the lip. Probably lucky, really. But no, I’m okay.

“David touched on it (in his post-match interview on TG4), there was a lot of emotion at the end of the game. There was a lot at stake.

“These things happen.”

The elder Clifford is still disappointed about his own red card, however. Not over the fact that he was sent off per se, but for the explanation given by referee Thomas Murphy.

“The referee said it was an eye gouge and sure it clearly wasn’t an eye gouge. That’s why I was so annoyed. That’s why I said it in the speech. I was seriously annoyed that he said it was an eye gouge.”

Although the video footage indicates that Clifford has right on his side, he does clearly put his hand in his opponent’s face. If the referee had said that the red was for a hand to the face, would he have accepted that?

“I wouldn’t have had any arguments with that really. It was the fact that he said it was an eye gouge that I wasn’t happy with.”

As for the aforementioned acceptance speech, an unorthodox address in which he said “well done” to the match officials before claiming that he shouldn’t have been red carded, Clifford simply puts it down to the immense “emotion” he was feeling at the time.

SUCCESS

Sunday’s victory marked a glorious end to what was a memorable season for Fossa. The relatively small club on the outskirts of Killarney sampled unprecedented success, something Clifford attributes to his hardworking teammates.

“Winning an All-Ireland seems so far away at the start of the year. You have to get out of your group and try to win Kerry, and even then you still have a long way to go.

“After all the hard work that the team has put in, it was unreal to get the reward at the end.

“We’ve had a lot of bad days in the last few years when we haven’t performed on the big occasion. There’s no other way of putting it. But in fairness to the lads, they didn’t put a foot wrong all year. They won Division 4 of the County League and the O’Sullivan Cup (East Kerry Junior Championship) when me and David weren’t there.

“On Sunday Matt Rennie caught massive balls when we needed him to. Dan Connell has been unreal all year since he came back from San Fran and he played very well. David got the big points. The fellas who came off the bench, like Rian Colleran, made a big difference.

“To be fair, there weren’t many fellas that didn’t play well for us. It was a fairly solid performance against a tough team. I thought [Stewartstown] were very good. Very powerful runners and a very good inside forward line.”

Younger brother David was typically sensational, kicking 0-11 (eight from play) en route to yet another Man of the Match award. The Footballer of the Year turns 24 on Sunday. Is there room for even more improvement in his game as he enters his mid-twenties?

“I suppose he’s going to try and go out and improve every day,” Paudie says. “I’m sure he’s striving towards that, but it remains to be seen. I wouldn’t put it past him.”

The elder Clifford (26) also reserves special praise for Fossa’s management team, in particular bainisteoir Adrian Sheehan and coach Eamonn Fitzmaurice.

“Adrian is a very good man-manager. Everyone gets on with him. But he’s very tactical too and another thing about him is that he’s always willing to learn. He’s very modest and he’s always willing to listen to the players and take their opinions on board.

“I really hope that he gets a chance at intercounty level once he’s finished with us, be it minor or U21. But obviously we don’t want him to be finished with us for a long time.

“Eamonn then is an absolute genius really. It’s like he makes things very simple but he also gets a lot across, if you get me?

“He’s very calm. At half-time, if things aren’t going well, he’s really able to calm things and get us ready. He’s able to spot things in a match as well. He has all the attributes you could want in a coach.”

The 2023 National League gets underway next weekend (January 28/29) with Kerry facing a tough away trip to Donegal on the Sunday. After an extremely long season with county and then club, it would be understandable if the Clifford brothers were granted an extended rest period before linking back up with their Kerry teammates in Currans.

But, in his distinctive, matter-of-fact tone, Paudie says that he and David won’t be taking too much time off.

“I’ve been talking to Jack. [The break will be] a few weeks. Nothing major.

“We’ll be ready to go again in a few weeks.”

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