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CHAMPIONS! Cool Kerry steady the ship to claim All-Ireland title No. 38

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Adam Moynihan reports from Croke Park

All-Ireland SFC Final

Kerry 0-20 Galway 0-16

Croke Park

A superb David Clifford free from a narrow angle proved to be crucial as Kerry powered to a four-point victory over Galway in today’s All-Ireland final in Dublin.

The teams were level on 0-16 and momentum was with Galway when Clifford swung over the lead score in the 67th minute, and fisted efforts by substitute Killian Spillane and Gavin White soon stretched Kerry’s advantage out to three.

Fittingly, the captains combined deep into injury time to seal the deal as Seán O’Shea tapped over a free that had been won by Joe O’Connor.

When Seán Hurson blew the final whistle, An Poc ar Buile reverberated around Croke Park and players, management and supporters basked in the glory of All-Ireland title No. 38. O’Shea and O’Connor lifted the Sam Maguire together to officially end the run of seven years in the wilderness, but one of the biggest cheers of the day was reserved for the Clifford brothers, David and Paudie, who also lifted Sam Maguire side-by-side.

They said the youngest Clifford needed to win an All-Ireland before earning his place in the discussion around the all-time greats. After his performance today and the result it inspired, it’s officially time to talk.

GAVIN WHITE

Before the match began Kerry were buoyed by the inclusion in the starting line-up of Gavin White, the all-action wing back who had sustained a knee injury in the semi-final against Dublin.

White’s availability may have bolstered Kerry’s status as pre-match favourites but any hopes the green and gold faithful had of an easy win were abruptly blown out of the water.

Shane Walsh meant business from the get-go and the Kilkerrin-Clonberne man kicked a fabulous 45 to open the scoring in the 5th minute of play. Galway could have been celebrating an absolute dream of start were it not for a fine block by Stephen O’Brien; the Kerry No. 12 diverted Johnny Heaney’s goal-bound effort over the bar.

Kerry star David Clifford got the Munster champions up and running with a well-taken mark in the ninth minute, but Walsh fired back with two points in succession to make it 4-1 to the Tribesmen.

Clifford (free) and the silky Walsh (with the point of the half) then brought the scores to 5-2 at the midway point of the period.

The Kingdom were errant with their shooting in the first half but they were getting some joy from the high ball, and Paul Geaney gathered one such skyscraper to take his mark and his score. When Clifford kicked a super long-range point in the 18th minute there was just a point between the teams, and the sides were level just moments later when the lively O’Brien clipped over Kerry’s fifth of the day.

The two bona fide superstars on show, Walsh and Clifford, exchanged placed balls (a free and mark), before a high tackle by the latter on Seán Kelly brough the match to a standstill for a couple of minutes. Clifford was booked for the incident and the half rather petered out thereafter. Points by Galway corner back Jack Glynn and midfielder Cillian McDaid, either side of a Seán O’Shea free, left the scores at Galway 0-8 Kerry 0-7 at the interval.

At this point, Galway were more than good value for their lead, and Kerry’s All-Ireland hopes were very much up in the air.

TENSE AND TIGHT

Although the second half threatened to burst into life at stages, it remained fairly tense and tight throughout.

With Walsh continuing his frankly spectacular form, Galway were still a point to the good in the 40th minute (0-10 to 0-9), despite a couple of neat scores by David Clifford and Diarmuid O’Connor. (O’Connor, who lined out with No. 10 on his back, switched to midfield following half-time when David Moran was replaced by Adrian Spillane.)

Paudie Clifford came into the game more in the second period and he equalised in the 41st minute after being set up by the excellent Graham O’Sullivan. Seconds later David Clifford gave Kerry their first lead of the game when he capitalised on a wayward Connor Gleeson kickout by bombing one over from distance.

Pádraic Joyce’s side weren’t going anywhere, however, and with midfielder Cillian McDaid on fire in front of the posts, they once again led by two points with 47 minutes played.

In fairness to Kerry, they kept their cool despite the trying circumstances and a run of four consecutive scores from O’Shea (free), Graham O’Sullivan, David Clifford (free) and Paudie Clifford gave them their biggest lead of the day (0-16 to 0-14).

A harsh call on Gavin White for what appeared to be a fair shoulder on Paul Conroy afforded the Connacht champions a shot at the posts, which Walsh duly converted. When McDaid kicked his fourth point, the game was all square and the wind was in Galway’s sails.

Clifford’s fantastic free settled the nerves, though, and an impressively energetic yet totally calm display down the stretch won the day.

Speaking post-match, manager Jack O’Connor, who is celebrating his fourth All-Ireland as Kerry manager, said he hopes this victory “sparks something big”. That is, perhaps, a conversation for tomorrow, or maybe Tuesday.

For now, Kerry men, women and children at home and abroad can revel in the knowledge that the county’s football team is finally back where it belongs.

KERRY

1. Shane Ryan

2. Graham O’Sullivan (0-1)

3. Jason Foley

4. Tom O'Sullivan

5. Brian Ó Beaglaoich

6. Tadhg Morley

7. Gavin White (0-1)

8. David Moran

9. Jack Barry

10. Diarmuid O’Connor (0-1)

11. Seán O’Shea (0-3f)

12. Stephen O’Brien (0-1)

13. Paudie Clifford (0-2)

14. David Clifford (0-8, 3f, 2m)

15. Paul Geaney (0-1m)

SUBS

Killian Spillane (0-2) for Geaney (HT)

Adrian Spillane for Moran (HT)

Jack Savage for Paudie Clifford (temporary 43-47)

Micheál Burns for O’Brien (57)

Paul Murphy for Ó Beaglaoich (63)

Joe O’Connor for Paudie Clifford (73)

GALWAY

1. Connor Gleeson

2. Liam Silke

3. Seán Kelly

4. Jack Glynn (0-1)

5. Dylan McHugh

6. John Daly

7. Kieran Molloy (0-1)

8. Paul Conroy

9. Cillian McDaid (0-4)

10. Patrick Kelly

11. Matthew Tierney

12. Johnny Heaney (0-1)

13. Robert Finnerty

14. Damien Comer

15. Shane Walsh (0-9, 4f, 1 ’45)

SUBS

Finnian Ó Laoi for Rob Finnerty (47)

Conor Sweeney for Conroy (58)

Eoin Finnerty for Heaney (63)

Niall Daly for Tierney (74)

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Popularity of Ladies Gaelic Football on the rise

According to official TAM Ireland figures, 491,000 tuned into TG4’s coverage of the TG4 Ladies Football finals on Sunday with an average audience of 204,900 people watching the live broadcast […]

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According to official TAM Ireland figures, 491,000 tuned into TG4’s coverage of the TG4 Ladies Football finals on Sunday with an average audience of 204,900 people watching the live broadcast of the Senior Final between Meath and Kerry.

The match had a 30.6% share of viewing among individuals. Viewing peaked at 5.10pm with 279,800 viewers as Meath closed in on the two in a row to retain the Brendan Martin Cup.

A total 46,400 attended the match in person in Croke Park on Sunday, the first TG4 Ladies Football Final to have full capacity allowance since 2019.

Viewers from over 50 countries tuned into the finals on the TG4 Player with 14,000 streams of the game from international viewers. Over 20,000 streams were also registered from Irish viewers.

TG4 Director General Alan Esslemont said: “My deepest gratitude to all the counties especially Wexford and Kerry who battled to the end through this season’s Championship, hearty congratulations to both Laois and Meath and I am really looking forward to the re-match of Antrim and Fermanagh which will be carried live on TG4. A special word of thanks goes to the huge crowd which travelled to the Finals from all the corners of Ireland. County Meath especially have become a role model for other counties in how to build huge attending support for LGFA in both genders and at all ages. Sunday’s massive expression of Meath ‘fandom’ in Croke Park brought their county the greatest credit.

Sunday’s broadcast was the 22nd edition of the TG4 Ladies Gaelic Football Championship, a unique history of a sport minoritized by society being championed by a language media minoritized by the state. By consciously standing together we have grown together. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the LGFA in 2024 let us all hope by that time that we are even further along the road towards true equality of opportunity for both Ladies Gaelic Football and Irish language media.”

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Following her World Championships debut, Leahy is hungry for more

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Adam Moynihan met Killarney sprinter Sarah Leahy at the Killarney Valley AC Arena to chat about her recent appearance at the World Championships, her goals for the rest of the year, and a very special pair of socks

Hi Sarah. Thanks for showing me around Killarney Valley’s facilities. It’s an impressive set-up.

The track facilities here are perfect. We have everything we need and Killarney Valley are always looking to improve the facilities and the club itself. All the people behind the scenes at are the MVPs, people like Jerry and Tomás Griffin, Jean Courtney, and Bríd Stack to mention just a few.

You recently competed in the World Championships in Oregon as part of the Irish 4 x 100m relay team, finishing eighth in your heat. How did you feel the event went for you?

We’re very proud of each other, and we did well, but we definitely could have run better. We had more. We were aiming for and felt we were capable of running a national record. But on the day, it just didn’t happen.

Personally, it was a great experience. I loved every second of it. But I will admit that the actual running part is a bit of a blur. I came onto the track and there’s this huge stadium, but I was more looking around at the people I was running against. Ewa Swoboda – I thought she’d win the World Indoor – she was four people away from me and I was looking at her… She was probably like, ‘Why is this woman staring at me?’ I was very nervous. But it was still amazing and I hope I can do it again.

The fact that I was running against international athletes that have been to the Olympics and been finalists, I was kind of star struck. My trainers are like, okay Sarah, calm down. You’re meant to be here. Don’t act like you shouldn’t.

Can you describe your mindset before a race? Do you often get nervous?

On the line it’s all about how you’re feeling, what you can do. You just have to get mentally prepared for a good start. Especially for me. Get out, and run as fast as you can. Just getting in the zone, I guess. I’ll know if I’m not in the zone, because I’m thinking of other things. If I’m on the blocks my head shouldn’t be wandering. It should be blank and all I should be waiting for is that gun.

Would you say that you’re an ultra competitive person?

I’m a competitive person, obviously. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be competing at this level. But I also come from a team background, and I’m friends with a lot of these girls, so I want them to do well as well. And if they happen to beat me, fair play. You put in the training, you did very well. I’m very happy for you.

We all kind of get prepared differently. A lot of people for the warm-up, which is an hour or half an hour before the race, have the earphones on, gameface on, not talking to anyone, not smiling at anyone. I’m completely different. The more nervous I am, the more I’m going to talk.

There was a situation in Greece where everyone had their earphones on and I was mad to talk to everyone. That could change but as of right now I do tend to talk a lot. And then, going on to the track, obviously there’s no more talking. You’re getting ready for the race and mentally preparing.

Tell me about the socks you wore in Oregon.

[laughs] My socks were a Valentine’s Day gift from my boyfriend, Daniel. They had his face all over them and they say ‘I love you’. So yeah, I just ran the Worlds with my boyfriend’s face on my feet. He was delighted!

Daniel was the person who pushed for me to go back to running. He knew I was no longer enjoying the football and he heard the way I spoke about athletics. He helped me make the decision to go back. It was the best decision so it was only right I wore the socks and he was there in some way. I probably wouldn’t have been there without him.

Did you have some of your own supporters over there?

Yes, my mom and dad (Marie and Mike) actually travelled over. They spent the week and it was unreal to have them there. And then my cousins from Vancouver in Canada drove down which was I think over 10 hours. I was actually warming up before the relay and then I saw and heard my family with all their Kerry jerseys, Irish jerseys, Irish flags, roaring my name. That was really nice.

What’s the plan for the rest of 2022?

I was hopeful that we were going to send a 4 x 100 relay team to the Europeans but I just got an email saying that we wouldn’t, which is disappointing. I know some of top 2022 female sprinters aren’t available but some are and with any of them we would do well over there. We would be competitive. We held our qualification of being in the top 16 teams all summer so it’s a pity that, at the last second, we aren’t going.

In saying that, the women’s Irish relay will continue to work hard and we have a lot more to give. We will prove that next year.

You’re moving to Dublin for work later this year. How will this affect your training?

I might have to change coaches again, which I’m a bit sad about because I really liked the Limerick training group (Leahy was in UL where she trained with the Hayley and Drew Harrison). I think I performed well and I loved the training. I was surrounded by the right people who were really lovely. I hope to find a group like that in Dublin and keep running well and performing better.

And what about next season?

I’d like another good indoor season. I was talking to Lauren Roy in Stockholm and she told me that I have the European standard in the 60m from last year. Which I didn’t know! So that’s kind of in my head now to try and get there, to improve my time. I think I could actually run faster. I ran 7.39 and I’d like to run at least 7.30, hopefully get another European standard, and actually go to the Europeans. I think it’s in Germany. That’d be my target.

And then next summer, there’s the Worlds again. So it’d be nice to continue making the Irish relays and definitely improve my time, because there’s more. I can definitely run faster over 100.

What is your current PB in the 100m? Are you close to bettering it?

I ran 11.67, which I was delighted with. But it was my first run of the season. It’s quite rare that you run a PB in the season opener. But I ran it, and I haven’t ran it since. The closest was 11.70 in Switzerland. So I definitely think there’s more in there. And I think I have a lot to learn as well. I’m still new to the sport and I’m a powerful kind of runner. I was doing a lot of gym work at the beginning of the year, before I ran my PB, and then afterwards usually people taper it off. So I did what other people do. I think that affected my running a little bit. I’m slightly weaker. So I’ve learned that maybe next year I shouldn’t do that. Then hopefully I’ll be running PB after PB, instead of just a one-off.

Onwards and upwards. Chat to you again soon.

Thanks Adam!

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