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Clinical Clifford puts Mayo to the sword

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Adam Moynihan reports from Croke Park, Dublin

National League: Division 1 Final

Kerry 3-19 Mayo 0-13

Croke Park

Another wondrous display by David Clifford helped Kerry to a surprisingly comprehensive victory over Mayo in today’s National League Division 1 final.

Clifford was simply sensational on the day, tormenting his marker Pádraig O’Hora and scoring six points and a classy goal the process.

For Mayo, the only real positive was the return of long-term injury concern Cillian O’Connor. The championship’s all-time leadings scorer received a warm Croke Park welcome when he was introduced as a substitute in the 56th minute but not even he could penetrate Kerry’s mean defensive unit.

In truth, Kerry were dominant all over the pitch as they retained their league title and secured a unique two-and-a-half-in-a-row.

WHITE GOAL

Points by David Clifford, Stephen O’Brien and Adrian Spillane gave Kerry a 3-2 lead by the 10-minute mark but it could (and, perhaps, should) have been much more. Paudie Clifford failed to convert a goal chance in the 5th minute and then Tadhg Morley squared for David Clifford but the Mayo defence did enough to put him off.

Even so, scores by the Clifford brothers gave Kerry a three-point advantage, and points by James Carr and Jordan Flynn were cancelled out by Paul Geaney and Jack Barry to leave the scores at 0-7 to 0-4 with 20 minutes on the clock.

Kerry welcomed Gavin White back into the starting line-up and the incredibly pacy wing back cause the opposition all sorts of problems in that first half. White’s efforts were rewarded in the 24th minute when he bravely reached for Paul Geaney’s deflected shot and palmed home Kerry’s first goal of the game. He received a severe whack in the face for his troubles and had to leave the field, but thankfully he returned later in the half.

That goal put some daylight between the sides and The Kingdom never looked back. David Clifford launched over another beauty to make it a seven-point game and although Mayo went on a mini-run with points by Ryan O’Donoghue, James Carr and Conor Loftus, it was Kerry who finished the half in the ascendency.

David Clifford brushed aside the challenge of O’Hora to chalk up his fourth of the day and then goalkeeper Shane Ryan marched forward to send over a spectacular free from way out on the Cusack Stand sideline. Ryan’s point would prove to be the last of the period and Kerry went in six points to the good (1-10 to 0-7).

GAP

Despite some fine scores from Michael Plunkett and Ryan O’Donoghue (two), Mayo were unable to eat into Kerry’s lead in the third quarter. Paul Geaney (two) and a Paudie Clifford 45 kept The Kingdom ticking over and when things opened up for Dara Moynihan in the 49th minute, he made no mistake to widen the gap to seven.

Kerry were dealt a blow in the 51st minute when Diarmuid O’Connor received a black card and when O’Donoghue scored again, Mayo were dreaming of a comeback. It was the Kerry faithful who liked what they saw next, however, as their boys rattled off 1-5 without reply to put the outcome of this final beyond doubt.

First the younger Clifford fired over a superb point from a tricky angle, and then Adrian Spillane scored an excellent solo effort after he was picked out by his half forward line colleague Moynihan. Paul Geaney picked off another fine score in the 57th minute before the walking highlight reel, David Clifford, buried the opposition almost singlehandedly.

Clifford had O’Hora hanging off him and chatting into his ear all day but the Fossa superstar did his talking with ball in hand. After receiving a pass from Tony Brosnan, he breezed by his Mayo marker and popped over his sixth point. Then, in the 66th minute, he left O’Hora eating dust before dispatching a perfectly placed right-footed shot beyond the reach of Rory Byrne in the Mayo goal. The score now read 2-18 to 0-11 and Kerry had two hands on the cup.

Geaney added his fifth point and then, two minutes into stoppage time, Jason Foley sprinted 136 metres to gather a deflected shot and score Kerry’s third goal of the game. Foley was one of Kerry’s best performers throughout the league and speaking to the media after the game, Jack O’Connor noted that it was only fitting that the Ballydonogue man should round off the campaign in style.

Afterwards, stand-in captain and Man of the Match David Clifford and captain Joe O’Connor lifted the Division 1 cup together. Kerry supporters will be hoping that it’s not the last time the pair get their hands on silverware this season.

KERRY: S Ryan (0-1f); G O’Sullivan, J Foley (1-0), T O'Sullivan; G White (1-0), T Morley, B Ó Beaglaoich; D O’Connor, J Barry (0-1); D Moynihan (0-1), P Clifford (0-2, 1 ‘45), A Spillane (0-2); S O’Brien (0-1), D Clifford (1-6, 1f), P Geaney (0-5, 1f).

Subs: G Crowley for White (temp 27-32), T Brosnan for O’Brien (49), G Crowley for White (53), M Burns for Spillane (63), J O’Connor for Barry (67), J Savage for Moynihan (67).

MAYO: R Byrne; L Keegan, S Coen, P O’Hora; M Plunkett (0-2), R Brickenden, E Hession; J Flynn (0-1), M Ruane (0-1); C Loftus (0-1), A O’Shea, J Carney; J Carr (0-2), J Doherty, R O’Donoghue (0-5, 2f).

Subs: K McLoughlin for Carney (HT), C O’Shea for Flynn (47), A Orme for Doherty (50), C O’Connor for Carr (56), D McHale for Ruane (67).

Attendance: 31,506

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It’s tip-off time for new-look Lakers

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National League Division 1

Scotts Lakers v Limerick Sport Eagles

Saturday at 7.30pm

Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre

The 2022/23 National League tips off on Saturday evening and the Scotts Lakers will be hoping to get their campaign off to a flyer at home to the Limerick Sport Eagles.

The Lakers narrowly missed out on a playoff berth last time around, mainly due to a disappointing start to the season. Playing their first four home games at alternative venues probably didn’t help; the Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre was being used as a makeshift vaccination centre at the time. That’s all ancient history now, thankfully.

With that in mind, a fast start will be a priority, beginning with the visit of the Eagles this weekend.

ROSTER

It’s always difficult to tell until at least a few matches have been played but head coach Jarlath Lee appears to have made some good moves during the off-season.

Godwin Boahen will be missed but Dutch point guard Esebio Strijdhaftig has come in as a replacement, and Ukrainian big man Dmytro Berozkin – all 6’10” of him – has also come on board.

American shooter Eric Cooper Jr’s time here was brief; he has moved on already with Indiana native Jack Ferguson filling his shoes. Just like former laker Seán O’Brien, Ferguson played college ball with Colgate University.

The Lakers have retained the services of Portuguese player Rui Saravia, a skilled passer who has settled in nicely.

Just as essential as the imports are the local players who make up the majority of the squad. Mark O’Shea and Paul Clarke are important figures in the squad, although their involvement is likely to be curtailed by football commitments for the time being.

Youngsters Jamie O’Sullivan, Senan O’Leary and David Gleeson could well see more game time this season after exhibiting great promise in 2021/22, and other St Paul’s graduates like Mark Sheahan, Jack O’Sullivan and Eoin Carroll will also play their part.

A player to keep a close eye on is Ronan Collins, a Gneeveguilla native who has represented Ireland with distinction at underage level.

The club will be hoping for a healthy turnout for their season opener.

Meanwhile, the Lakers’ crosstown rivals the Killarney Cougars have an away fixture to get things started. They take on SETU Carlow (formerly IT Carlow) at the Barrow Centre on Saturday evening.

WOMEN’S LEAGUE

The St Paul’s women’s team (who are back in the National League for the first time since 2012) are also ready for their opening match of the new campaign. They travel to Kilkenny to take on the Marble City Hawks on Saturday at 7pm.

The team is managed by well-known local coach James Fleming and will be backboned by Killarney players like Lynn Jones, Rheanne O’Shea, Cassandra Buckley and current Ireland U16 international Leah McMahon.

Canadian Sophia Paska (formerly of the Limerick Celtics) and American Yuleska Ramirez Tejeda (ex-Limerick Sport Huskies) will add some recent league experience to the squad.

Paul’s first home game of the 2022/23 season will come next Saturday, October 8 against the Celtics.

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Adam Moynihan: Culture of lawlessness is partly to blame for GAA violence

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Why are so many GAA matches turning violent and/or abusive to the point that they need to be abandoned?

In Kerry, two underage fixtures had to be called off this past month alone. One, an U11 hurling game in which scores weren’t even being kept, was ended prematurely by the referee who was apparently on the receiving end of persistent verbal abuse. Another, an U15 football match in Kilcummin, came to a halt after a Cordal mentor was allegedly physically assaulted. The man in question ended up in hospital.

The spate of violence has not been confined to Kerry. Far from it. Matches in Roscommon, Wexford and Mayo have also been blighted by attacks on match officials. And some referees are rightly saying, “no more”. After a ref was attacked at a minor game in Roscommon last month, referees across the county briefly went on strike in solidarity.

If GAA officials are not concerned about the same thing happening again, quite conceivably on a wider scale, they should be.

Where does it all come from, this abuse and this violence? Why is it so prevalent in Gaelic games?

While it’s true that there is invariably a negative public reaction to instances of violence at GAA matches, I actually think a significant percentage of stakeholders are too accepting of it as a phenomenon.

Take the Armagh-Galway incident from this past summer for example. When Armagh sub Tiernan Kelly waded into a melee and gouged Damien Comer’s eye, the video footage enraged the vast majority of people who saw it. Kelly was widely condemned for his actions, even by outsiders like media personalities and politicians.

But then came the counter-reaction from within GAA circles. They said that Kelly was being vilified. The response was over the top. He was a good guy who simply made a mistake. These things happen.

As a GAA lover I personally can’t stand it when people who don’t follow the sport weigh in on these issues (politicians especially) but, for me, most of what was initially said about Kelly was justified. Sticking your finger in someone’s eye doesn’t just happen. It’s a despicable act of violence. In the end he got a six-month ban, meaning he misses a grand total of zero intercounty matches. Does that punishment fit the crime?

Surely a stronger message needs to be issued that people who engage in violence are not welcome.

When it comes to anyone entering the field of play – be they a supporter, mentor or some kind of hanger-on – and physically assaulting a referee or a player or another coach, they must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms. I’m talking about lifetime bans.

As a further deterrent, clubs and teams who fail to control their members should be punished appropriately. This should include expulsion from competitions for repeat offenders. As long as violent individuals are getting away lightly thanks to disciplinary action that doesn’t go far enough, these things will continue to happen.

GAA rule-makers have to get serious about the scourge of violence before referees pull the plug. Or before someone gets severely injured. Or worse.

I can’t help but feel as though our broadly lax attitude towards the laws of the game is a significant factor also. I’ve written this sentence on numerous occasions before so you may be sick of reading it, but I’ll stop saying it when it stops being true: so many rules in the GAA are so poorly enforced, you wonder why they bothered writing them down in the first place.

You have to hop or solo after four steps, but you can get away with seven or eight. You have to wear a gumshield, but you can tuck it into your sock. You have to be 13 metres away from the referee when he throws in a hop ball, but two metres will do. Managers have to stay off the pitch, but five yards over the line is grand. You have to make a clear striking motion when executing a handpass in hurling, but you can throw it too.

Whatever suits.

There is a culture of lawlessness in Gaelic football and hurling that I don’t think exists in any other sports of their kind.

It makes the games impossible to referee “properly” because every participant and observer has their own interpretation of what’s allowed. The referee can’t be right in everyone’s eyes if the rules have multiple nebulous interpretations.

So, with that in mind, should we be surprised that referees are getting it from all angles? Is it any wonder that people who should never even dream of entering the field of play feel as though they can?

Handing down proper punishments for violent attacks is really important but we must also have far more respect for the rules on a wider scale. No more half measures.

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