CONFIRMED: Crokes and Legion set for Fitzgerald Stadium showdown
by Adam Moynihan
December is almost upon us and there has been a noticeable turn in the weather this past week. The nights are icy cold. In the morning the town is coated with a thick layer of white frost.
Yes, there is a very definite chill in the air around the streets and laneways of Killarney - but not all of it is meteorological.
Dr Crokes’ championship exit at the hands of Kerins O’Rahillys has edged them one step closer to the unthinkable. Their failure to reach the county final means that the monumental relegation showdown with bitter rivals Legion will now go ahead, with the date set for the first Sunday of winter (December 5 at noon).
In a town that is utterly obsessed with its football and its famous football clubs, defeat will spell disaster.
For one tribe, this battle could signal the beginning of winter in more ways than one.
The team from Lewis Road could have avoided this playoff had they managed to defeat Rahillys in Sunday’s county semi-final; exemption from relegation is assured to any side who reach the final of the Kerry Senior Football Championship. Leading by six points early in the second half, it looked like they were on their way, but a ferocious fightback by their Tralee opponents turned the tie on its head.
Strand Road came out swinging in that second period and they delivered the knockout blow – quite literally in the case of Crokes keeper Shane Murphy, who was knocked unconscious in a nasty-looking collision in the 47th minute. Somehow the Rahillys player escaped with just a yellow, but more telling for Edmund O’Sullivan’s side was Murphy’s absence for the remainder of the game.
Momentum shifted in their opponents’ favour thereafter and with David Moran bursting into life around the middle and the triumvirate of Keane, Savage and Hayes doing the damage inside, Rahillys secured a narrow one-point victory.
Murphy's availability for the playoff is now one of the biggest talking points ahead of next week's showdown in the Fitzgerald Stadium. The nature of the injury, and the fact that the player has suffered from concussion in the past, has naturally led to questions around whether or not he will be cleared in time to play.
Sunday’s loss was harrowing for Crokes but there were positives too, perhaps most notably the performance of the evergreen Johnny Buckley who dominated the majority of the midfield exchanges. In fact, there was plenty to like about the Killarney side’s first half display with most of their players winning their individual contests.
The manner of the defeat will sting but there's no denying that on their day the Crokes are still a very formidable force.
Legion are understandably relieved that Crokes missed out on the final, but by the time the playoff comes around they will have been out of action for four weeks, which is hardly ideal. Their form this season has been disappointing by their own standards so they are likely to enter this encounter as underdogs.
That being said, they were underdogs for the 2019 O’Donoghue Cup (East Kerry Championship) final and they gave their old foes a sound beating that day.
Dr Crokes were victorious in the last meeting between the sides: last year's O'Donoghue Cup quarter-final in Derreen, which the visitors won by three points.
The relegation playoff promises to be an intriguing fixture but for now Crokes’ attention turns to the East Kerry Championship. Their semi-final against Rathmore will take place in Kilcummin on Sunday at 2pm.
In the other semi, Spa face Glenflesk on Saturday at 2pm in the Fitzgerald Stadium.
Meanwhile, the county final between Kerins O'Rahillys and Austin Stacks has been fixed for the same day as the playoff (Sunday, December 5) at 3pm. The match will be played in Austin Stack Park in Tralee.
Kingdom hoping to lay some old ghosts to rest at Páirc Uí Chaoimh
by Adam Moynihan
All-Ireland SFC Group 1
Cork v Kerry
Saturday at 3pm
Páirc Uí Chaoimh
I was one of the unlucky few to have been present at the last Cork-Kerry clash in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in November of 2020. It was a truly awful night.
The match was played behind closed doors which made for an eerie, unsettling atmosphere, and the rain came down harder than I ever remember seeing first-hand.
Unfortunately, Kerry came down hard too. Mark Keane’s last-ditch goal clinched an unexpected victory for the hosts and, just like that, Kerry’s year was over.
It always hurts when your team loses but that one completely floored us all. It was such a horrible way to lose a game and I felt so bad for the players as they trudged off the field, soaked to the bone and shaken to the core.
They got some form of payback the following year when they won by 21 in the Munster final, and again last year when they ran out 11-point winners in the semi-final. But something tells me that it would mean a lot more to return to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and do the business there.
It won’t be easy. The final scorelines in the last two games suggest that it was all one-way traffic but that simply wasn’t the case. In 2021, Cork led by 1-5 to 0-4 at the water break (remember those?) and they pushed Kerry hard 12 months ago too. There was nothing in that match right up until the 50th minute, at which point Kerry brought on David Moran and Paul Geaney and ultimately pulled away.
You can never really read too much into the McGrath Cup but Cork demolished Kerry in January. Their form since has been spotty but they did well to see off Louth last week, with the returning Brian Hurley (shoulder) kicking eight points in a two-point win. Hurley has proved to be a handful for Kerry full back Jason Foley in the past.
Significantly, John Cleary’s side are strong in a key area where Kerry struggled against Mayo: midfield. Ian Maguire and Colm O’Callaghan scored 0-2 each in Navan (and the latter scored 2-4 in that aforementioned McGrath Cup game at the start of the year).
Jack O’Connor named his team last night with Adrian Spillane replacing Tony Brosnan and Paul Murphy coming in for Dylan Casey. Spillane will add some extra brawn and energy around the middle third. Going by the last outing, Kerry need it.
It is also worth noting that David Clifford has never really shot the lights out against Cork. He has been well minded by Maurice Shanley, Seán Meehan and Kevin Flahive in the past three championship meetings, with the retreating Seán Powter also getting stuck in when needed.
Flahive suffered a cruciate injury late in last year’s game but he could potentially be in line for a comeback tomorrow; he has been added to Cork’s 26 for the first time in over 12 months.
Meehan has been ruled out with a hamstring injury so Shanley may be asked to track the Footballer of the Year this time around.
Clifford was one of the few bright sparks against Mayo and he would love to bring that form to the Páirc on Saturday. With vital points on the line, there would be no better time to lay some ghosts to rest.
From a Kerry perspective, you would hope – and perhaps expect – that Clifford and his teammates can do exactly that and get the show back on the road.
1. Shane Ryan
2. Graham O’Sullivan
3. Jason Foley
4. Tom O’Sullivan
5. Paul Murphy
6. Tadhg Morley
7. Gavin White
8. Diarmuid O’Connor
9. Jack Barry
10. Dara Moynihan
11. Seánie O’Shea
12. Adrian Spillane
13. Paudie Clifford
14. David Clifford
15. Paul Geaney
Subs: S Murphy, T Brosnan, D Casey, BD O’Sullivan, R Murphy, M Burns, M Breen, S O’Brien, D O’Sullivan, C O’Donoghue, S O’Brien.
1. Micheál Aodh Martin
2. Maurice Shanley
3. Rory Maguire
4. Kevin O’Donovan
5. Luke Fahy
6. Daniel O’Mahony
7. Matty Taylor
8. Colm O’Callaghan
9. Ian Maguire
10. Brian O’Driscoll
11. Ruairí Deane
12. Killian O’Hanlon
13. Seán Powter
14. Brian Hurley
15. Chris Óg Jones
Subs: P Doyle, C Kiely, T Clancy, K Flahive, P Walsh, E McSweeney, B Murphy, J O’Rourke , M Cronin, S Sherlock, F Herlihy.
Is Killarney green or blue? Celtic and Athletic to face off in tonight’s league final
Kerry Premier A League Final
Killarney Celtic v Killarney Athletic
Tonight at 7.45pm
Mounthawk Park, Tralee
Killarney Celtic will be gunning for their fifth league title in a row tonight (Friday) when they take on crosstown rivals Killarney Athletic in Tralee.
Celtic have been the dominant force in Kerry soccer in recent times with Athletic playing second fiddle. This will be the third Premier A final in a row to be contested by the Killarney clubs; Celtic won the 2020 decider 4-0 and last year’s final ended in a 3-0 victory for the club from Derreen. (The 2020/21 season was scrapped due to the pandemic.)
Prior to that, Celtic defeated Castleisland in 2019 and Dingle Bay Rovers in 2018, both on a scoreline of 1-0.
Celtic and Athletic also met in the 2017 final. The Blues prevailed in that particular encounter to capture their first ever Premier A title.
As for this season, Neilus Hayes’ Hoops qualified for the final by virtue of their first-place finish in the Premier A. Despite losing key players – including attackers Ryan Kelliher, Stephen McCarthy and Trpimir Vrljicak – to the Kerry FC project, the Celts won 12 of their 14 matches and ended up with an imposing goal difference of +34.
Athletic were not far behind, however; Stuart Templeman’s team only lost one league game all season en route to 35 points – one behind Celtic and 11 clear of Castleisland in third.
Interestingly, both of Celtic’s losses came at the hands of Athletic. The Woodlawn outfit impressively beat the old enemy 3-2 and 0-1 over the course of the regular season.
Goals by Roko Rujevcan, Pedja Glumcevic and a 90th-minute winner by Brendan Moloney clinched that dramatic 3-2 win in October of last year. It was a result that signalled Athletic’s intentions for the rest of the season.
Rujevcan was also on the scoresheet when Athletic snatched a rare away win at Celtic Park on April 30.
Celtic’s imposing record in finals probably makes them slight favourites and in the likes of John McDonagh, Brendan Falvey, Wayne Sparling, Kevin O’Sullivan and Witness Odirile they have a potent mix of steel and skill.
But Athletic will take heart from their recent results in this fixture and they will be hoping that two of the stars from the 2017 team – Shane Doolan and Shane Lynch – can lead the current crop of players to glory.
Meanwhile, the Division 2B final between Killarney Athletic B and Atletico Ardfert that was also due to take place tonight has been cancelled. Athletic have received a walkover.
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