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Could a GAA kicker like Seánie O’Shea make it in the NFL?

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by Adam Moynihan

The path from Kerry to the NFL is not well worn but this week Tadhg Leader is hoping to unearth a local ‘Kicking King’ who has the potential to make it big in American football.

Leader, a former Connacht and USA rugby player, is the man behind Ireland’s Kicking King, a nationwide search to find future American football kickers. Players from all codes including GAA, soccer and rugby are encouraged to enter the contest and see if they have what it takes.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, Leader said that while it’s extremely difficult to make it all the way to the NFL, Irish sportspeople have the natural kicking talent to at least give it a go.

“You don’t know unless you try. Just show up. If you can kick a 45 in Gaelic, you’ll probably be pretty handy at this too. And you never know where it might take you.”

The Galway native founded Leader Kicking in 2022 to create a pathway for potential Irish punters and kickers. Under Leader’s guidance, former underage GAA stars Ronan Patterson (Cavan) and Ross Bolger (Laois) have already secured Division 1 scholarships in top US colleges.

Separately, Castleisland man David Shanahan, a former Kerry underage footballer, managed to secure a scholarship at Georgia Tech, where he plays as a punter.

CROSSOVER

There is an obvious crossover between the kicking skills needed in GAA, rugby and soccer and the kicking skills needed in American football, but there are obvious differences too. Kerry free-taker Seánie O’Shea saw that for himself when he participated in a promotional video for Leader Kicking alongside Galway’s Shane Walsh in 2022.

“Lads find that the distance they’re standing from the ball in Gaelic football versus American football is the biggest struggle,” Leader explained. “I think Seánie stands nine paces off the ball; in American football you have two-and-a-half.

“Thankfully, you don’t need nine steps. It’s just a thing that we’re used to doing [in Ireland]. Once you get a few repetitions of two-and-a-half, you find that it’s the last two steps where you’re generating power. So guys can get over that hurdle quickly.

“The actual art of ball striking is very similar in American football, rugby and Gaelic football. It’s all about your foot angle – like in golf, what does your club face look like? And then how does it transition out of the shot over the yard after impact.”

Jack O’Connor will probably want my head on a plate for even asking the question but I had to know: if someone like Seánie O’Shea gave up Gaelic football and tried to become an NFL kicker, how would he fare?

“In today’s landscape, American football kicking is global,” Leader said. “The standard of competition is really, really high and the level you need to be kicking at is very difficult.

“I think Seánie O’Shea would be capable to compete but he’d probably need months of training to be seriously considered at that level. The raw athleticism and ball striking ability is definitely there. And you know that guys like Seánie can kick under pressure, which is a really good thing to be able to tell American scouts and college coaches.

“But if you want to break into the NFL, there are only 32 people in the world who get to do it, so you can just imagine how competitive that is.”

KILLARNEY

The Killarney event takes place Friday at 7pm at Killarney Rugby Club and anyone over the age of 15, of any gender, is encouraged to attend. Whether you’re a talented young person or you're a 50-year-old who has a good strike of a ball, all are welcome. Registration costs €20.

The top performers from each regional location will compete in Energia Stadium on August 25 in front of thousands of fans as part of the half-time entertainment for aglobal football showcase, which features teams from across the world.

Ireland’s Kicking King 2023 winner and their plus-one will also get flown to America where they will be put up in a hotel and brought along to a Pittsburgh Steelers game.

But Leader’s ultimate goal is to help young Irish athletes secure a prize far more valuable than a trip abroad: a free ride and a top-class education at a major American college. Do you have what it takes?

Sign up for Ireland’s Kicking King at LeaderKicking.com.

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‘There’s definitely more in me’ – Leahy feeling positive after close-run thing at nationals

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Kerry woman Sarah Leahy chats to Adam Moynihan about her recent outing at the National Outdoor Championships in Dublin. The Killarney Valley AC sprinter competed with the best of the best, including new Irish record holder Rhasidat Adeleke.

Adam Moynihan: You recently took part in the 100m final at the National Championships. How was that experience for you?

Sarah Leahy: Atmosphere-wise it was absolutely amazing. Just very good energy all around. And coming out for the final, obviously, Rhasidat brought a massive crowd. So that was really cool to be a part of because I don’t think there’s ever been a crowd that big at nationals before. To be in the final where so many people were there to watch her was obviously amazing.

What about the race itself?

I came fifth and ran a time of 11.74. On the day, with the whole excitement of it all, I was actually really happy with that. I was a bit disappointed but I was like, it’s a great day overall. I ran well, didn’t get a medal but I was really close. I didn’t get the perfect start like I did in the heat. So I was a little bit behind, but I just managed to come fifth in the end.

A week on, the excitement has kind of worn off, and I think there’s definitely a lot more in me. I could’ve pipped the third place But yeah, it is what it is. It was still good. I’m happy with it.

It was very tight for third place, wasn’t it?

Yeah, it was two-or-three-hundredths of a second and it was a blanket finish for four of us. So it was close but no cigar. Not this time. I came fifth last year as well, so I was hoping for at least fourth this year, but it ended up being the same. At least it wasn’t sixth! And there’s definitely more in me as well. Time-wise I’m just waiting for it to kind of happen a little bit. I believe it will. It was amazing to be in a race where a national record was broken.

And the standard was obviously very high across the board. All the big names were there.

It was a very high standard, yeah. Going in we kind of knew that first and second were gone (to Adeleke and Sarah Lavin). Everyone else was battling for that third medal and only one person could get it in the end. (Mollie O’Reilly got the bronze.) We were all close.

But overall I was super grateful to be in the mix, especially in a race that was that big. It’s one that will go down in history. It was a massive weekend and it was very enjoyable.

Rhasidat is a massive superstar now. What’s it like to run alongside her?

Rhasidat is a great athlete and a very nice girl. As you can see in interviews, she’s very humble. So to compete next to her, to literally be running in the lane right beside her, was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for more from the day in that respect. I thought she might have ran sub-11 because she did it before but she still got a national record. To be part of that race was a big deal for me.

Athletics in Ireland seems to be in a good place, particularly after the success the Irish team had in the recent European Championships in Rome. Does it feel like the sport is getting more attention and more recognition these days?

Oh 100%. Support for athletics has grown hugely in the last few years and I think it’ll continue to grow, especially with the success that Ireland had at the European Championships. I think the Olympics this year is going to drive that on even more because we have such great athletes going. The support is growing and rightfully so. The athletes are really getting the recognition they deserve. I think the future is very exciting for athletics in Ireland.

What about your own career? What’s next for you?

I have one last race of the season left, which is at the AAI Games on Sunday in Dublin. I’m hoping to just get a good run out, a good time, and execute the race well. Training will continue until the end of July, I’ll get a month off, and then we’re back training for indoors next year. I love indoors. I think I excel at that. There’s European Indoors and World Indoors next year, so to qualify for them would be a huge, huge goal.

As for outdoors, I’d like to get on the Irish relay team, but I’ll be focussing on indoors first. It should be a good year.

Are you enjoying it?

Yeah, I’m really enjoying it. I think sometimes you might put too much pressure on yourself and try to get a PB in every race but this year I’ve really learned that I’ve done the training, so it will happen when it happens. Just go out and run and let your body do its thing. And I’m actually really enjoying competing this year. I know I’m going to continue enjoying it for the next few years.

With the surrounding support of the club and coaches and my training group, it’s all going really well for me at the moment. I have no complaints at all. I’m very lucky.

Thanks for your time, Sarah, and all the best for the rest of the season.

Thank you very much, Adam. It was lovely talking to you.

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Kingdom ladies hoping for repeat performance against Royals

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LGFA All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final

Kerry v Meath

Saturday 5.15pm

Austin Stack Park

Live on TG4

Just like they did in 2023, the Kerry ladies will take on Meath in the All-Ireland quarter-final in Tralee this weekend and a repeat of the result they earned that wintry day 12 months ago will do just fine.

Last year’s encounter at Stack Park was a classic game of two halves as the home team ran up a 10-point lead with the unseasonable elements at their collective back.

Meath, who at the time were on the hunt for their third All-Ireland in a row, fought back admirably in the second period but the Kerry women held firm and won by four (2-8 to 0-10) after an emotionally charged final quarter.

Síofra O’Shea was Kerry’s top scorer on the day with 1-1 and her return from injury in recent weeks is a major boost to Darragh Long and Declan Quill’s squad.

The Kingdom made light work of Meath when the sides met in the league in March as Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh kicked 0-8 in a 1-15 to 0-5 victory. Shane McCormack’s charges subsequently lost to Dublin in the Leinster final by 18 points before finishing second to Armagh in the All-Ireland group stage.

Marion Farrelly, Emma Duggan and Meadhbh Byrne caught the eye in their recent win over Tipperary, combining for 2-11 of the team’s total of 2-15.

Former Player of the Year Vikki Wall could be in line for a dramatic comeback after a spell with the Ireland Rugby Sevens team.

As for Kerry, they should arrive at the last eight in decent spirits having put in their best display of the season so far against Waterford three weeks ago. The Munster champions were excellent and eventually ran out 4-13 to 0-9 winners with skilful forward Hannah O’Donoghue (1-3) and all-action half back Aishling O’Connell (0-2) particularly impressive.

Meath are a capable opponent on their day, though, so another professional performance will be required if Kerry want to keep their All-Ireland dream alive.

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