Kerry Senior Football Championship Final
East Kerry v Mid Kerry
Today at 7pm
Austin Stack Park
Live on 247.tv
We made it anyway. That’s the main thing. For a while there it looked like we wouldn’t have any County Championship this year, so well done to all involved for making sure that we won’t have a bothersome asterisk alongside ‘2020’ on the Kerry SFC Wikipedia page.
And you’d have to say that, all things considered, it has been an entertaining tournament. A return to the straight knockout format of old (a necessary revision due to time constraints post-lockdown) added to the excitement and there have been some cracking matches to date. Dr Crokes v Austin Stacks, East Kerry v St Kieran’s and Mid Kerry v Kenmare spring to mind, although all three fall just short of the immaculate standard set by Mid Kerry’s frantic triumph over the Crokes in the last four.
Whatever the outcome this evening, let’s all hope for a fitting finale. With the plethora of talent on show, we should have nothing to worry about.
East Kerry were odds-on favourites to retain the Bishop Moynihan Cup in 2020 and in two of their three matches thus far, they justified that pre-tournament status. In truth, Feale Rangers provided little by way of resistance in Round 1 and St Brendan’s fell well short of the required standard in the semi-final.
That squeaky encounter in between against an energetic St Kieran’s side was their only real test. In fact, they could well have been beaten that day had Kieran’s not missed a second-half penalty.
All-in-all it has been business as usual, though. Paul Murphy has come in and provided an extra layer of security and calmness to what was already a very assured back line. At midfield, Ronan Buckley has built on a really impressive campaign in 2019 to come back looking stronger and more commanding than ever. And up front, Paudie Clifford continues to dictate proceedings with his mazy runs, delectable kick-passing and eye for goal.
That would be enough of a platform for any team to challenge for a county title, and we haven’t even mentioned the full forward line yet.
In the younger Clifford, Darragh Roche and Evan Cronin, East Kerry have three of the deadliest scorers in the game and it is a monumental task, bordering on the impossible, to keep all three quiet on a given day.
Cronin is probably the unsung hero of this trio, which is strange considering how frequently he finds the target. The Spa man is very diligent and very active; he is constant thorn in the opposition’s side. His goal against Brendan’s was superbly taken and he will be keen to replicate his efforts in last year’s final when he kicked four points from play.
If 13, 14 and 15 play well for East Kerry – and they don’t even have to be spectacular – the Bishop will more than likely be coming back to Killarney via Farranfore for the second year in a row.
That’s not to say that Mid Kerry are chasing a lost cause. Manager Peter O’Sullivan has led his side to three really fine wins to make it this far and they are certainly here on merit.
They demolished Kilcummin in Round 1 and, in truth, their double scores margin of victory didn’t flatter them one bit on the day. Then they showed great determination to hang on against Kenmare and win by a single point. It could have gone either way but Mid Kerry showed great character to get over the line, and that character was on show in abundance in their battle for the ages against the Crokes.
The divisional side were nothing short of heroic in that one-point, extra-time win and now they find themselves 60 minutes (or maybe 80, or maybe 80 plus however long a penalty shootout takes) away from their first county title in 12 years.
Just two players who played in that 2008 victory over Rahilly’s are involved tomorrow: Darran O’Sullivan, who was corner forward then and still is, and Garry Sayers, who started in ’08 and came off the bench against Dr Crokes two weeks ago.
Centre forward Fiachra Clifford and full forward Liam Carey have made significant contributions up to this point but there has been one standout performer: Glenbeigh-Glencar marksman Gavan O’Grady.
O’Grady is averaging 1-6 per game in this year’s competition and he will in all likelihood have to maintain that firing rate, if not improve upon it, if Mid Kerry are to upset the odds in the final. East Kerry have plenty of options in terms of markers. Jack Sherwood is the most experienced head in that full back line and he would be up to the task, as would Glenflesk corner back Chris O’Donoghue who has been a very consistent defender for East Kerry over the course of the 2019 and 2020 championships.
From a neutral’s point of view, you would hope that O’Grady is at his influential best and that he and his supporting cast, which includes Kerry players Peter Crowley and Pa Kilkenny, give the champions a right good rattle.
It is a tall order, however, and with a hungry David Clifford back in the starting line-up after serving his one-match suspension, one suspects that Jerry O’Sullivan’s side will be that little bit too strong for their divisional rivals.
Verdict: East Kerry by four.
EAST KERRY (POSSIBLE): Shane Ryan (Rathmore); Niall Donohue (Firies), Jack Sherwood (Firies), Chris O’Donoghue (Glenflesk); Shane Cronin (Spa), Dan O’Donoghue (Spa), Paul Murphy (Rathmore); Mark Ryan (Rathmore), Ronan Buckley (Listry); Dara Moynihan (Spa), Paudie Clifford (Fossa), Brendan O’Keeffe (Rathmore); David Clifford (Fossa), Darragh Roche (Glenflesk), Evan Cronin (Spa).
MID KERRY (POSSIBLE): Stephen Cahillane (Keel); Jack Brosnan (Glenbeigh-Glencar), Pa Wrenn (Milltown-Castlemaine), David Mangan (Laune Rangers); Peter Crowley (Laune Rangers), Mike Breen (Beaufort), Pa Kilkenny (Glenbeigh-Glencar); Colin McGillicuddy (Glenbeigh-Glencar), Ronan Murphy (Beaufort); David Roche (Milltown-Castlemaine), Fiachra Clifford (Laune Rangers), Ciarán Kennedy (Beaufort); Gavan O’Grady (Glenbeigh-Glencar), Liam Carey (Beaufort), Darran O’Sullivan (Glenbeigh-Glencar).
The Kerry SFC final is being streamed live by 247.tv.
Above: East Kerry forward Evan Cronin and Mid Kerry veteran Darran O’Sullivan. Pics: Sportsfile.
Eamonn Fitzgerald: Keane should know 11 of his 15 starters
As Kerry ramp up towards the championship, Eamonn Fitzgerald gives his assessment of their preparations to date.
One certainly learns more from defeat that from victory, so what has Peter Keane and his management team learned from the 2020 debacle?
In fairness to the Kerry management, they have opened up the panel, brought some new players into the fold. They will bring them along hoping they will be in contention for places in the resurrection, which occurs when they start the 2021 championship campaign with a home game versus Clare in the Fitzgerald Stadium.
Tomorrow, Kerry will meet Tyrone in the NFL semi-final. Their league title is at stake. Too many supporters give them no credit for winning the 2020 National League.
If Kerry win and Dublin win as expected, there won’t be a league final and it will be a shared title. That is disappointing for the players. The GAA should have done better and ensured they a final had to be played.
Peter Keane and the Kerry players have had the ideal preparation for the championship. Three competitive league games so far and one more tomorrow. The Kerry selectors used the matches wisely, trying out as many players as possible to see which combination will deliver success.
Injuries forced their hands for all games and some established players were rested. That gave game time to so many players.
That huge win over Galway in Tralee was a great morale booster. They ran up a big score, inflicting a 22-point defeat on Galway, the worst ever margin of defeat for the Westerners. It was magical stuff, Kerry going at them from the throw-in and imposing their game on hapless Galway.
In my report I said that one swallow does not make a summer, but that one swallow was most welcome and hopefully the rest of the flight would follow to make a summer of delight in Kerry.
Dublin went seven points clear and looked odds-on to make it a 10-point win, but Kerry responded magnificently hitting six unanswered points. It looked all up when Dublin converted a late penalty, but David Clifford came to the rescue in the dying minutes of the game to snatch a draw. Lessons to be learned against the top opposition. Kerry forwards are very good, but the defence is still the Achilles heel.
Roscommon proved as tough as ever, but Kerry competed well. Still that goal leakage at the back was a worry. Diarmuid O’Connor improved steadily and will start at midfield v Clare.
Tomorrow’s very competitive match v Tyrone will tell us more.
I expect at this stage Peter Keane and his selectors have 11 positions filled to start v Clare. They haven’t a surplus of class players and injuries will deprive them of a full hand.
I’ve still to see the Peter Keane gameplan, his stamp on this team. Every manager in any team sport wishes his/her team to play in a certain matter. The defensive tactics in Cork failed. Thankfully, that has changed in the three league games of 2021 and that is encouraging.
The ball is going in much quicker and sooner so that the inside forwards are brought into play. They score freely and once you get the ball inside 50 metres defenders are quite likely to foul. With Seán O’Shea that’s a pointed free in most cases.
I’m not suggesting that the Kerry defenders should send the ball anywhere out of their way. Leave that to supporters of Charlton. Get it out long and accurate setting up an attack, instead of lateral passing and not progressing.
I expect that the Kerry selectors have pencilled in 11 places and the discussion really is for the remaining starting four. They will also will be very mindful of seven other subs. The starting 15 will not be the 15 that will finish. Such is the intensity of the modern game.
Shane Ryan has been out injured for this league and must be doubtful for the early stages of the championship. Kieran Fitzgibbon has been catapulted into goalkeeping duties and he has performed quite well, especially playing behind a much-maligned defence.
The goalkeeper is just not alone a ball stopper, but he is called into play once the opposition start moving out the ball from the other end of the field. He can see possible developments long before his defenders do. He can see the runner, gaps opening and real danger, before defender do. They are too taken up with marking their own men. The keeper is the eyes and ears of the defenders and must be sure and vocal. It will take time for him to assert his authority and the same goes for the kick-outs. Understandably, he hasn’t always succeeded in picking out a fellow player, be it short or long. That will come. Even Cluxton had to learn.
The defence has been much-maligned and leaking so many goals substantiates that argument. In their defence they are often at sixes and sevens with extra men galloping through, because other players let their men sally up field unmarked. However, I cannot understand why this sextet – and it could be any six – do not realise that their first duty is to mark their own men. Too often they stand off their opponents and gift them the initiative.
These are elite players who have been coached in the art of defence in their own clubs since they were juveniles. Too often, some but not all, do not seem to understand that there really is no defined tackle in Gaelic football, but you can get in close. Use your hands strategically and prevent the attacker scoring or laying it off to a fellow player. That’s all legitimate and there is no need to concede a free. I could name several players at club level who operate this defensive tactic so successfully. Great Kerry backs of the past did it. I think of players such as Paudie Lynch and Mike McCarthy.
The present Kerry defenders are plenty fit enough. They need to be near their direct opponents and be pro-active instead of being reactive. Rarely is there need for a long inaccurate clearance. A hand pass, or preferably an accurate punt kick will set the Kerry forwards in motion.
The Kerry full back line should not be drawn 50 yards from goal and certainly not sprinting out as a link man into the opposition’s territory. How often have we seen it by some of these defenders? Mind the house, don’t leave the goalkeeper exposed and the goal leakage will dry up, or curtailed at worst.
I also feel that Gavin Crowley should not be lured into up field sallies. He has a very onerous job. He must mind his man and also mark space. Tim Kennelly and Mick Morris before him were not classy players but were highly effective centre-backs. No yawning gaps to allow Brian Fenton, Eoin Murchan, or Jack McCaffrey exploit this this tempting mortal sin.
Primary duty for wing backs Paul Murphy and Gavin White is to mark their own man and when the two or three opportunities arise in the game they have the explosive pace to go up field to score or assist in a score. If that run breaks down it is not as serious, as if it happened to a centre back exposing the middle for those Dublin invaders.
Midfield has been a problem area for Kerry. David Moran has given Kerry great service over many years, but I contend that he should not be on the starting 15. He may well be on the finishing 15.
Jack Barry is in the frame to start, but not Tommy Walsh.
I also expect Kerry to have a Plan B. My preference is to include Seán O’Shea and Paudie Clifford in the half-forward line, one of them centrally and both tasked with helping out at midfield. The older Clifford is mobile, brave and eager and could do a very effective smash and grab possession ploy. He should start. Now he is more even-tempered than he has been in the past. He can open a defence route one and knows when to deliver to the full forward line. I feel that we can get more out of Seán O’Shea.
I hope Peter Keane doesn’t fall back on the Cork gambit where the half-forward line’s role was to go back to their own half-back line helping out. Tracking back is important, but that last-ditch ploy inevitably draws out the inside forward line. Wouldn’t David Clifford’s marker love to see him 70 yards from goal? Even Kerry’s jewel will not score from that position. Again, send in the ball quickly to Kerry’s best scorers, Clifford and whoever is with him. Paul Geaney, Paudie Clifford, Tony Brosnan and Killian Spillane are in the frame to score.
You can have all the fitness in the world, elaborate game plans and astute use of the bench, but those ingredients alone will not propel Kerry forward in a realistic bid for Sam 2021. Pride in the geansaí will oil the winning machine.
Over to you the present Kerry players, whichever 15 starts v Clare, then Tipperary followed by Cork. Bryan McMahon the former Kerry player and songster was spot on with the importance of dúchas and tradition.
“You cannot box or bottle it, nor grasp it in your hand,
But pride of race and love of place inspire a love of land.”
Tom O’Sullivan and Tony Brosnan start as Keane makes raft of changes
Dingle defender Tom O’Sullivan and Dr Crokes sharpshooter Tony Brosnan have been named in a much-changed starting line-up for Kerry’s National League Round 3 match against Roscommon.
The pair had missed out on Kerry’s first two matchday squads of the season but they look set to feature from the off in Dr Hyde Park on Sunday. The game will be shown live on the TG4 Player (throw-in 3.45pm) with deferred coverage on TG4 at 5.35pm.
O’Sullivan is joined in the full back line by his namesake, Graham O’Sullivan, and Jason Foley, who moves from No. 2 to No. 3. Regular full back Tadhg Morley drops to the bench.
The versatile Brian Ó Beaglaoich will line out at half back alongside centre back Gavin Crowley and there will be a first start on the other wing for Mike Breen of Beaufort. First choice wing backs Paul Murphy and Gavin White are listed as substitutes.
David Moran and Diarmuid O’Connor retain their spots at midfield as Jack Barry misses out on the 26 for the second week in a row.
Stephen O’Brien gets his first start of the year at right half forward with Ronan Buckley of Listry on the 40 and Paul Geaney at 12 for the third consecutive fixture. Seán O’Shea is named amongst the subs.
There is no place on the panel for Killian Spillane as the Clifford brothers, David and Paudie, are joined in the full forward line by Brosnan. David will captain the side in Paul Murphy’s stead.
As expected, Kieran Fitzgibbon holds on to the No. 1 jersey. Eoghan O’Brien of Churchill has been drafted into the extended panel to provide extra cover in the absence of the injured Shane Ryan, but goalkeeping coach Brendan Kealy continues to deputise as sub keeper.
Liam Kearney of Spa makes his first matchday squad of the campaign.
Roscommon, meanwhile, are expected to name their team tomorrow. Listowel native Conor Cox, who made seven appearances for Kerry before transferring to the Rossies in 2019, was a 50th-minute substitute in both of their matches to date.
Following those defeats to Dublin and Galway, Anthony Cunningham’s side will be facing into a relegation playoff semi-final whatever the outcome of Sunday’s match.
Kerry can mathematically join them in the bottom two but Peter Keane’s men would need to lose by at least 14 points and Galway would also need to beat Dublin.
Kerry team to face Roscommon
1. Kieran Fitzgibbon (Kenmare Shamrocks)
2. Graham O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses)
3. Jason Foley (Ballydonoghue)
4. Tom O’Sullivan (Dingle)
5. Brian Ó Beaglaoich (An Ghaeltacht)
6. Gavin Crowley (Templenoe)
7. Mike Breen (Beaufort)
8. David Moran (Kerin’s O’Rahilly’s)
9. Diarmuid O’Connor (Na Gaeil)
10. Stephen O’Brien (Kenmare Shamrocks)
11. Ronan Buckley (Listry)
12. Paul Geaney (Dingle)
13. David Clifford (Fossa)
14. Tony Brosnan (Dr Crokes)
15. Paudie Clifford (Fossa)
Adam Moynihan: So many GAA rules need tidying up
Is there a sport in the world that alters its rulebook more frequently than Gaelic football? Every year when the first ball is thrown in, we’re left scratching our heads, frantically googling “GAA rule changes”, trying to come to terms with the latest updates to our playing protocol.
The changes to the advantage rule are causing consternation at the moment but the irony is that the game already has a number of laws that are either vague or poorly enforced. Below are just a few that come mind.
Surely it would make sense to iron these out before we even think about introducing further amendments.
1. Advanced mark. At its best (I would say less than 10% of the time), the advanced mark is a decent rule that rewards long-kicking and catches close to the goal. At its worst (the remaining 90% of the time), it’s a stupid rule that rewards nothing skills like short-kicking and unchallenged chest-catches. Plus, it abruptly stops the play for no good reason.
Of all the rule changes in recent years, it possibly holds the title of ‘most hated’. It simply has to go.
2. The tackle. You can only use one hand, but sometimes that’s a foul. You can only use an open hand, but sometimes that’s a foul. You can’t pull an opponent, but sometimes you can. You can’t push an opponent, but sometimes you can. What is a Gaelic football tackle? It’s so vague and open to interpretation. From game to game and even from tackle to tackle, you never really know what’s going to be foul and what isn’t.
It’s a difficult one for rule-makers to sort out but it’s not going to sort itself out, that’s for sure.
3. Booking both players when there’s a wrestling match. The ball is coming up the field. As the play approaches, a corner forward and a corner back become entangled and end up rolling around on the ground. Who do you think initiated that contact? Who has something to gain from that wrestling match? It’s almost always the defender. Is the forward supposed to go limp and play dead like they’re being attacked by a grizzly bear?
They have to stand up for themselves, and they shouldn’t be booked for doing so.
4. Feigning injury. The law states that attempting “to achieve an advantage by feigning a foul or injury” is a bookable offence. While the “foul” part can be tricky to spot on the fly, the latter half of the rule is generally far more black and white. Thankfully, players flopping to the ground and holding their faces when they’ve barely been touched is less prevalent in Gaelic football than it is in other sports, but it does happen. Yet how many yellow cards have been brandished for this infraction?
The shame of getting booked for playacting would be a huge deterrent and help stamp this behaviour out for good. It should be punished to the letter of the law.
5. Moving frees too far forward for dissent/impeding the kick. When a free is awarded, the penalty for dissent or impeding/slowing down the taking of the free is 13 metres. How many times have we seen an over-zealous referee bring the ball forward 20 metres or more?
I recall playing a minor game for Legion out in Rathmore. I committed a foul outside of our 65-metre line. For questioning the call, the ref carried the ball forward well inside our 45. For questioning the distance, he brought it in – and this isn’t a joke or an exaggeration – to the 13-metre line. That’s roughly 55 metres of a penalty instead of 26.
That’s an extreme example, granted, but even a five-metre bonus out the field could change the course of a match.
6. Hop balls. From the throw-in at the start of each half, every player bar the four midfielders is meant to be inside the two 45-metre lines. A metre or two encroachment here or there isn’t the end of the world, but in the 2019 All-Ireland final we saw what happens when the rule isn’t properly enforced. At the beginning of the second half, there were two extra players within the 65s by the time David Moran touched the ball down. Another six were just about to enter. One of those six, Eoin Murchan, gathered possession and scored a season-defining goal.
If a rugby or soccer player got away with being 20 metres offside from a kick-off, the referee would be demoted to the lower leagues in a flash.
Hop balls during open play are even messier. The players not contesting should be 13 metres away from the referee. The most you’d normally get is five, and that’s if the referee makes a big song and dance about it. By the time the ball reaches its apex there is invariably a sea of bodies awaiting its return to earth, and the resulting maul is anything but pretty.
Allowing the two nominated players to properly compete for the hop ball would lead to a greater possibility of clean possession, and some football as opposed to a spot of rugby.
7. Steps. Speaking of that Eoin Murchan goal… (No, I will not let it go.) The manner in which players travel with the ball is one of the most fundamental aspects of Gaelic football, yet it is arguably the least properly policed. Four steps is the rule. Four steps before you have to release the ball or hop or solo. But, of course, the inside joke is that it’s not four, is it? Not really. Sometimes five is okay. Sometimes six. You’d get away with seven. Maybe eight. Possibly nine. Ten? Ten is taking liberties. But yes, you could feasibly get away with ten as well.
Stringently enforcing this particular law might seem like a potential nightmare because players are so used to getting away with five or more steps. It would certainly prove contentious at the beginning, but everyone would adjust.
As it stands, it’s just another half-enforced rule that makes you wonder why they bothered writing it down in the first place.
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