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County Final Preview: Hungry East Kerry forwards will be hard to stop

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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.

JUSTIFIED

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.

MERIT

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.

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Fleming and Doherty top Killarney crew at Boggeragh

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The Boggeragh Rallysprint, organised by Cork Motor Club and based in the forest complex of the same name, took place over the Christmas break.

Based near the village of Nad, the event attracted a strong 60-plus car entry and was won by West Cork driver David Guest and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan in a Ford Fiesta Rally 2. The latter is a member of Killarney and District Motor Club.

The first all-Killarney crew to make the finish were David Fleming and Kieran Doherty in their Honda Civic. The Killarney-based crew finished 20th overall on what was only their second time competing on a gravel rally.

World Rally Championship launch

The new Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid that Craig Breen and Paul Nagle will drive in this year’s World Rally Championship is set to be unveiled on Saturday in Austria.

The World Rally Championship will undergo major environmental changes this year when new technical regulations drive the series towards a more sustainable future.

The season launch takes place at Red Bull’s headquarters near Salzburg ahead of the first round of the WRC, next week’s Rallye Monte Carlo, as a new era for the sport dawns.

Breen and Nagle will be in attendance and the launch will be live streamed on WRC.com

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Killarney Valley athletes rubbing shoulders with the best

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Killarney Valley AC continued their upward curve last Sunday when they entered men’s and women’s teams in the prestigious National Indoor Track and Field Championships, which were held in Abbotstown in Dublin.

Despite going up against the best of the best in terms of Irish athletics, the Killarney Valley contingent gave a good account of themselves at the state-of-the-art National Indoor Arena, with coaches Tomás Griffin and Con Lynch coming away with plenty of positives to reflect upon.

The women’s team was comprised of Sarah Leahy, Ciara Kennelly, Alison Butler, Grace O’Meara, Ellen Moloney and Melissa Ahern, while the men’s team included Conor Gammell, Oisín Lynch, Kevin O’Callaghan, Sam Griffin, Jason O’Reilly, Dara Looney and Darragh O’Leary.

The nature of the team event presents a number of challenges and opportunities for the forward-thinking club, as coach Tomás Griffin explained to the Killarney Advertiser this week.

“The indoor league is senior elite level so you’re competing against really strong athletes, including some Olympians,” Griffin said. “Part of the criteria is that you try to cover as many of the events as you possibly can within all of the athletic disciplines. You compete as a team, as opposed to normal athletics competitions which are very much based on the individual.

“If you are 16 or you turn 16 in the year of competition, you can participate. That allows us to give our up-and-coming athletes the opportunity to compete as part of a representative team alongside our more established, older athletes.

“There are two rounds with half the events in all disciplines covered in Round 1 and the other half in Round 2. Last week in Round 1 the track events were the 50m sprint, the 200m sprint, and the 800m, along with the 4 x 400m relay. So, for those events alone, you have to have sprinters and you have to have middle distance athletes all stepping up to compete against one representative from all the other clubs.

“The field events were the shot putt, the long jump, and the pole vault. You can see there you’ve got to have a pretty diverse club that is trying to focus on as many disciplines as possible on the development sides of things.”

POINTS

Individual athletes earn points based on where they finish in their event (12 points for first etc.), with points tallied together to make up the team’s overall total. There are 12 clubs vying for the women’s title and 13 fighting for the men’s. After Round 2, which takes place on January 23 in Athlone, the top six clubs will advance to the finals.

The demands that such a competition place on a club mean that it is a major achievement to be able to take part at all. Apart from Killarney Valley, Leevale AC from Cork were the only other club in Munster who fielded a team.

“For us to have enough athletes of that age or above, that are competent enough in their disciplines to be able to represent us and compete – and score – is a significant breakthrough. We scored quite well across some of the events. There were some events that we struggled to cover because we’re still trying to develop the full range, but as a club we know that we need to develop those disciplines.

“And we have some younger athletes who are 13 or 14 and they’re now learning pole vault, for instance. If we can maintain the momentum then we will have pole vaulters in a couple of years’ time.”

ENJOYMENT

Griffin says the Killarney Valley competitors really enjoyed the experience, while also putting in some impressive performances.

“They loved it. The bigger powerhouse clubs have very high-profile athletes at their disposal; there were four Olympians whom our athletes got to compete against and interact with.

“Our own Sarah Leahy did exceptionally well in the 60m sprint. She ran the joint fastest time in the league, a personal best of 7.61 seconds, which is the fastest she has ever run 60m indoors.

“In the men’s 60m sprint, Conor Gammell made the top five and ran a personal best. We also had Sam Griffin, who is normally a long jumper, who ran a personal best of 7.58 seconds. He finished third in his race. Dara Looney, another long jumper who was doubling up on sprints, finished fifth and also had a personal best.

“Melissa Ahern, an up-and coming sprinter, ran 8.43 seconds, and Ellen Moloney, who was a first-timer at this level, ran a personal best as well. We have a good batch of sprinters competing and it’s good to expose them to this level.

“Alison Butler scored some valuable points for us in the 800m, and in the men’s 800 Oisín Lynch ran a massive personal best. Our shot putt thrower Kevin O’Callaghan is new to athletics; he had to throw an adult shot (7.2kg) for the first time and he did well, scoring five points for us. In fact, he threw the heavier weight nearly as far as he had been throwing the lighter weight.”

Griffin was keen to stress the importance of each individual team member to the overall group effort and whatever happens in Round 2, he is convinced that entering the competition will have huge benefits in the long run.

“We set ourselves of goal of having a team at National League level by 2023 so we’re a year ahead in that regard. It shows that we’re on the right trajectory.”

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