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COVID debacle has brought the Kerry-Tyrone rivalry to the boil



by Adam Moynihan

All-Ireland SFC Semi-Final

Kerry v Tyrone

Saturday at 3.30pm

Croke Park

(Live on RTÉ from 2.30pm)

Heated. Tetchy. Uncompromising. Kerry and Tyrone matches are often ill-tempered and almost invariably well-contested. In simple terms, the teams just don’t like each other very much. And there's no way the events that have unfolded off the pitch in recent weeks have done anything to ease that tension.

Ever since Tyrone’s golden era of the noughties, a period during which they consistently had Kerry’s number, there has been an uneasy relationship between the two counties. Stationed at either end of the island and with massively distinct footballing pedigrees (Tyrone’s first All-Ireland came in 2003; Kerry already had 32 by that stage), it is an unlikely rivalry that has now spanned three decades.

The pendulum swung back in The Kingdom’s favour during the last 10 years, and on paper they have the star quality to maintain the upper hand well into the twenties, so the enmity is perhaps not as apparent as it used to be.

But Tyrone’s handling of their recent COVID outbreak has reignited the hob, and the disdain each county still has for the other is now brimming at the edge of the pot.


In general terms, the GAA’s decision to push the game back an extra week in line with Tyrone’s wishes was greeted with a shrug by the locals here in Kerry. “Grand.” As county chair Tim Murphy had outlined, there was an “over-arching wish” to play the semi-final anyway, as opposed to simply taking a walkover.

Delve a little deeper, though, and it’s clear that not all is rosy in the garden.

“We find ourselves in a very difficult situation not of our making,” Murphy said (after outlining the board’s, and the team’s, desire to play). “We have explicitly followed all COVID protocols and we have taken every precaution to protect our players and management.”

If that reads like a dig at the opposition, it’s because it more than likely is. There is suspicion (unproven, it must be said) in GAA circles that Tyrone did not handle their initial outbreak as efficiently as they might have. If that is the case, Tyrone’s sympathy card loses considerable value.

The revelation that some of their players opted out of taking the vaccine for fear that the side effects could rule them out of action devalues that card further still.

It is also understood that Tyrone made no attempts to forewarn Kerry of their plans to pull out of the fixture before dropping that bombshell on the Saturday before last, despite the fact that the two counties had been liaising over the issue. That is bound to have irked the Kerry delegation.

And, as content as Kerry are to see the fixture being fulfilled, there is an unshakable feeling around these parts that Tyrone have played the GAA like a fiddle.

Joint manager Feargal Logan said during the week that all of his players are now available for selection. "There was a good period there where we didn't have everybody on the training field at the same time but we have got to that point now, which is helpful and positive, and where everybody is physically present and they are out of isolation," he told the Irish Independent. "We’ve got everybody together."

One the one hand, it’s good to hear that the players who were sick have recovered. On the other, isn’t that awfully convenient for Tyrone that all of their players are now available to them? Having a fully fit team is not always a luxury that semi-finalists have. If literally all their players are fine to play tomorrow, how many were fine to play six days ago?

Meanwhile, Kerry have been hanging around five weeks for a game. Mayo will have three weeks before their All-Ireland final. The club seasons in the participating counties have been thrown into disarray. It seems like everybody is losing here. Except, of course, for Tyrone.

It's not too difficult to imagine how the players in that Kerry dressing room on Saturday afternoon will be feeling about their opponents down the hall. And Peter Keane will surely tap into that. The team talk writes itself. “When this game is over, they’ll wish they gave us the walkover."


As alluded to previously, Kerry have been on top in the most recent championship meetings between the sides: the 2012 qualifier in Killarney and the semi-finals of 2015 and 2019. The Kingdom trailed by four points at half-time two years ago and it took a much-improved second-half performance, featuring a goal by Stephen O’Brien, to eventually prevail with three points to spare. The margin of victory was not wide in the end, but the better team won.

Earlier this summer, the teams met in the Fitzgerald Stadium in the semi-final of the National League and Kerry racked up a huge score (6-15) en route to a 16-point win. This rout famously prompted Peter Keane to say that if you took the goals out of the match, there wasn’t much between the teams. He doubled down on that assessment at a recent press briefing.

“I don’t think it was reflective of the day,” Keane told journalists. “I think I said that afterwards. You (the media) were mocking me and laughing when I said that if you took the goals out of it, I wouldn’t have felt there was a whole pile between us. Tyrone got 1-14 - 15 scores - against us on the day. They’re a very capable team. We were down 0-3 to 0-1 in that game and the next thing we got a goal and then Gavin White got a goal in over the top...

“So we’re not reading too much into that game down in Killarney and I don’t think anyone else should either. That’s not me just brushing it off. A game can run away from you very quickly and it’s very hard to put a game right when you’re trailing that early.”

Keane is notorious for attempting to play down victories but, in truth, there is no covering up what happened that day. Kerry were simply too hot to handle, particularly in the forward division where Paul Geaney, Seán O’Shea, Paudie Clifford and David Clifford were rampant.

That being said, the championship is a different beast altogether, so perhaps he is right to divert attention from the league result.


Tyrone have a full deck and in Darren McCurry, Cathal McShane, Conor McKenna and Mattie Donnelly, they undoubtedly have players who can hurt the Munster champions. If they go at Kerry, like Cork did in the first 10 minutes in the Munster final, they could well punch holes and work scores.

But Kerry have a full deck too. Diarmuid O’Connor and Dara Moynihan are apparently both available after recovering from injuries and both will start if that is the case. Moynihan, in particular, had a sensational league campaign and he will play a crucial role if Kerry are to reach the Promised Land. The energy and skill he brings to the team on both sides of the ball is pivotal.

The Spa player's inclusion is likely to come at the expense of either Jack Barry or Stephen O’Brien, with Micheál Burns being another candidate for the half forward line. Killian Spillane and Tony Brosnan will be hoping to force their way into the starting line-up but Keane has consistently posted David Clifford and Seán O’Shea in the full forward line so far this year. One would imagine that he will be loathe to change that tactic now.

Tommy Walsh has played approximately 23 minutes per match off the bench this season so we can expect him to get similar game-time on Saturday. The Rahilly's veteran was a game-changer for Kerry when introduced in the 50th minute of that 2019 semi-final.

David Moran has improved in recent matches and, barring a major shock, he will partner O’Connor i lár na páirce.

Captain Paul Murphy returned to the starting 15 for the Munster final after seemingly falling out of favour for a few weeks and he should keep his place somewhere along the half back line. In-form wing backs Mike Breen and Gavin White are also likely start, as are the newly established full back unit of Brian Ó Beaglaioch, Jason Foley and Tom O’Sullivan.

Shane Ryan has been Keane’s No. 1 from Day 1 and the Rathmore man will continue between the posts this weekend.

The team will be named tonight (Friday) at 8pm.


All the controversy of the past number of weeks has teed this match up nicely and the tension is sure to spill over to some degree, both on the pitch and amongst the 24,000 supporters in attendance.

Tyrone always bring intensity and it could well be a competitive game.

However, if you look at the match-up purely from a footballing perspective, Kerry should have too much about them, particularly if Moynihan is fit.

Verdict: Kerry by eight.


Almost impossible to look beyond East Kerry but Dingle are best placed to challenge



Adam Moynihan breaks down the groups and likely contenders in the 2023 Kerry Senior Football Championship

Group 1: East Kerry, South Kerry, West Kerry, Templenoe

Defending champions East Kerry are on the hunt for their fourth county title in five years and with a talented squad that’s looking as stacked as ever, only the brave would back against them.

Rathmore’s promotion back to senior level means that Kerry players Shane Ryan and Paul Murphy are missing from last year’s nine-point final victory over Mid Kerry but East Kerry’s strength in depth in all sectors means that no individual player is irreplaceable – excepting the obvious.

David Clifford’s performance for the ages in Fossa’s landmark intermediate semi-final win over Stacks provided a stark reminder of his awe-inspiring talents. Paudie Clifford was excellent too and this year the Two Mile brothers are joined on the panel by four clubmates – another glaring indicator of how far Fossa have come.

James O’Donoghue must be considered an injury doubt after only managing a cameo in Legion’s last outing but his clubmates Brian Kelly, Jonathan Lyne, Darragh Lyne and Cian Gammell are all likely to feature. Current Kerry senior panelists Chris O’Donoghue and Darragh Roche (Glenflesk), Ronan Buckley and Ruairí Murphy (Listry), and Donal O’Sullivan (Kilgarvan) would also be expected to play their part, with plenty of young talent from all seven clubs hoping to break into the starting line-up.

Realistically, the holders should navigate Group 1 with little fuss with South Kerry, West Kerry and Templenoe battling it out for second.

South Kerry and Templenoe played out a draw in the group stage of last year’s championship so there might not be much between them this year either.

West Kerry will be aiming to pick up at least one result after losing all three of their fixtures in 2022.

VERDICT: East Kerry and Templenoe

GROUP 2: Kenmare Shamrocks, Rathmore, St Kieran’s, Feale Rangers

Kenmare came mightily close in the Senior Club final and they should be able to carry that momentum through to the County Championship. Seánie O’Shea is obviously their one bona fide match winner but they’re also strong around the middle third where James McCarthy, David Hallissey and Kevin O’Sullivan put in the hard yards.

The fact that Feale Rangers reached last year’s semi-final indicates that they’re on an upward trajectory. The question now is can they repeat the trick? In 2022 the team was backboned by Listowel Emmets players (seven started that defeat to Mid Kerry) and those lads are coming into this competition in confident form having secured a spot in the still-to-be-played Junior Premier final.

Rathmore are always a tough championship team and the Ryans (Cathal and Mark at midfield and Shane at full forward) are sure to be a handful for any opposition.

St Kieran’s have troubled decent teams in the not-too-distant past – although they lost all three group games (including one against Kenmare) a year ago.

VERDICT: Kenmare and Feale Rangers

GROUP 3: Mid Kerry, Spa, Kerins O’Rahillys, Shannon Rangers

In 2022, Spa found the going tough in a Group of Death that included East Kerry and Dingle. The draw has been kinder to them this time around and they would probably expect to beat Rahillys and Shannon Rangers.

The wheels came off against Dingle in this year’s Senior Club Championship but they impressed the week before against Kenmare. Dara Moynihan, Evan Cronin and Cian Tobin will be important players in attack, with Dan O’Donoghue manning the midfield and Shane Cronin protecting their defensive third from number 6.

Mid Kerry, runners-up last season, will provide their sternest test in this pool. A lot of eyes (including those of Jack O’Connor) will be on Cillian Burke after his heroics for Milltown/Castlemaine in the semi-final of the Intermediate Club Championship. His clubmate Éanna O’Connor (son of the Kerry bainisteoir) will also play a crucial role at centre forward.

Rahillys are facing a relegation playoff if they fail to reach the final of the Kerry SFC and their form in recent weeks would suggest that making it that far is a long shot.

VERDICT: Mid Kerry and Spa

GROUP 4: Dingle, Dr Crokes, St Brendan’s, Na Gaeil

Breaking free of East Kerry’s stranglehold will not be easy but crafty Senior Club champions Dingle are surely best placed to wriggle loose. With four in-form Geaneys in the forwards – Paul, Mikey, Conor and Dylan – they have the tools to trouble any defence, and the return of their established AFL player Mark O’Connor adds solidity going the other way. They also have the incomparable Tom O’Sullivan pulling the strings. As things stand, they are easily the standout club team in the county.

Their Group 4 opponents Dr Crokes will be aiming to improve upon their showing in 2022 when they bowed out at the quarter-final stage. Naturally much will depend on the availability or otherwise of star players Gavin White and Tony Brosnan. White missed the recent Senior Club semi-final defeat to Kenmare with a hamstring injury. Encouragingly, Brosnan (who has been sidelined with a recurrence of a lung problem) was togged for that match, though he did not play.

The Killarney club will be fancied to qualify from their group alongside Dingle, although St Brendan’s – strengthened by the addition of an unknown number of Austin Stacks players to their ranks – could be dangerous.

The other team in the pool, Na Gaeil, are facing a relegation playoff against Rahillys once both sides are finished with the Kerry SFC. Reaching the final of this competition would spare them but Na Gaeil can count themselves unlucky to have been handed a difficult draw for the second year in a row.

VERDICT: Dingle and Dr Crokes

All things considered East Kerry and Dingle appear to be the frontrunners to capture the Bishop Moynihan trophy but there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way, starting this weekend with a full round of fixtures.

All eight matches will be either televised or streamed online. Dingle v Dr Crokes is on TG4. The remaining seven matches are on Clubber.


Friday 8pm Na Gaeil v St Brendan’s (Austin Stack Park)

Saturday 3pm Templenoe v West Kerry (Fitzgerald Stadium)

Saturday 5.30pm Rahillys v Shannon Rangers (Austin Stack Park)

Saturday 7.30pm East Kerry v South Kerry (Austin Stack Park)

Sunday 1.30pm Rathmore v St Kieran’s (Fitzgerald Stadium)

Sunday 2.15pm Dingle v Dr Crokes (Austin Stack Park)

Sunday 3.30pm Feale Rangers v Kenmare Shamrocks (Fitzgerald Stadium)

Sunday 4.15pm Mid Kerry v Spa (Austin Stack Park)

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Kerry’s old dogs ready for Tyrone challenge in All-Ireland final



Adam Moynihan chats to Kerry Masters goalkeeper Tony Lyons ahead of the over 40 All-Ireland football final

Hi Tony. Thanks for speaking to me.

No problem, Adam.

Can you tell me about the Kerry Masters’ season to date?

We played six round robin games in the league phase to see which competition we would be in at the end. There are five championships in all with the senior championship being for teams that finish 1st to 4th in the league, the plate for 5th to 8th and so on. There were 23 counties involved in total this year with new entrants like Armagh, Derry and Limerick.

We won five of our six league games against Limerick, Cork, Waterford, London and Clare. Unfortunately we were well beaten by Dublin during the league phase but that served us well because we knuckled down after that and upped the training to twice a week.

We also got a physical trainer on board from Keel, David Clifford, and he has had a huge influence on our development the last couple of months, allied to Adam and Gary O’Reilly from Glenflesk, and Jason Foley from Keel.

We then beat Derry in the All-Ireland quarter-final by a point, setting up a semi-final against Galway in Limerick which we won by 12 points to 7 a couple of weeks back. it That quarter-final win against Derry was our most pleasing result of the season because we were down a few bodies.

What’s the standard like?

The standard is actually very good. While we don’t have a lot of former Kerry players with us – aside from William Kirby and Aidan O’Mahony – we do have a very good calibre of club player with us, the likes of John O’Connor from Kerins O’Rahillys and John Paul Leahy from Ballyduff for example. We’ve come across some big names in some of the games. Limerick had Ciarán Carey, Dublin had Denis Bastick, Cork had Nicholas Murphy and John Miskella, and Derry had Paddy Bradley.

The first halves of the games are really competitive with the second halves probably becoming more of a war of attrition. The key is having depth in your squad and being able to bring players in and out at the right time as players tire, and I think Adam and his management team have mastered that at this stage.

Would a number of the players have represented Kerry at some level in the past?

We haven’t a huge amount of former Kerry seniors but some of the guys would have represented Kerry at junior and underage level at various stages. What the management team focused on when it became apparent some of the former players weren’t joining was getting good quality club players who could commit and make most of the trainings, and I think that has worked well for them.

What’s key as well is that a lot of the players have been playing very recently for their clubs either at senior or junior level. That’s a huge help.

How are the fitness levels?

Depends on what time of the season you’re talking about! The first few weeks is all about trying to knock off the pounds and get to a certain level of fitness. In fairness to Adam O’Reilly, he places a big focus on the warm-up which is important for players of all ages but especially for those of us over 40.

Very few of the starting 15 would last the 60 or 65 minutes so it’s important that the replacements coming in can add an impetus and build on what the guys before them have done. Last year our panel was probably a little light but we have added well with the likes of Kevin Lynch (Castleisland Desmonds), Mark Crowley (Kenmare) and James Nagle (Keel) – all strong and very fit guys – coming in.

Tell me more about your management team.

Adam O’Reilly is the manager. He came on board this year and brought Gary O’Reilly and Jason Foley with him. Gary looks after the statistics, gear and so on and Jason is a selector as well as taking parts of training at various times. David Clifford came on board about two months ago as physical trainer and he has added greatly to the set-up, improving our fitness levels and tackling in particular.

What’s the most enjoyable part of playing with the Kerry Masters?

A huge part of it, Adam, is playing with guys who you would have tried to knock lumps out of at club level over the years! There’s a big social part to it also with us meeting for a pint or two after games and, as well as that, guys getting back into a dressing room environment and having the craic at training.

For some guys who were never lucky enough to wear the Kerry jersey, there’s a huge sense of pride to put it on at this stage. It’s a real an honour. To be fair to the other teams we played, they have treated us with a lot of respect because they know Kerry teams will play football first and foremost.

Also it’s nice to involve our families, kids, partners, and wives and for them to come to the games. We have noticed a lot more people coming to our matches this season.

Which of your teammates are the best craic?

There are a few fellas like Tim O’Donoghue who thinks he’s hilarious but the jury’s out on that one. I suppose the goalies, myself and Niall Hobbert, would be jokers but then the rest of the panel would tell you the jury is out on us too! Kirby is good craic, as is the former Spa man Brian O’Sullivan Darcy. It’s great fun. I would thoroughly recommend it to any guy 40 or over who wants to play a bit of competitive football and also continue training in what is almost like a club environment.

How would you rate your chances in the final on Saturday? Are you expecting a difficult challenge from Tyrone?

Look, it’s going to be very tough. Tyrone have won the last two All-Ireland finals at Masters level and they have the experience, whereas this is our first go, as it were. They have a solid team built with the likes of Seán Cavanagh, Conor Gormley and Stephen O’Neill in their ranks.

It will be a tall order for sure but we’ll give it our all and the whole panel are chomping at the bit and ready for action.

Kerry v Tyrone takes place on Saturday at 4pm in Roscommon. Follow @KerryMastersGAA on Twitter for more information.


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