by Adam Moynihan
After a disappointing run in this year’s Club Championship, Dr Crokes’ senior status appeared to be in real jeopardy. Finishing last in their group teed up a tantalising relegation playoff against the bottom team from the other group, the Killarney Legion.
Excitement amongst GAA fans was high. Demotion would be a unthinkable for either club, particularly so for the Crokes who are the most successful senior outfit in the county. It promised to be one of the most important club matches ever played in Killarney.
There was one major caveat, however: if either Legion or Crokes reached the final of the County Championship, they would be exempt from relegation.
Legion failed to achieve that particular feat but Crokes now find themselves on the cusp. Victory over Kerins O’Rahillys in Sunday’s Kerry SFC semi-final will not only secure their spot in the county final, it will also guarantee their senior status for 2022 and relegate their fiercest rivals for good measure. Forget about killing two birds with one stone, Crokes are hoping to take out three of them.
Of course, considering everything at stake, missing with that one stone would be a major disappointment. It would also hand Legion a lifeline and while neither side wants to be participating in this do-or-die match, the Derreen club need it. Dropping down to intermediate without getting the opportunity to play for their senior status would be a sad way to go.
If Crokes were to lose this week, the playoff is likely to be staged either the following weekend or the weekend after that, presumably at the Fitzgerald Stadium.
But for now the focus is on Sunday’s semi-final, and it promises to be a cracker.
There has been some talk locally of this Crokes team being in transition but a quick glance at their teamsheet suggests otherwise. Eleven players who started in the club’s last county final victory in 2018 also started a fortnight ago against Templenoe: Shane Murphy, John Payne, Fionn Fitzgerald, Gavin White, Johnny Buckley, Gavin O’Shea, Micheál Burns, Brian Looney, Kieran O’Leary, David Shaw and Tony Brosnan. Two more, Daithí Casey and Mike Moloney, came off the bench. Young players have been blooded this season, most notably the impressive Mark Cooper and Evan Looney, but it hardly represents a radical overhaul.
They are coming in slightly under the radar because of their poor championship record (by their own high standards) in 2019 and 2020, and that naturally suits them just fine.
As for Rahillys, their path to the last four has been tougher than most. Many expected them to struggle against St Kieran’s in Round 1, and many more tipped Dingle to be too strong for them in the quarters, but the club from Strand Road are still standing.
With David Moran pulling the strings from midfield and an in-form forward division that includes Jack Savage, Barry John Keane, Gavin O’Brien, the rejuvenated Tommy Walsh and the precocious Conor Hayes, the Tralee side are looking dangerous.
They will be slight underdogs against Crokes this weekend but it wouldn’t be a complete shock if their recent momentum carries them over the line. The Legion supporters who make the journey to Tralee on Sunday will be with them every step of the way.
Dr Crokes v Kerins O'Rahillys (Sunday at 2.30pm, Austin Stack Park).
Follow @AdamMoynihan on Twitter for updates.
Lakers add Boahen as Miller returns to Canada
Scotts Lakers (St Paul’s) have replaced one Canadian with another this week as Division 1 graduate Godwin Boahen replaces the outgoing Ben Miller.
Miller impressed despite the team’s slow start to the season and he will certainly be a loss as he returns to his native country.
However, the club have a ready replacement in former University of Illinois player Boahen. The 5’11” guard from Toronto made his debut against the Panthers last weekend as he and Miller shared minutes in a six-point defeat. Boahen scored 16 points.
“The club would like to wish Ben Miller well as he returns home to his native Canada this week,” an official Lakers statement read. “We would like to acknowledge the impact Ben had on the club through his involvement with the National League senior men’s team and his coaching of the club’s juveniles.
“We would like to thank him most sincerely for his time and effort.”
The Lakers face the Limerick Sport Eagles and the Limerick Celtics at home in December along with an away derby game against the Killarney Cougars at the end of the month.
Relegation battle has town divided
By Sean Moriarty This is bigger than the county final itself – with the main prize on offer being bragging rights in the town. After an unprecedented run of events during this year’s Kerry Senior Football championship Killarney’s two biggest clubs, Dr Crokes and Killarney Legion are set to face off in a relegation battle […]
By Sean Moriarty
This is bigger than the county final itself – with the main prize on offer being bragging rights in the town.
After an unprecedented run of events during this year’s Kerry Senior Football championship Killarney’s two biggest clubs, Dr Crokes and Killarney Legion are set to face off in a relegation battle that is sure to divide the town.
In sporting terms, the outcome of the big game, set for December 5, is simple enough. The winner stays in the Senior Championship next season and the losers will have to play in the Intermediate Championship.
Fans of the black and amber or the green and white face an anxious week. Winning the county title is one thing – consigning your cross town rivals to second division football in football is altogether a bigger prize.
Senior officials from both clubs are being very guarded on a potential outcome as both sides know the significance of this play off.
“It is a pity that two Killarney clubs, with a long tradition of playing football in the top tier, find themselves in the position of having to play off to avoid relegation,” Matt O’Neill, Cathaoirleach of Dr Crokes, told the Killarney Advertiser.
“Both teams will fight tooth and nail to stay in the senior ranks. I am confident that on Sunday week our lads will do themselves and the club proud, as always, and give their all in the quest to keep the black and amber to the fore.”
Crokes are based off the Lewis Road with Legion a short distance away on the other side of the bypass.
“Everyone has an opinion on this,” Legion PRO, Elaine O’Donoghue, told the Killarney Advertiser. “Both sides will be nervous – may the best team win. There are a lot of questions, are the Crokes suffering after defeat to Kerins O’Rahillys [in the semi-final]? Are our lads suffering after losing to St Brendan’s for the third year in a row?”
Every football fan will be keeping a close eye on next weekend’s Intermediate County Final too which takes place on December 4.
The winners of the match between Beaufort and Tralee side Na Gael will be automatically promoted to replace the losers of the Killarney play-off in the Senior Championship next season.
Should Beaufort prevail, a (relatively) local team could replace a town team in the top flight.
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