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Crokes aiming to kill three birds with one stone

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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.

CRACKER

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.

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Kerry ladies must bounce back at home to Waterford

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All-Ireland Senior Championship Group 2

Kerry v Waterford

Saturday 3pm

Fitzgerald Stadium

The Kerry ladies will be looking to get back to winning ways against Waterford on Saturday following last weekend’s frustrating draw against Donegal in Ballybofey.

The Kingdom led with seconds remaining in treacherous conditions but a late Donegal free snatched a draw for the home side (Donegal 1-6 Kerry 0-9). It was a game that Kerry would have been expecting to win and the result puts a lot more pressure on them this weekend as they try to top the three-team group and earn a home quarter-final.

If they beat Waterford and Donegal do likewise next week, Kerry and Donegal will be level in first place on four points each. The top seed will then be decided by the head-to-head record between the teams. As Kerry v Donegal was a draw, the deciding factor will be whoever scored the most points in that draw. That would be good news for Kerry as they scored nine points to Donegal’s six.

When Kerry and Waterford last met (in this year’s Munster Championship), Kerry needed a late winner by Fiadhna Tangney to prevail by narrowest of margins (1-8 to 1-7). If Waterford beat Kerry and then lose to Donegal, Kerry would be eliminated from the championship.

The Kerry squad has been boosted by the return of Síofra O’Shea who came off the bench against Donegal following a lengthy period out with a knee injury.

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US-bound Kerry runner Lynch hopes to emulate Mageean magic

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by Adam Moynihan

Killarney middle distance runner Oisín Lynch is taking inspiration from newly crowned European 1500m champion Ciara Mageean as he gets set for the next stage of his career in the United States.

This week Lynch confirmed that he will be heading Stateside after accepting a scholarship at Adams State University in Colorado. The promising 800m and 1500m competitor caught the eye of coaches at the leading American college after representing Ireland in the Youth Olympics and also by winning two national titles in recent months.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, the 18-year-old Killarney Valley AC athlete, who is currently doing his Leaving Cert at St Brendan’s College, says he one day hopes to emulate Mageean’s heroics on the international stage.

“The Irish are on the up at underage and at senior level,” Lynch notes. “We have been improving a lot in recent years. When you see Ciara Mageean winning the 1500m it just shows that it can be done by Irish people.

“Sometimes Irish athletes don’t really believe in themselves when they’re getting knocked out of championships by English or European athletes. Mageean winning that European title is definitely something to drive me on. It shows that I can actually do it.”

DREAM

For Lynch, moving to the United States is a hugely significant step, and one that he has dreamed about making since he was a child.

“It’s unbelievable. I always hoped I could earn a scholarship. I worked hard over the last few years, so it’s nice to see that work paying off.

“I had a few schools onto me but when Adams State got in touch, I sized it up and I knew it was a really good opportunity.

“The fact that the college is at 7,500 feet… That’s a crazy altitude. It’s double the height of Carrauntoohil. Altitude training has massive benefits for distance running and nowadays nearly every pro spends most of their year training at altitude. The chance to get that training for the next couple of years is great.

“And their athletics programme is unbelievable. Coach Damon Martin has been there for 40 years and he has coached 12 Olympians. Adams State is in the top 15 for distance in the country and the standard out there in America is very high.”

STRIDES

Killarney Valley AC have made enormous strides since building their new, state-of-the-art facility in 2020 and Lynch is a grateful beneficiary of that progress.

“I can’t thank the club enough. Going back a couple of years we were training on grass in parks. When you want to be a track runner, it’s just not the same. After a lot of hard work by a lot of good people, we managed to get a 200-metre track in Killarney. That’s massive for us and it’s all we need for training.

“The coaches down there are putting in the hard work, including my dad (Con), Tomás Griffin, Jean Courtney, Jerry Griffin, Bríd Stack, Alan Delaney… I could go on. It’s a great club and there are some good athletes coming through. It’s an exciting time for Killarney Valley.”

After Lynch completes his Leaving Cert, he will start preparing for life as a college athlete. He will study kinesiology in Colorado and on the track he hopes to keep on moving in the right direction. That means getting his times down (his current PBs are 1.50.59 over 800m and 3.51 over 1500m), representing Ireland, and hopefully winning a national title in America.

“Obviously I’ll take every step as it comes,” the ambitious Kerryman says, “but the Olympics is the main long-term target, hopefully in LA in 2028.”

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