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Crokes hurlers close to upsetting natural order

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Kerry SHC: Group 3

Dr Crokes v Crotta O’Neills

Friday at 7.30pm

Austin Stack Park

Dr Crokes came extremely close to causing an upset in their first ever Kerry Senior Hurling Championship fixture. Tonight, they’re hoping to go one step further.

Few gave the Crokes a chance against Abbeydorney last weekend but a spirited display saw the Lewis Road club give their more established black and amber counterparts a real scare. In the end, they fell just short by the narrowest of margins (0-17 to 0-16), but they will surely take heart and encouragement from the fact that they pushed O’Dorney, last year’s beaten semi-finalists, to the pin of their collar.

After David Carroll scored a historic first point at this level for the Crokes, O’Dorney settled and led 5-3 at the water break. Both sides doubled their tallies in the second quarter to leave the scores at 10-6 at half-time, and when the North Kerry club powered into a seven-point lead early in the second half, Crokes’ travelling support must have feared the worst.

But full credit to the debutants, they stuck to their task and a rip-roaring fightback, which included overs by Mark Heffernan, Tom Doyle, Carroll, Aaron Murphy, and goalkeeper Conor Bohane, narrowed the gap to just a single point in stoppage time.

Abbeydorney hung on for the win, and now Crokes will need some kind of result against Crotta O’Neills to have any chance of progressing to the next phase of the competition. Two teams from each of the three groups of three will advance, with the bottom side in each pool making an early exit.

Crotta are sure to provide a stern test. They have five Kerry seniors in their ranks, including the likes of Shane Nolan and Barry Mahony, although the unfortunate loss of Jordan Conway through injury has dampened their championship prospects somewhat.

The Kilflynn club have real pedigree in this tournament having gone all the way on new fewer than nine occasions. Their last triumph may have been many moons ago now (1968) but they are well used to the rough and tumble of the Kerry Senior Hurling Championship and they will certainly provide the Crokes with a very stern test.

Crokes manager John Lenihan will have his boys well psyched up for the challenge, however, and if they can show the grit and determination that brought them to within a point of O’Dorney, you never know where it might take them. Upsetting the natural order of things at the first time of asking is a tall order, but they showed last weekend that they’re not all that far away from doing just that.

Elsewhere in this weekend’s championship action, Ballyheigue take on Lixnaw on Saturday at 7.30pm. Ballyheigue fell to a heavy enough defeat to defending champions Kilmoyley (4-23 to 1-16) in their opening Group 2 fixture so it’s do or die for them this time out. Lixnaw, the 2018 champions, will be a tough challenge.

In Group 1, Ballyduff take on a Causeway outfit who had a big win over St Brendan’s last weekend (3-20 to 0-13). That match is on Sunday at 2pm and Causeway will fancy themselves to prevail and book a place in the quarter-finals.

All matches will be played in Austin Stack Park in Tralee.

Sport

Tobin hails Spa teammates following ‘fairytale’ final

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by Adam Moynihan

Spa have been desperate to win Kerry’s Intermediate Club Championship, and earn promotion back to senior level, since 2010 when they were demoted at the first time of asking following their Intermediate final victory the year before.

With the other clubs in the parish (Dr Crokes and the Killarney Legion) operating at senior, and with a strong batch of young players coming through in recent years, returning to the top table as quickly as possible has been the club’s primary target. They came close on a number of occasions in the intervening years, losing three finals between 2012 and 2015.

They finally managed to reach the mountain top on Sunday last and there was one remarkable link between 2009 and their latest triumph. Cian Tobin’s last full season with Spa was in 2009. He then emigrated to London and later Abu Dhabi, before returning to Killarney this year and linking up with his club.

Tobin played a key role for Spa as they broke their hoodoo by defeating Beaufort in last Sunday’s decider at the Fitzgerald Stadium. The skilful corner forward bagged 3-1 in the 4-18 to 1-19 win, a tally which earned him the sponsor’s Man of the Match award.

As far as comebacks go, this one is fairly special. However, amidst all the celebrations, the fact that Tobin missed out on a decade of hard graft and tough losses has not been lost on his colleagues.

“The lads have been giving me an awful slagging this week,” the 30-year-old says with a smile. “They’ve been saying, ‘you are so jammy, you’ve been away for years and you come back and we win it straight away!’

“I missed a lot of the hard work in those winter months. I was joking with them that I was doing the warm weather training for the last 10 years while they were up in Spa in the rain.

“To be fair, I found it easy to fit in when I came back because the young fellas and the management team are outstanding to work with it.”

GOALS

Beaufort, who are relative newcomers to intermediate having won the Junior Premier Championship in 2018, gave as good as they got in the first half of Sunday’s final, but Tobin’s opening goal in the 25th minute came at just the right time for Spa.

“I thought Beaufort were excellent,” Tobin reflects. “I went with Shane Cronin to watch their semi-final (versus Na Gaeil) and I was very impressed. Some of their kicking the last day was outstanding too. There was great forward play. Liam Carey got a point that was an absolutely scandalous score.

“It was tight in the first half until the first goal came. It just fell to me in the right position. I got lucky. Until then it was very close.”

Goals two and three followed in the second half. They were neatly tucked away by Spa’s No. 15, but, to his mind, the credit goes to his teammates for teeing him up.

“Shane Cronin is a machine when he gets going, he’s very hard to stop. He put [the second goal] on a plate for me. I didn’t really have much to do again. But yeah, once that went in there was a bit of daylight. In all our matches we have been pushing on in that third quarter, and that’s when we kind of pulled away again on Sunday.

“The third one was a great turnover by Ciarán Spillane and, again, he put it on a plate for me. It was one of them days… I know someone has to score them but the work was done out the field really.”

Guided by the management team of Ivor Flynn, Kieran Herlihy, Brian Gleeson, Neily Kerins and Arthur Fitzgerald, Spa powered to an eight-point win. Does the manner of their performance perhaps underline the fact that they deserve a crack at senior?

“I think so,” Tobin nods. “Everyone from No. 5 up, bar one, scored. That’s a massive spread of scorers. And then we have the full back line of Brian Lynch, Shane Lynch and Eoin Fitzgerald… In years past maybe we would have had a few weaker spots in the team but I think we’re strong all over the field now.”

INTRODUCTION

The effect COVID-19 has had on the 2020 and 2021 GAA calendars means that the 2020 Intermediate champs now have a rapid turnaround ahead of their long-awaited senior bow. First up is a group phase match against their neighbours and fierce rivals, Dr Crokes, on Sunday.

“Nice introduction, isn’t it?!” Tobin jokes. “That’s where you want to be, though. Playing in those kinds of games in the Fitzgerald Stadium against the club kingpins in Kerry. Now that we’re there, hopefully we can do ourselves justice.

“It means a lot [to be a senior club]. We thought ourselves that we deserved to be there, and we’ve put in the work to be there, we just haven’t always got the rub of the green in recent years. It felt like, ‘are we ever going to get over the line?’

“The feeling at the final whistle on Sunday was just relief more than anything, I think, because we’ve been there so many times.

“Maybe not so much me because I’ve been away, but I think it was three finals we lost, and we lost some close games against Templenoe recently. We always thought we were good enough to get over the line but we just hadn’t been doing it.

“To be honest, it was fairytale stuff for me.”

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Late drama at exciting Celtic Golf Classic

The last team out at the Killarney Celtic Golf Classic carded 106 points to overtake all who went before at an entertaining fundraiser staged over two days at the pristine Beaufort Golf Club. From Friday to late Saturday afternoon, the imposing tally of 101 points registered by the O’Donoghue Ring Hotel Group team of James […]

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The last team out at the Killarney Celtic Golf Classic carded 106 points to overtake all who went before at an entertaining fundraiser staged over two days at the pristine Beaufort Golf Club.

From Friday to late Saturday afternoon, the imposing tally of 101 points registered by the O’Donoghue Ring Hotel Group team of James McCarthy, Brian McCarthy, Cian Harte and Gavin Murray looked like being a winning one. The got a scare when the Spa GAA team almost caught them; Seánie Kelliher, Donal Cronin, John Cahill and Seán Devane ultimately carded a great score of 100 points to go second.

With the O’Donoghue Ring Hotel Group quartet hanging on for victory, it was all down to Kissane Meats and Pat O’Neill, John England, Tony Sugrue and Donie Brosnan snatched first place by hitting a weekend high of 106 points.

The Nearest to the Pin was won by Aaron Jones of the Dawn Meats team while the Longest Drive came from the club of Mark O’Shea who was representing Tom Meehan’s team.

Speaking at the prizegiving, Killarney Celtic Vice Chairman Paul Sherry thanked all involved for contributing to another hugely successful fundraising day for the club.

“Killarney Celtic is indebted to its members who volunteered over the two days,” he said, “to those who sponsored the prizes, entered teams, took signs, provided the fruit and chocolate and of course, most importantly, played on Friday and Saturday.
“We also must thank the staff at Beaufort, both working on the course and those in the clubhouse.

“A sign of a good golf classic is the number of returning teams and sponsors and already a number have committed to join us again in August/September 2022.”

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