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Decisions, decisions, decisions: Who will Keane pick for the championship?

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Kerry manager Peter Keane must make some big calls as The Kingdom set sail on their 2021 All-Ireland quest, writes Adam Moynihan

One hundred and thirty-seven minutes. A little over two hours. That’s how long Kerry’s championship lasted in 2020.

The aim will be to get a little over two months out of it this time around but, with no safety net in place, it’s impossible to look beyond the Munster quarter-final against an ever-improving and potentially dangerous Clare side. This Kerry team have been bitten once. They will be on high alert in The Park on Saturday.

Over the course of a promising league campaign which included a draw with the champions and blowout wins over Galway and Tyrone, plenty of players put their paws up for starting berths. Now, Peter Keane and his selectors have some huge calls to make, none more so than deciding who will contest the throw-in at 7pm tomorrow evening.

MORAN

In previous years, David Moran’s inclusion was a foregone conclusion so long as he was physically able, but there is a growing sense that his place is no longer set in stone. The veteran sat out the Tyrone drubbing a fortnight ago and apart from a fine first half against Galway (the first 35 minutes of the season) his form has not been great.

No one can deny Moran’s talent and the physical presence he provides, but there are concerns in some quarters about his ability to get around the pitch at his age (he is 33 on Tuesday), especially given his history of serious injuries.

As an elder statesman and one of a select few with senior All-Ireland medals to his name, he is a leader of this team. However, you have to wonder if, at times, he tries to assume a little too much responsibility, particularly in key moments. In two of the past three seasons, Moran has taken and missed Kerry's last shot in an elimination game (Monaghan in 2018 and Cork in 2020). In the drawn match against Dublin in 2019, he took the ball into contact and turned it over, which resulted in the opposition getting an equalising free at the other end.

Maybe it is unfair to highlight these individual errors – if you went through each of the aforementioned games you would see every single player making a mistake at one point or another. But it does seem as though Moran has developed a habit of trying to drag Kerry over the line almost singlehandedly. He is a terrific footballer who is capable of doing that, but at the same time he is not Kerry’s best player. In clutch moments, the ball should be in David Clifford’s hands 10 times out of 10. If that is literally impossible in a given situation, Seán O’Shea is next up. And I don’t think it’s an insult to David Moran to say that.

Do Kerry have the midfielders to win without him? That’s up for debate. Diarmuid O’Connor has made great strides this year and Kerry supporters are rightly enthused by the 22-year-old’s progress, but he isn’t the finished article just yet. Jack Barry and Adrian Spillane provide athleticism and physicality, but they can’t match Moran for sheer skill.

Peter Keane will be hoping that the Rahilly's man is saving his best for the championship. He has shone on the big stage plenty of times throughout his intercounty career.

Keane can either start with Moran and finish with Barry or Spillane, or hold him in reserve until the right moment. It’s a major decision either way and one that could potentially define Kerry’s season.

FULL BACK

Elsewhere, Tadhg Morley’s place at full back might also be under threat all of a sudden. Jason Foley was Man of the Match at No. 3 against Tyrone and Brian Ó Beaglaoich and Tom O’Sullivan did very well either side of him.

Morley was rested from the start against Roscommon and was wrongly sent off just seconds after his introduction, which ruled him out of that league semi-final two weeks ago.

It would be a very cruel way for him to lose his place if that’s the route that Keane and co. decide to go down, but Ó Beaglaoich and O’Sullivan could also feel hard done by if they’re the ones to miss out.

TONY BROSNAN

The other dilemma for Keane is in the full forward line where Killian Spillane and Tony Brosnan are the main candidates to partner in-form talisman David Clifford. Brosnan is expected to be available after recovering from a hand injury but, at the moment, Spillane seems to be the manager’s preferred option.

Brosnan’s consistently electrifying form at club level for Dr Crokes effectively forced Keane to bring him into the fold last season; for whatever reason the manager appeared to be reluctant to do so up until that point. Brosnan has fared well, perhaps without truly exploding onto the scene in the manner he would have liked. Maybe this is simply down to the fact that he is playing next to the best forward in the country. David Clifford is going to be Kerry’s first option on most attacking possessions, which means that whoever lines up alongside him is going to get fewer touches than they normally would for their club.

Brosnan shines for Crokes when he’s the main man. He gets the ball and it’s all about him. He can take on his marker, he can check back for a shot, he can play a one-two. It’s probably unreasonable to expect him to do the same thing and kick the same huge scores for Kerry when he’s seeing less of the ball. In fairness to Spillane, he thrives in this role as a second option. He is a real catch-and-shoot kicker – oftentimes he won’t even take a hop or a solo before shooting. But Brosnan is just as capable of fulfilling this role because he’s so accurate.

For the majority of counties, Spillane or Brosnan would be the main forward. To thrive for Kerry, however, they basically have to be David Clifford’s wingman.

As for the half forward line, Paudie Clifford, Seán O’Shea, Dara Moynihan and Paul Geaney should start (Kerry have effectively played with four half forwards so far this season, apart from the Tyrone game when they started five). Stephen O’Brien could be the one to miss out if Keane does opt to bring in another inside forward in the mold of Spillane or Brosnan. The Kenmare player, who was sensational in 2019 before suffering an injury setback in 2020, has struggled to find his feet of late.

Tommy Walsh remains an ever-reliable impact substitute and Micheál Burns is also capable of coming in and doing a job.

SETTLED

The half back line of Paul Murphy, Gavin Crowley and Gavin White is fairly settled at this stage with newcomer Mike Breen a viable alternative if needs be. Jack Sherwood is also likely to see minutes late on.

Between the posts, Shane Ryan looks set to return following a six-week layoff due to injury. Kieran Fitzgibbon did well enough in his stead but Ryan is sure to be Keane’s first choice for the business end of the season (if Kerry get that far). With that in mind, the more gametime the Rathmore man can get under his belt, the better.

So, big decisions for Keane, Maurice Fitzgerald, James Foley and Tommy Griffin to make ahead of Kerry’s first 2021 championship team announcement tonight.

It might “only” be Day 1 and it might “only” be Clare, but the entire group will need to be completely focused to ensure that this campaign lasts longer than a couple of hours.

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Glorious weather for Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships

It was a day of glorious sunshine yesterday (Sunday) as Flesk Valley Rowing Club hosted the 2022 Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships for the very first time in beautiful Castlelough […]

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It was a day of glorious sunshine yesterday (Sunday) as Flesk Valley Rowing Club hosted the 2022 Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships for the very first time in beautiful Castlelough Bay on Lough Lein.

Hundreds flocked to the Valley shore to see the coastal clubs of Kerry race in crews from Under 12 to Masters. As well as clubs from around the Ring of Kerry, there was a strong representation from the Killarney clubs with the Workmen, Commercials and Fossa wearing their colours with pride. The atmosphere, colour, fun and fierce competition produced a spectacular day that will live long in the memory.

The event was opened by the Councillor John O’Donoghue, vice chair of the Killarney Municipal District who congratulated Flesk Valley on their centenary, which occurred during 1920, and wished all of the clubs a successful day’s racing.

The first race was preceded by a special blessing of the boats by Fr Eugene McGillycuddy, who also remembered Brendan Teahan of Cromane Rowing Club in his prayers.

Afterwards John Fleming, chair of Flesk Valley, expressed his immense pride and satisfaction with the success of the regatta.

“It’s our first time ever hosting a regatta, but we wanted to do something special to mark our 102 years in existence,” he said.

“It was a lot of work, but we have a fantastic hard-working committee in Flesk Valley who really pulled out all the stops to make it happen, and we received fantastic support from our members, parents, other clubs and local businesses.”

John also thanked the Kerry Coastal Rowing Association, in particular Mary B Teahan and Andrew Wharton, and the staff of the Killarney National Park for all their support and encouragement in hosting this event.

This was a qualifying event and the Kerry clubs will be heading to Wexford next weekend to complete for honours at the All-Ireland Coastal Rowing Championships.

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Live referee mics should be the norm – swearing concerns be damned

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by Adam Moynihan

I was disappointed to learn that the GAA are preventing TG4 from using their live referee mic in this Sunday’s Wexford hurling final.

(And not just because I had already written an article saying how great live referee mics are and how they are sure to be implemented across the board. Ctrl + A. Delete.)

TG4’s GAA coverage is superb and they raised the bar once again when they mic’d up referee John O’Halloran for the Kerry hurling final between Causeway and Ballyduff.

Pinning a microphone on the referee is standard practice in televised rugby and judging by the positive response to Gaelic games’ first foray into this territory, I was expecting it to become the norm.

It still might but, explaining their decision to The 42, the GAA said that they were not aware beforehand of the ref mic being trialled in Stack Park on Sunday.

“They believe such a development will require more discussion and education if it is to be implemented on a more regular basis in live TV coverage and could possibly need a policy change,” Fintan O’Toole reported.

The image of the Association is surely the primary concern here.

Players and managers – usually the worst behaved participants when it comes to things like swearing – will be among those who get “educated” on the subject. Some verbal abuse that might otherwise be muted for television viewers will, in all likelihood, be picked up by the referee’s microphone. You would imagine that the teams involved will be reminded of this the week of a televised game.

It also makes sense from Croke Park’s point of view to speak to referees and give them guidance on how to conduct themselves when the mic is on.

In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if senior GAA figures are currently fretting over the possibility of an agitated ref making headlines for something they say in the heat of the moment. And make no mistake about it, some match officials can eff and jeff with the best of them.

A friend of mine (a Wexford man, funnily enough) recalls an incident when a teammate was unceremoniously taken out of it by an opponent.

“Ah ref, for f***’s sake!” the victim complained.

“I gave you the f***ing free,” the referee replied. “What do you want me to do, slap him in the face with a wet fish?!”

The GAA might think that a referee swearing like that would leave all of us red-faced. In reality the clip would be a viral sensation and the general public would probably call for the official in question to run for Áras an Uachtárain. (He’d get my ****ing vote.)

The odd swear word from someone involved is bound to sneak through every now and then but you’d hear the same – and plenty more – at any match you attend from Cahersiveen to County Antrim.

Implementing the referee mic on a wider scale is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t appear to take a huge amount of effort or expense for the broadcaster to set it up and, more importantly, it offers a wonderful insight into the unknown.

Listening to referees explain their decisions in real time will clear a lot of things up for commentators, analysts and the media. We will no longer have to speculate about what they did or did not see, or what specific rule is being cited, or why.

Viewers, especially those who might be casual followers of the sport, will appreciate it too and become more educated; I know that’s how I feel when I watch rugby, for example.

It just leads to greater transparency and understanding.

Well done to TG4 and the Kerry County Board for being the pioneers. I’m sure others will follow their lead – as soon as the GAA allow them to do so.

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