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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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Killarney Valley AC named Club of the Year at national awards ceremony

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Members of Killarney Valley Athletics Club had cause for celebration on Wednesday as they picked up the prestigious Development Club of the Year prize at the 123.ie National Athletics Awards.

The award is handed out annually to a club who have made a positive impact on behalf of the sport within their community.

Sprinter Sarah Leahy of Killarney Valley and UL was also honoured with the Female University Athlete of the Year award.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, coach and committee member Tomás Griffin said he and his clubmates were “delighted” and “very proud” to accept the Club Development award on behalf of all their athletes, coaches and administrators. The opening of their new track alongside St Brendan’s College in 2020 has been crucial, Griffin explained.

“The facility a catalyst but the passion was always there and we had people doing their best and coaching long before there was a track. To see the momentum that came with the opening of the track being maintained is great. We now have a waiting list of people looking to join the club.

“Did we see ourselves winning an award like this, in an organisation of 53,000 members and 400 clubs? No. But was it always possible? Yes. Killarney as a town across all sports – Gaelic football, soccer, basketball, cycling, judo, rock climbing – it’s a place where people excel. The bar is already raised. But being able to reach this level and achieve what we have in just two years shows what other talent is out there.”

Killarney Valley now boast five Irish internationals, 320 registered members and 22 Athletics Ireland accredited coaches. The club won 107 provincial and national medals in 2022, and they had 155 graduates from their Couch to 5k programme. Many of these participants are now regulars in the local Park Run and are continuing their personal health and fitness journeys with the club.

Nine Killarney Valley representatives attended the awards ceremony on Wednesday: Tomás Griffin, Jerry Griffin (chairperson), Bríd Stack, Gene Courtney, Con Lynch, Karen Smith, Sarah Leahy, Jordan Lee, and Madie Wilson-Walker. Sarah’s parents Mike and Marie also made the journey.

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Jiu-jitsu champion Wilson da Silva sets sights on world title

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This week Adam Moynihan called to the Movement & Fitness Club on New Street to catch up with Killarney man Wilson da Silva. The 38-year-old Brazilian recently won gold at the European Championship for Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and now he’s gunning for a world title.

Wilson, congratulations on your latest success in Rome and Abu Dhabi.

Thank you, Adam.

Before we chat about that, let’s go back to the start. How did you end up living in Killarney?

I came here around 15 years ago because I met someone from Killorglin and we went out for five or six years. After we broke up, I came to Killarney. I’m pretty much half-local, half-Brazilian now.

What part of Brazil are you from?

The northeast. A place called Recife. If you look at the map, it’s the nearest point to Ireland.

Do you get to go home often?

I try to go once a year, you know? I was home earlier this year and then before Covid. But once a year I go home in the summertime.

It must be nice to get some sunshine.

It’s nice, man. Even recently the doctor told me I have Vitamin D deficiency. My skin colour needs the sun! So I go home once a year. I follow the doctor’s advice.

How did you get into jiu-jitsu?

I did it back home in Brazil but I continued here in Killarney. I trained with guys here, Pedro Bessa and Tom McGuire. Then there is another club in Killarney and I trained with them up until four years ago. Things weren’t working out so I started my own gym. I just wanted to do things my way which was to have a clean place, no ego, no drama, no stress, no jealousy. Just come, train jiu-jitsu and help each other. And it’s going well.

Was it hard to go out on your own?

In the beginning it was really difficult because I was opening a second club in the town, on my own. There was really only one guy who wanted to train with me, but then my fiancé (Ewelina) started training and one became two, two became three, and it started to grow. Now we have classes for babies from three years up, kids and teenagers. We’re doing jiu-jitsu and capoeira for all ages. I guess it’s something good for the community.

Can you tell me a bit about jiu-jitsu? Is it similar to other sports?

If you were to describe jiu-jitsu to someone who never saw it, it would be very similar to judo. You have people throwing each other and putting each other on the floor. The jiu-jitsu match is five minutes long and the goal is to checkmate the opponent, to make your opponent quit, or tap out. So there is a lot of ground work, grappling, and wrestling. It’s an excellent sport and great for self-defence. I can’t recommend jiu-jitsu enough.

So there’s no striking?

There is no striking but [in terms of self-defence] there is ducking from striking, turning a strike into a mobilisation. It’s about finding locks on the body – the joint moves this way for example (he turns his arm) – figuring out how the anatomy of the body works.

It seems quite technical and intellectual.

Yes, it’s a very intelligent sport. I trained in weightlifting for a long time, for many years. With time it simply comes down to reps, breaking muscle fibre, and you’re not learning anything. It’s boring. With jiu-jitsu you’re constantly thinking. You’re constantly working your brain.

I compare it to a game of chess. First you figure out how to move the pieces, and then you have to play strategy. Look ahead to the next move and what your opponent can do to you. The moves are complicated and you’re always learning new things. It requires a lot of focus and discipline to get good at it. You don’t get bored with jiu-jitsu.

Is the focus and discipline side of it good for the kids who come to your gym?

Yes, definitely. I find that it is so beneficial for the kids. The kids want to win but if they want to win, they need to learn the moves. In order to learn the moves, they have to pay attention. So straight away it develops focus and concentration and discipline. If they do not pay attention, if they run around the place, they’re going to lose when they spar. It fixes itself. The guys who come in, pay attention, and it makes the others not want to lose so they pay attention and worker hard to learn the moves.

You can see the difference in the kids when they come here. We try to make them comfortable in uncomfortable situations so that when you take the child out of the jiu-jitsu class and they have a to deal with a hard subject in school, or a bully, they are mentally stronger.

I have witnessed that myself. I worked in security for many years and before I dedicated myself to jiu-jitsu, I found it easy to lose the head. But the more hours I put into the gym and training in jiu-jitsu, the more comfortable I became with frustrating situations. You’re able to remain calm. That’s a benefit of jiu-jitsu.

How important is size in jiu-jitsu?

That’s a tricky one. People say that size doesn’t matter. It definitely does. There’s no doubt about that. But the beauty of jiu-jitsu is that once you have the technique, you’re able to apply it against bigger guys. You know, the bigger guys have big muscles and bigger egos, but if the small guy trains hard he will be able to move the big guy’s body in a way that works against him. The big guy who goes to the gym, he’s used to pushing the bar this way (straight out), whereas the guy who knows jiu-jitsu knows that if he moves the bigger guys arms here (upwards), he’s not strong anymore. Now the bench press is worth nothing.

Bigger guys think they are unbeatable. The small guys have to work for it. I always motivate the guys here in the gym to be humble. You always have to consider yourself the second best, the guy who wants to be first. The moment you think that you’re bigger and better than everyone else, you stop working.

Tell me about your recent victories in London, Rome and Abu Dhabi.

Yeah, so I went to the UK and managed to win four golds at the London Open in the ‘Gi’, ‘A’, ‘No-Gi’ and ‘Absolute’ categories. (The ‘Gi’ is a uniform sometimes worn in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. There are categories in which the Gi is worn – ‘Gi’ – and categories in which it is not – ‘No-Gi’. The ‘Absolute’ is an open weight division).

Then a couple of weeks ago I travelled to Rome to compete in the European Championship. The day before that event, the Rome Open was on and since I was already there, I signed up for that too. I won the first fight, submitted the guy, but then in the final I lost. It was a good lesson for me. Coming from so many wins, I thought I was going to smash this other guy. I got a bit cocky. Losing settled me down and humbled me a little bit. I went back to my accommodation and analysed my mistakes. I hoped that the next day I would be able to play a strategy to win.

In the end I managed to win four fights and win the biggest European tournament – the No-Gi European Championship. It was my dream. I have been there twice before and got knocked out in the quarter-final, and came third in the Gi division.

It was really emotional for me. It was a great achievement. Even now when I’m talking, I feel emotional. I don’t train that much with No-Gi so to come first in Europe, it’s hard to believe.

It’s really hard to run and promote a club and also train and win tournaments, a lot of people say it’s not possible, but I’m putting a lot of hours into this and proving that it is possible. When you work so hard, with the help of my training partners, the results have to come.

And you weren’t finished yet. Where did you go next?

Yeah, to finish the story, after winning the European tournament on the Saturday, I flew to Abu Dhabi on Monday for the World Championship. I managed to go there and win three fights before losing the semi-final after getting beat pretty hard. I got my ass kicked by the winner. Then I had to fight to win the third place [match]. So, even though it’s only third place, it’s third place on the biggest podium in the sport.

Is it normal to compete in this number of events in quick succession?

No. It’s crazy to do so many competitions in a short period of time. I usually take a month or two months off before the next competition. It’s expensive too and I must thank Kevin Leahy [from the neighbouring Black Sheep Hostel] for sponsoring me. But after London, I had a feeling that there was no stopping me. I’m healthy. I’m not injured. Now is my moment and I have to take the chance.

It was hard enough to believe that I won the European Championship but to go to Abu Dhabi and fight against the best guys in the world… It’s a dream. Well, it’s not a dream now because it happened. It’s a reality.

Is this it for you now? Have you achieved all you want to achieve?

No, there’s more. Much more. I want to win the World Championship in California next year. For sure I would like to win the European Championship next year too.

But my goal is more than just winning championships, it’s to build champions. I want to teach people and share techniques that are proven to work. As I try to grow the gym, I will continue competing for as long as God blesses me with this health. That’s it.

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