Eamonn Fitzgerald gives his assessment of last Saturday’s football action, which included facile wins for Kerry and Dublin
Kerry learned little they didn’t know already after a leisurely stroll in The Park on Sunday, leaving a hopelessly outclassed Limerick side trailing in their wake in yet another one-sided Munster SFC final. 1-28 to 0-8 tells its own story and Kerry could have stuck in a few more goals.
That’s a whopping 23 points defeat. Last year was quite similar. Same venue, different opposition with Cork in 2021. The Rebels suffered their biggest ever defeat to Kerry in a Munster final, losing by 22 points.
And the point of it all is that the Munster SFC is a non-event as a competitive fixture, even if the social aspect is much to be admired. Only one team stands up to challenge for the Sam Maguire.
Ditto in Leinster where Dublin won their 12th Leinster SFC title in a row, defeating Kildare by 5-17 to 1-16. They struck early and often, rattling the net five times in that opening period. Out of 14 shots at the Kildare goals in the first half, they scored 12 times. That is an unbelievable return and yet they will be consigned to Division 2 football next season. All rumours as to their demise are just that, though; the Dublin Blues are out of the blues.
It only took a few minutes at Croke Park to show they’re back in business. Talisman Con O’Callaghan is back and he showed why he was missed throughout the league. He is the axis of the Dessie Farrell bid to get out of the shadows of Jim Gavin.
EARLY AND OFTEN
Dublin’s goals came early and often, exposing Glenn Ryan’s defence as porous. Five goals and the game was still in its infancy. Let’s concentrate on just one goal, the first. The move started at the Cusack Stand side beyond midfield. No great danger for Kildare - yet. Ciarán Kilkenny is the bones of 85 yards from goal. He has a designated marker, but where is the Lilywhite when the tide begins to turn? He is going outfield while Kilkenny takes off without the ball. The delivery was swift and accurate into the danger zone. Still no danger of a goal. Dublin have a lot to do, but they do it. Bang. The give-and-go ploy worked. How often have we seen that before as Dublin steamrolled ahead to the six-in-a-row?
Start at home. It cost Kerry two All-Irelands. The standout one was when that great servant of Kerry, David Moran, failed to collect a ball at midfield. In nipped Eoin Murchan, a small guy in defence and surely no danger of scoring from his allotted position, but he has a turbo engine and the pitiful sight for Kerry was this ‘garsún’ sprinting through the middle and poor David Moran trying desperately hard to get back in-house before the cake of bread was burned to a cinder. Shades of Paddy Cullen and Mikey Sheehy, except the Dubs had the last laugh on this one.
For all of those six All-Irelands, Dublin’s trademark goal-scoring tactic never wavered. Win possession deep in your own defence. Hold possession with close inter-passing laterally working your way up the wing, gaining valuable yards all the time. The opposition can’t even lay hand on a Dub because they are there in numbers. Patience is their virtue until the right moment arrives. Cue the Dubs possessor to up the pace as the opposition scrambles to get close, totally unaware and unable to do anything about the other Dub backing up the man in possession. “Coming off the shoulder” is the new fancy name for this ploy.
He switches into the centre and he has two choices on how to deliver the goal. Any of the three inside forwards will make a run creating space, or best of all the full forward will sprint out in front of the full back. Give and go. Kilkenny will score after his long journey, or take your pick of O’Callaghan, Costello et al.
Dublin have done it to Kerry and more recently Cork did the same at Fitzgerald Stadium in the 2021 Munster final before that first water break. That is one area of leakage of Kerry goals which has been addressed successfully so far by Jack O’Connor.
Tadhg Morley has grabbed his opportunity to make the number 6 geansaí his own in the absence of the rehabbing Mike Breen. He is closing off the centre very effectively and no one gets through unimpeded. He has done very well. No doubt the drier summer ground will test him, but his closing of the ‘bearna baol’ will be crucial as the championship evolves.
The successes of Morley at 6 and Jason Foley at 3 are the real reason that Kerry have only conceded one goal this year. Foley is coming good. He is a fine athlete, has plenty of pace and now has the confidence to sprint out ahead of his full forward to win possession, knowing that the backs around him are doing their primary job. That means marking their own man and providing the necessary cover to break the attacking chain and/or be ready to pounce for the broken ball. Be first to react to that spillage is crucial.
Goalkeeper Shane Ryan has a key role to play in these situations. He needs to see the potential danger once the ball enters his half of the field. He will be the first player to see the danger of a goal and be it Kilkenny, Murchan, Costello, or that half-Spa man, the majestic Brian Fenton. Don’t rule out the northern teams either.
Ryan can call the play before the shots are unleashed. No goal opportunities. A point at worst.
Fossa on cusp of history as club from ‘nine square miles’ eyes senior status
Kerry IFC Final
Fossa v Milltown/Castlemaine
Austin Stack Park
Never before in the history of Kerry football has an Intermediate final attracted so much attention.
On Sunday, two clubs go head-to-head with a trophy and promotion on the line – but this high-profile encounter has far more riding on it than that.
In fact, the consequences of the outcome of this second-tier decider are going to be massive. If Fossa win, they will graduate to senior for the first time in their 53-year existence. It would represent a monumental achievement for the club from the small parish to the northwest of Killarney; few, if any, believed it would ever be possible given their lowly standing as recently as a few years ago.
With two generational talents at their disposal in the form of the Clifford brothers from Two Mile, they have rapidly risen through the ranks. Now they are seeking their second successive promotion following on from last year’s extra time win over Listry in the Junior Premier final.
And if the idea of Fossa going out on their own in the Kery Senior Football Championship wasn’t intriguing enough on its own, there’s more. A Fossa win would mean that East Kerry, winners of four of the last five titles, would lose their Fossa contingent for 2024. Most notable amongst that cohort are Paudie and David Clifford, unquestionably the district’s two most influential players.
There is plenty of intrigue from Milltown/Castlemaine’s perspective too. The Mid Kerry side are aiming to get back to senior level for the first time since being relegated in 2016 following defeat to Kilcummin in a playoff. They were not considered to be amongst the frontrunners for this competition before a ball was kicked, and possibly not after the group stage either, so victory this weekend would be sweet.
Of course, a Milltown/Castlemaine win would also have a huge bearing on the 2024 County Championship. Mid Kerry (runners-up in 2020, 2022 and 2023) stand to lose five starters if Milltown are promoted: Pa Wrenn, David Roche, Gavin Horan, Cillian Burke and Éanna O’Connor. Such a loss would greatly weaken their hand and widen the gap that already exists between them and the reigning champions. Add to that the fact that East Kerry will keep the Cliffords if Milltown/Castlemaine win, and the significance of this game is magnified further still.
There is so much at stake for all the invested parties in East and Mid Kerry, and there is plenty to consider for the neutral fan as well. Many would welcome the weakening of East Kerry’s squad as it would potentially lead to a more competitive County Championship. However, there is serious concern amongst Kerry supporters that the Cliffords are in need of a rest after a long couple of years with club and county. If Fossa prevail they will advance to the Munster Championship and possibly beyond if they manage to keep on winning. This would likely interfere with their star players’ off-season.
There’s no doubt that the nature of Fossa’s matches to date have whetted the appetite for this final. They were involved in exhilarating extra time victories over Castleisland and Austin Stacks in the previous rounds and more excitement of that nature would be more than welcome after a largely disappointing County Championship.
Milltown/Castlemaine also bring plenty to the table and although the momentum from their own semi-final heroics against Legion may have dwindled somewhat over the many weeks between then and now, they can certainly take heart from that result against one of the pre-tournament favourites.
It’s all set up to be a fascinating match-up and a large crowd is expected in Tralee for this one.
The match will also be streamed live by Clubber.
Home double header for St Paul’s and Scotts Lakers
The St Paul’s women’s and men’s teams are both in National League action this Saturday at Killarney Sports and Leisure Centre with their games tipping off at 4.30pm and 7.30pm respectively.
James Fleming’s ladies take on the Phoenix Rockets on the back of that disappointing cup exit at the hands of the Cavan Eagles a fortnight ago and they will be keen to get back to winning ways on home turf.
Paul’s have a perfect 100% record in Division 1 but they are sure to be tested by the Rockets, who gave a fine account of themselves over the course of the 2022/23 season.
They beat Paul’s in Lisburn last February, though the Killarney side exacted revenge in the playoffs in March. The Rockets have made an inconsistent start to the 2023/24 campaign picking up just two wins from the seven games played. The second of those victories came as recently last Saturday when they got the better of the Limerick Sport Eagles at home, but they fell to another defeat against the Huskies back up north the following day.
The Rockets are coached by former Ireland player Breda Dick, a woman who cites Killarney’s own Paudie O’Connor as her role model. Paudie was her first coach at international level and obviously left a huge mark on Breda.
Dick will be looking to the McGrath sisters Charly and Georgie to carry the torch for them as well as American signing Jay Ashby.
For Paul’s, Khiarica Rasheed has been building a good understanding with Sofia Paska and they will be keen to work on that partnership again on Saturday. In the absence of Lorraine Scanlon, who will be attending the LGFA All-Stars, Meabh Barry may be pushed up the ladder. Lynn Jones and Rheanne O’Shea will also be expected to play prominent roles.
Under the guidance of Coach Brian Clarke, Scotts Lakers have established a winning record of 4-2 and as a result they find themselves fifth out of 12 teams in Division 1 of the National League.
They claimed their latest win at home to the Dublin Lions last weekend (81-71) with Americans Braden Bell (26) and Terion Moss (25) accounting for the bulk of the scoring. Jamie O’Sullivan, Oisín Spring and Cian Forde also made their mark on the scoreboard.
Coach Brian Clarke was very pleased with the contribution of his subs on the night. “Our bench was ready to come on and make the difference and I can’t emphasis enough the importance of that,” he told club PRO Enda Walshe.
“Braden and Terion are great shot-makers but they also have a sharp eye for passes to their teammates. Oisín Spring, and Paul Clarke in previous games, are alive to that and make themselves available. It’s a great opportunity for our young players to make their mark and provided they continue to dedicate themselves to their craft, they will get to enjoy that.”
Next up for the Lakers is the visit of the Limerick Celtics on Saturday. The Shannonsiders are currently second in Division 1 having won five of their six matches to date.
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