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Eamonn Fitzgerald: Munster now a non-event

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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’S VISION

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.

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Ladies’ Semi-Final Preview: Armagh stand between Kerry and a third shot at glory

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LGFA All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final

Kerry v Armagh

Saturday 7.15pm

O’Connor Park, Tullamore

Live on TG4

The Kerry ladies are just 60 minutes away from their third All-Ireland final in a row but they will have to bring their ‘A’ game to overcome the challenge of Armagh at O’Connor Park in Offaly later today.

The Kingdom have been installed as competition favourites after beating Meath (and after champions Dublin lost to Galway) in the quarters and they should be in confident form following that victory over the Royals in Tralee a fortnight ago.

However, they are unlikely to have it all their own way against an Armagh side who have beaten them twice already this season, in the league in March and then in the league final in Croke Park in April.

Losing star player Aimee Mackin to an ACL injury in the Ulster final came as a tremendous blow to the Orchard County. Mackin scored 2-6 (2-5 from play) and 1-4 (1-2) from play in the two games against Kerry this year so her teammates will have to make up the difference in her absence.

Kerry, meanwhile, have been buoyed by the return from an ACL injury of Síofra O’Shea, who scored 0-3 off the bench against Meath. The skilful trio of Danielle O’Leary (1-28, 3f), Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh (2-15, 9f) and Emma Dineen (4-5) have accounted for the bulk of the team’s scores this season with Hannah O’Donoghue and team captain Niamh Carmody also capable of finding the target.

Managers Declan Quill and Darragh Long will be hoping that this attacking threat coupled with the teak tough defending of Eilís Lynch, Deirdre Kearney and Aishling O’Connell will be enough to see them over the line. With the dependable Ciara Butler between the sticks, Kerry have kept three clean sheets in their last four games which is a record they would love to improve upon today.

Armagh, who haven’t played in a senior ladies’ football All-Ireland final since 2006, arrive at the semi-final stage on the back of wins over Meath and Mayo. Eve Lavery is their top scorer to date with 0-11 (7f) to her name. Blaithin Mackin, younger sister of Aimee, has chipped in with 1-5.

Kerry v Armagh will be preceded at O’Connor Park by the other All-Ireland semi-final between Galway and Cork. The Rebels last made the final in 2020 while The Tribeswomen are aiming to reach their first decider since 2019. Both counties lost to Dublin in those respective finals.

Galway v Cork starts at 5pm. Both matches will be shown live on TG4.

Kerry team to play Armagh: C Butler; E Lynch, K Cronin, C Murphy; A O’Connell, D Kearney, A Dillane; M O’Connell, A Galvin; N Carmody (captain), D O’Leary, N Ní Chonchúir; H O’Donoghue, E Dineen, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh.

Armagh: A Carr; G Ferguson, C McCambridge (captain), R Mulligan; C Towe, L McConville, D Coleman; N Coleman, C O’Hanlon; E Druse, A McCoy, B Mackin; E Lavery, N Henderson, K Mallon.

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Jordan Lee vows to bounce back as injury ends 2024 Paralympic dream

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Killarney high jumper Jordan Lee is determined to bounce back stronger than ever after announcing his withdrawal from the Paralympic Selection Process due to injury.

The Killarney Valley AC athlete, who represented Ireland at the Tokyo Games in 2021, was hoping to wear the green singlet again in Paris in August/September but he was forced to pull out “due to an injury that had developed over the past couple of weeks”.

“[To say that I’m] absolutely gutted is an understatement considering the season that we’ve just had and being ranked number 6 in the world rankings on the lead-up,” Lee said via Instagram.

“This is sport at the highest level and unfortunately this is an injury that couldn’t turn right in time for Paris which is only a few weeks away.”

The local lad went on to thank Killarney Valley and his coaches Tomás Griffin, Alan Delaney and Shane O’Rourke for their support, as well as his sponsors PTSB, Puma, Toyota, Kellihers Garage and Output Sports.

“To my family and my friends, I’ve always repped that Irish vest with the utmost pride, not just representing myself and my beautiful country, but my amazing family and friends that I have too. I love ye all.

“Wishing my teammates within Paralympics Ireland all the very best in Paris.

“Roll on 2025 for the Europeans. I’ll be back better and ready for vengeance. Believe that.”

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