Eamonn Fitzgerald shares his take on the Kerry v Cork ‘Páirc Uí Rinn or Nowhere’ debacle
The Páirc Uí Rinn saga rolls on. In brief, this is the gig of the Munster Council of the GAA and it’s for them to sort out. Very little has emanated publicly from that body but I have no doubt there are frantic efforts underway privately. Just like the graceful swan gliding peacefully on calm waters, but under the surface those damn legs are working furiously to reach the safety of the bank – or, rather, the banks of my own lovely Lee.
The Lee flows alongside Páirc Uí Chaoímh, that magnificent stadium, albeit in the wrong location in my opinion. Not that we in Kerry GAA circles have been clever in selecting the best location. I have dealt with this issue in the past, contending that the Kerry Centre of Excellence is in the wrong location at Currans. There were extenuating circumstances when the proposed excellent choice of site at Fossa fell through. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the Kerry County Board moved with undue haste in settling for Currans.
The old maxim still holds true: location is everything.
So where will be the location for the Kerry v Cork Munster football semi-final on May 7?
Without the benefit of knowing what negotiations involving the vested interests took place during this week, one can only make an educated guess on the likely outcome. I believe that the game will go ahead at Páirc Ui Rinn on May 7.
Kerry and Cork have a long-established home and away arrangement for their Munster Championship games each year, irrespective of whether it is in the first round or at the semi-final stage.
We have new managers in both Kerry and Cork. It really is no business of Kerry boss Jack O’Connor and the astute Dromid man did the right thing at the correct time. Silence is golden in such circumstances.
Cork have home venue, but a certain Ed Sheeran is booked for Páiirc Uí Chaoímh and will take centre stage in every sense of the phrase. He’s a fine singer and performer, but why is this English singing star tying up Páirc Uí Chaoímh slap bang in the peak GAA season?
Money. Yes, money matters and when the revamping of Páirc Uí Chaoímh ran so much over budget, the Cork County Board was left with a hefty bill, currently estimated in the region of €25 million. How to manage such an enormous debt is a tall order for the board led by Kevin O’Donovan, who has taken over from Frank Murphy, the first full time GAA secretary in the country. He ran the county board for over 40 years and his successor Kevin O’Donovan is the new secretary/CEO.
With the help of Cairde Chorchaí, the board booked the popular Sheeran to earn a significant windfall. Admission prices are not cheap by any means. Patrons will get little change out of €100 for a good ticket. Sheeran is on a world tour so the Cork slot fits in well with the promoters, unfortunately at a crucial time in the GAA calendar.
The Cork County Board would have been aware of that but in fairness to them the decision to split the GAA season into two parts for 2022 (January to July for intercounty and the rest of the year for the club scene) came late.
Keith Ricken is in his first year as manager of the Cork senior football team after guiding the U20s to All-Ireland success. When Páirc Úí Chaoímh was booked he made it known to the Cork County Board that he and the players wanted Páirc Uí Rinn – not to take the easy option of switching to Killarney. After the 20-point trouncing in the Fitzgerald Stadium last summer, he didn’t want his young and inexperienced players thrown into the lion’s den.
I believe that Keith should stick to his guns and the players also want Páirc Uí Rinn. If they played this game in Killarney, Kerry would have to travel to Cork for the next two years. These young players know full well that many of them may not even be on the panel for next year.
For a Munster final one can expect an attendance of around 20,000 in Killarney and in Páirc Uí Chaoímh. 10,000 or a max of 11,000 will fill Páirc Uí Rinn. What are the chances of a regular follower getting into Páirc Uí Rinn? What’s more Sky, and not RTÉ, will be transmitting this Munster semi-final.
What has surprised me that all the focus seems to be on the Cork football team but little about how the Sheeran factor will impinge on the hopes of the Cork hurlers. Never forget that hurling is number one in Cork and football comes a very poor second. The hurlers would like Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but the fallout from the Ed Sheeran concert will hit them hard.
Whatever about the hurling, the likely scenario, I expect, is for Kerry to defeat Cork on May 7 – and Páirc Uí Rinn will be the venue.
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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