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FA Cup heroes Chorley could be Killarney-bound

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Chorley manager Jamie Vermiglio has confirmed that he wants to bring his giant-killing cup heroes on a pre-season tour to Killarney.

Last Saturday, the former Killarney resident led his non-league side to an unlikely 2-0 victory over Championship outfit Derby County in the third round of the FA Cup, and the part-timers are now looking forward to a historic last 32 match-up against Premier League club Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Vermiglio moved to Killarney with his family back in the nineties and during that time he lined out with both Killarney Celtic and Killarney Athletic, so his rise to prominence is being celebrated on both sides of the town’s footballing divide.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser in the wake of his team’s famous win, the Liverpool native said that taking his cup stars to Kerry to play against his former clubs is a distinct possibility.

“Chorley to Killarney could be on the cards, when the pandemic is over,” the 38-year-old schoolteacher said. “I’ve been speaking to Eamon O’Donoghue of the Gleneagle Hotel to see if he could help to coordinate something in the future.

“There are lots of good soccer players in Killarney and the surrounding areas. I know a lot of players, if given the opportunity, could step up to the Irish league, or non-league or league football here in England.

“I loved my time in Killarney,” he continued. “It’s such a special place for me with many memories. I proposed to my wife at the Aghadoe Heights Hotel.”

If that pre-season trip does go ahead, Celtic and Athletic players will no doubt see it as an ideal opportunity to put themselves in the shop window, and perhaps even secure a coveted trial in English football.

CONTROVERSY

Last week, The Celts and The Blues both congratulated Vermiglio on his success.

“Congratulations to former Killarney Celtic FC player Jamie Vermiglio who is the manager of Chorley FC,” Celtic tweeted. “Today his team booked a place in the 4th Round of the FA Cup after their 2-0 win over Derby County. Best of luck in the next round to Jamie and Chorley FC.”

On Facebook, Athletic also wished Vermiglio well. “Huge congratulations to Jamie Vermiglio on the success of his team Chorley FC making it into the 4th Round of the FA Cup. A great day for Killarney to see one of our own having such success in promoting the beautiful game. We are all proud of you in Killarney Athletic, Jamie.”

With both teams “claiming” the Chorley gaffer, old tensions flared up briefly; various news outlets referring to Vermiglio as a “former Celtic player” didn’t help matters.

To clarify: Vermiglio started out with Celtic before transferring to Athletic, with whom he played most of his football during his time in Ireland. He then moved back England before returning again for less than a year. During this time, he lined out for Celtic at senior level. Mystery solved. He’s not Celtic or Athletic – he’s both.

Funnily enough, his former Athletic teammate Brian O’Reilly recalls that, in contrast to the current furore surrounding his mixed allegiances, there was very little fuss made about Vermiglio’s decision to change clubs at the time.

“Jamie’s uncle, John, was really heavily involved with Celtic so it was natural for him to play with them when he first arrived,” Reilly explains. “Then when he came into St Oliver’s, he became friendly with our group – myself, David Gleeson, Nick Murphy and Paudie O’Connor – and we all played for Athletic. You always end up playing with your friends, and that’s how he came to play with us. I don’t ever remember any hostility or anything like that (over the transfer).

“The way stuff has gone on the last few days – who’s claiming him and all that – it was never like that. We all played together with the Sem as well and his uncle came and coached us. We were just mates playing football.

“We’re all delighted for him, not from the point of view of Killarney Athletic or Celtic. We’re just happy to see him do well as a person, and put Killarney back in the spotlight.”

SKILFUL

The current Chorley boss went on to forge a fine career in England’s non-league ranks and Reilly remembers him as an “outrageously skilful player” who was “lightyears ahead” of his peer group.

“We used to play on the court in school and the astroturf in the Gleneagle and he was so skilful. He had all the tricks and flicks – a total showboater. But on the pitch, he was a completely different player. He played right wing or in the centre and he always seemed to do things right. He did the simple stuff and he had a very good football brain – you could see that from very early on.

“He was a cheeky chappy from Liverpool with a great sense of humour. He was very charismatic too. You could see that he was a leader on the pitch even back then and he had a big personality. He was always encouraging fellas – a good motivator and a very good teammate.

“And a really nice guy off the pitch as well.”

SAVIOUR

The significance of Chorley’s win cannot be overstated, even though it came against a Derby squad that was weakened by an outbreak of COVID-19. Vermiglio’s side operate in the National League North, which is the sixth tier of English football.

The financial benefits of an unexpected cup run are huge. Speaking to The Guardian in the lead-up to the match, Vermiglio said the tie itself had “saved the club”.

“We told the players at the start of the season that, with all the uncertainty, we’d commit to paying the wages but they may not get them on time every week. I think [the money from the Derby match] is a figure close to £250,000 with all the TV revenue, and it has put us in a very fortunate position compared to some other non-league clubs. It’s been a saviour for us.”

Although Vermiglio admitted after the match that, with all due respect to the opposition, The Magpies “should be beating” Derby when their team was made up of so many young players, Chorley are quite a young outfit themselves with an average age of roughly 23. They are also a part-time club (they have a bartender, a lift engineer, a teacher and a personal trainer in their ranks) so defeating an established professional club like Derby is a major achievement.

One disappointing note from Vermiglio’s end is that he couldn't to go toe-to-toe with Derby manager and fellow Liverpudlian Wayne Rooney, who was unable to attend due to the COVID outbreak in his first team squad.

“I grew up on Scarisbrick Road in Liverpool, and he was a Toxteth lad, I think. Seeing someone from near where you live do what he’s done, it’s been very inspirational for the local lads in Liverpool. It would have been great to get the opportunity to come up against him with Chorley as equals.”

Now that the storm in a teacup over Vermiglio’s local allegiances has hopefully blown over, Killarney’s footballing fraternity will turn their attention to Chorley’s next big cup tie: Wolves at home on the weekend of January 23/24. Win that and they could be playing host to the most successful team in the competition’s history: the mighty Arsenal.

The odds will be stacked against them making it that far but, interestingly, Chorley’s most notable result prior to last weekend came in 1986 when they dumped a big club out of the cup after a replay.

The unfortunate club in question? Wolverhampton Wanderers.

 

ABOVE: Vermiglio watching his side's historic victory over Derby. Pic: Stefan Willoughby.

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Fleming and Doherty top Killarney crew at Boggeragh

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The Boggeragh Rallysprint, organised by Cork Motor Club and based in the forest complex of the same name, took place over the Christmas break.

Based near the village of Nad, the event attracted a strong 60-plus car entry and was won by West Cork driver David Guest and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan in a Ford Fiesta Rally 2. The latter is a member of Killarney and District Motor Club.

The first all-Killarney crew to make the finish were David Fleming and Kieran Doherty in their Honda Civic. The Killarney-based crew finished 20th overall on what was only their second time competing on a gravel rally.

World Rally Championship launch

The new Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid that Craig Breen and Paul Nagle will drive in this year’s World Rally Championship is set to be unveiled on Saturday in Austria.

The World Rally Championship will undergo major environmental changes this year when new technical regulations drive the series towards a more sustainable future.

The season launch takes place at Red Bull’s headquarters near Salzburg ahead of the first round of the WRC, next week’s Rallye Monte Carlo, as a new era for the sport dawns.

Breen and Nagle will be in attendance and the launch will be live streamed on WRC.com

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Killarney Valley athletes rubbing shoulders with the best

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Killarney Valley AC continued their upward curve last Sunday when they entered men’s and women’s teams in the prestigious National Indoor Track and Field Championships, which were held in Abbotstown in Dublin.

Despite going up against the best of the best in terms of Irish athletics, the Killarney Valley contingent gave a good account of themselves at the state-of-the-art National Indoor Arena, with coaches Tomás Griffin and Con Lynch coming away with plenty of positives to reflect upon.

The women’s team was comprised of Sarah Leahy, Ciara Kennelly, Alison Butler, Grace O’Meara, Ellen Moloney and Melissa Ahern, while the men’s team included Conor Gammell, Oisín Lynch, Kevin O’Callaghan, Sam Griffin, Jason O’Reilly, Dara Looney and Darragh O’Leary.

The nature of the team event presents a number of challenges and opportunities for the forward-thinking club, as coach Tomás Griffin explained to the Killarney Advertiser this week.

“The indoor league is senior elite level so you’re competing against really strong athletes, including some Olympians,” Griffin said. “Part of the criteria is that you try to cover as many of the events as you possibly can within all of the athletic disciplines. You compete as a team, as opposed to normal athletics competitions which are very much based on the individual.

“If you are 16 or you turn 16 in the year of competition, you can participate. That allows us to give our up-and-coming athletes the opportunity to compete as part of a representative team alongside our more established, older athletes.

“There are two rounds with half the events in all disciplines covered in Round 1 and the other half in Round 2. Last week in Round 1 the track events were the 50m sprint, the 200m sprint, and the 800m, along with the 4 x 400m relay. So, for those events alone, you have to have sprinters and you have to have middle distance athletes all stepping up to compete against one representative from all the other clubs.

“The field events were the shot putt, the long jump, and the pole vault. You can see there you’ve got to have a pretty diverse club that is trying to focus on as many disciplines as possible on the development sides of things.”

POINTS

Individual athletes earn points based on where they finish in their event (12 points for first etc.), with points tallied together to make up the team’s overall total. There are 12 clubs vying for the women’s title and 13 fighting for the men’s. After Round 2, which takes place on January 23 in Athlone, the top six clubs will advance to the finals.

The demands that such a competition place on a club mean that it is a major achievement to be able to take part at all. Apart from Killarney Valley, Leevale AC from Cork were the only other club in Munster who fielded a team.

“For us to have enough athletes of that age or above, that are competent enough in their disciplines to be able to represent us and compete – and score – is a significant breakthrough. We scored quite well across some of the events. There were some events that we struggled to cover because we’re still trying to develop the full range, but as a club we know that we need to develop those disciplines.

“And we have some younger athletes who are 13 or 14 and they’re now learning pole vault, for instance. If we can maintain the momentum then we will have pole vaulters in a couple of years’ time.”

ENJOYMENT

Griffin says the Killarney Valley competitors really enjoyed the experience, while also putting in some impressive performances.

“They loved it. The bigger powerhouse clubs have very high-profile athletes at their disposal; there were four Olympians whom our athletes got to compete against and interact with.

“Our own Sarah Leahy did exceptionally well in the 60m sprint. She ran the joint fastest time in the league, a personal best of 7.61 seconds, which is the fastest she has ever run 60m indoors.

“In the men’s 60m sprint, Conor Gammell made the top five and ran a personal best. We also had Sam Griffin, who is normally a long jumper, who ran a personal best of 7.58 seconds. He finished third in his race. Dara Looney, another long jumper who was doubling up on sprints, finished fifth and also had a personal best.

“Melissa Ahern, an up-and coming sprinter, ran 8.43 seconds, and Ellen Moloney, who was a first-timer at this level, ran a personal best as well. We have a good batch of sprinters competing and it’s good to expose them to this level.

“Alison Butler scored some valuable points for us in the 800m, and in the men’s 800 Oisín Lynch ran a massive personal best. Our shot putt thrower Kevin O’Callaghan is new to athletics; he had to throw an adult shot (7.2kg) for the first time and he did well, scoring five points for us. In fact, he threw the heavier weight nearly as far as he had been throwing the lighter weight.”

Griffin was keen to stress the importance of each individual team member to the overall group effort and whatever happens in Round 2, he is convinced that entering the competition will have huge benefits in the long run.

“We set ourselves of goal of having a team at National League level by 2023 so we’re a year ahead in that regard. It shows that we’re on the right trajectory.”

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