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Fossa and Rathmore all set for Croker double-header

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by Eamonn Fitzgerald

It is still only January but what an antidote to the seasonally wild, wet, and windy weather it is for supporters of Rathmore and Fossa to be heading off to Croke Park.

The Devil’s Ladder was cleared on Saturday last. The pinnacle lies ahead. Will it be scaled successfully, and will major silverware be brought home so early in the year?

Both clubs will be grateful to Seán Kelly, the former GAA president who extended the opportunity for even the smallest GAA club in the country to win an All-Ireland title and to play those finals in Croke Park.

Both finals will go ahead at HQ on Sunday, commencing with the junior final at 1.30pm followed intermediate final at 3.30pm. TG4 will carry both games live .

FOSSA v STEWARTSTOWN HARPS

Fossa came through with flying colours at Portlaoise last weekend. This venue has been a graveyard for so many Kerry teams but after an uncertain start when Castletown could have gone five points clear, Fossa asserted supremacy. Once Cian O’Shea finished the ball to the net after 19 minutes and Emmett scored a second one, Castletown struggled badly. They were 2-7 to 0-6 in arrears at half-time.

The result was never in doubt two minutes after the restart when Eoin Talbot scored their third goal. Passage to the final was secured.

The Clifford brothers were as consistently brilliant as ever. Paudie’s endless energy setting up attacks from centre back was not wasted up front by younger brother David who scored seven points.

Fossa manager Adrian Sheehan will be delighted with the form of Matt Rennie, the O’Sheas and goalkeeper Shane O’Sullivan who is getting good cover from the defence.

Will Fossa be All-Ireland Junior club champions on Sunday next? I expect so. Not just as easy as that, of course. All-Ireland finals are won on the day by the team that delivers its best display when it really matters.

The Clifford brothers are so far ahead of any other players at this level that the Tyrone side will have to do something special to cause an upset.

However, Kerry teams never get it easy against Tyrone opposition. Eamonn Fitzmaurice will remember the pain of losing to this opposition when he was a player with Finuge. On Sunday next, he will be on the management team with Fossa.

A lot will depend on the referee. If he ignores blatant pulling, dragging, body checking and much worse than that, then it will take the extra class of the Cliffords to steer the boat to the safety of the prized harbour.

Stewartstown Harps had a real battle and had to go to extra time to beat Galway champions Clifden 1-14 to 1-9 after extra time at Dr Hyde Park. They are strongly Catholic and Nationalist, tough and resilient. They will not bend their knee easily and will relish the challenge of a Kerry club team.

I believe that Croke Park will bring out the best in the Cliffords, and class will tell once overconfidence is banished. It is not a foregone conclusion, but I expect Fossa to be crowned All-Ireland Junior Club champions.

RATHMORE v GALBALLY PEARSES

As expected, Rathmore eased into the Intermediate final by defeating St Mogue’s Fethard of Wexford 2-16 to 1-10.

With a score like that one would expect Chrissy Spiers, Rathmore’s top scorer in this campaign, to end with 10 points or so. Not so on this occasion as the Ryan brothers delivered 1-8 between them.

Kerry All-Star goalkeeper Shane Ryan, playing at corner forward, grabbed the goal initiative in the 12th minute and the Sliabh Luachra men went on a scoring spree of 2-5. The second goal was scored by the ever-consistent poacher, John Moynihan.

The Wexford side did engineer somewhat of a rally, before half-time scoring 1-4, but no doubt Denis Moynihan used the half-time talk to get them back on track. Rathmore were so much on top in the second half that they did not have to depend on Kenneth O’Keeffe to make a great save at the finish. The veteran goalkeeper is still playing so well, releasing Shane Ryan to add potency to their attack.

What a day it will be for the three Ryan brothers in Croke Park, Shane, Mark, and Cathal. Will Rathmore bring home the All-Ireland cup?

They have plenty of good players in all lines of the field, but their full-back Andrew Moynihan may not start. He pulled a hamstring in training during Christmas and hamstrings are notoriously slow to heal fully. He has had a great season and will be a big loss if unable to start.

Their ability to score goals was the difference between Dunmore McHales of Galway and Galbally last weekend. The former lost 1-9 to 4-4 after conceding three of those goals in the first half. Galbally do not have any county player and their best-known member is Paddy Tally. The former Tyrone player and much-travelled coach was a key man in Jack O’Connor’s management team in 2022.

Rathmore have skated through all opposition this year once they got over An Ghaeltacht in the Kerry final. They need to control play from the start on Sunday, keep the defence tight and avoid conceding goals. O’Keefe is playing so well in goals and Kerry star Paul Murphy will marshal their defence.

I expect brothers Mark and Cathal Ryan to win midfield and with Shane Ryan, Brian Friel, and ace free-taker Spiers to point the way, they have the winning formula. Just like Fossa, they need to assert supremacy and impose their dominance on the scoreboard. They must avoid the expected Tyrone ambush.

THE FOSSA NUGGET

Best of luck to Fossa and Rathmore, who will be looking for support for their fund-raising efforts to defray the very significant cost involved in an All-Ireland Club campaign.

Contributions from the Munster Council and the Central Council are miserable. Surely, the GAA will rethink that financial support this year. After all, David Clifford has been such a box office draw wherever he played, attracting so many extra hundreds of supporters. When the final whistle is blown where do the hordes of supporters and neutrals rush, but to be near the Footballer of the Year, David Clifford. The Nugget from Fossa.

But even the goose that lays the golden egg needs to be nourished.

The two Tyrone clubs’ main fundraisers for the finals are sponsorship for the full panel of players at €100 a pop, and the response has been magnificent with great help from the Tyrone diaspora, particularly in the USA.

MORAN SHOWS CLASS

Kilmacud Crokes won their Senior Club semi-final but just by one goal. Kerins O’Rahillys did so well to take them to the last seconds in the five minutes of overtime.

Who else but David Moran, my Man of the Match, to win that that late ball and punch for an equaliser. The keeper was beaten but a defender swept the ball away to safety.

Well played Kerins O’Rahillys. It was fitting that Moran, Kerry’s best club midfielder that I have seen for the past number of years, almost sent the game into extra time. Yes, he has been that consistent and Jack O’Connor will be looking for a replacement if David calls it a day at intercounty level. He has been magnificent.

Diarmuid O’Connor, Jack Barry and others will compete for the midfield spots for Jack’s team in 2023 but none are in Moran’s class. Are there more potential Kerry midfielders around the county?

PAUDIE PALMER RIP

Too young to die. Too full of life, energy, enthusiasm and Kerry roguery. Paudie Palmer RIP was laid to rest at Innishannon on Wednesday last following an untimely and heart-breaking hit-and-run road accident.

I have known Paudie for many years and our lives and paths crossed so often, especially in relation to GAA games at individual colleges and intercounty levels. He spent most of his teaching life at St Brogan’s College, Bandon, where he was a very popular teacher of science and was very involved with Cork VEC football teams.

When we met on opposite sides in the Kerry colleges and county teams the banter was energising. After his retirement from teaching, he brought the same enthusiasm to his work as a radio commentator with C103. Knowledgeable, effective and articulate, he had a way with words on air and in the printed media with the Echo.

He never forgot where he came from or lost his native endearing Kerry smile, plámás, unfailing good humour, or whatever it took to enliven your day. Paudie was the kind of soul you loved to meet and anywhere there was ball to be kicked, he was there.

Pre-match exchanges were great until he stopped you in full flow. “Yerra, we’ll get back to that and we’ll certainly meet up at the weekend for the next match. Must go now, on the air in 90 seconds. Go on, go on, go on…”

He loved Templenoe and was very proud of the achievements of that team making great strides up through the divisions of the Kerry leagues.  022 could not have been better with so many All-Ireland medals won by club members to add to the collections of the Spillane brothers. Paudie travelled to Tralee on the day prior to his accident to attend the funeral of the great Kerry defender of the 1950s, Mixie Palmer, son of PW, the Sneem native related to Paudie.

From Direendaragh, Blackwater and Templenoe and for most of his life in Cork, he was a wonderful person and he had a great way with people. The airwaves are silent, and we are so glad to have had the opportunities to be with him. He was a tonic to meet. One is grateful for the days you met Palmer; the memories of the grámhar Kerryman adopted by Cork live on.

Well, his journey in this life is over and what a heartbreak that is for his beloved wife Colette and daughters, Claire and Emily. To those closest to him and his huge extended GAA family of friends and listeners, guím solas na bhFlaitheas ar Phaudie agus solas na Síorraiochta ar a chlann.

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Kerry ladies must bounce back at home to Waterford

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All-Ireland Senior Championship Group 2

Kerry v Waterford

Saturday 3pm

Fitzgerald Stadium

The Kerry ladies will be looking to get back to winning ways against Waterford on Saturday following last weekend’s frustrating draw against Donegal in Ballybofey.

The Kingdom led with seconds remaining in treacherous conditions but a late Donegal free snatched a draw for the home side (Donegal 1-6 Kerry 0-9). It was a game that Kerry would have been expecting to win and the result puts a lot more pressure on them this weekend as they try to top the three-team group and earn a home quarter-final.

If they beat Waterford and Donegal do likewise next week, Kerry and Donegal will be level in first place on four points each. The top seed will then be decided by the head-to-head record between the teams. As Kerry v Donegal was a draw, the deciding factor will be whoever scored the most points in that draw. That would be good news for Kerry as they scored nine points to Donegal’s six.

When Kerry and Waterford last met (in this year’s Munster Championship), Kerry needed a late winner by Fiadhna Tangney to prevail by narrowest of margins (1-8 to 1-7). If Waterford beat Kerry and then lose to Donegal, Kerry would be eliminated from the championship.

The Kerry squad has been boosted by the return of Síofra O’Shea who came off the bench against Donegal following a lengthy period out with a knee injury.

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US-bound Kerry runner Lynch hopes to emulate Mageean magic

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by Adam Moynihan

Killarney middle distance runner Oisín Lynch is taking inspiration from newly crowned European 1500m champion Ciara Mageean as he gets set for the next stage of his career in the United States.

This week Lynch confirmed that he will be heading Stateside after accepting a scholarship at Adams State University in Colorado. The promising 800m and 1500m competitor caught the eye of coaches at the leading American college after representing Ireland in the Youth Olympics and also by winning two national titles in recent months.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, the 18-year-old Killarney Valley AC athlete, who is currently doing his Leaving Cert at St Brendan’s College, says he one day hopes to emulate Mageean’s heroics on the international stage.

“The Irish are on the up at underage and at senior level,” Lynch notes. “We have been improving a lot in recent years. When you see Ciara Mageean winning the 1500m it just shows that it can be done by Irish people.

“Sometimes Irish athletes don’t really believe in themselves when they’re getting knocked out of championships by English or European athletes. Mageean winning that European title is definitely something to drive me on. It shows that I can actually do it.”

DREAM

For Lynch, moving to the United States is a hugely significant step, and one that he has dreamed about making since he was a child.

“It’s unbelievable. I always hoped I could earn a scholarship. I worked hard over the last few years, so it’s nice to see that work paying off.

“I had a few schools onto me but when Adams State got in touch, I sized it up and I knew it was a really good opportunity.

“The fact that the college is at 7,500 feet… That’s a crazy altitude. It’s double the height of Carrauntoohil. Altitude training has massive benefits for distance running and nowadays nearly every pro spends most of their year training at altitude. The chance to get that training for the next couple of years is great.

“And their athletics programme is unbelievable. Coach Damon Martin has been there for 40 years and he has coached 12 Olympians. Adams State is in the top 15 for distance in the country and the standard out there in America is very high.”

STRIDES

Killarney Valley AC have made enormous strides since building their new, state-of-the-art facility in 2020 and Lynch is a grateful beneficiary of that progress.

“I can’t thank the club enough. Going back a couple of years we were training on grass in parks. When you want to be a track runner, it’s just not the same. After a lot of hard work by a lot of good people, we managed to get a 200-metre track in Killarney. That’s massive for us and it’s all we need for training.

“The coaches down there are putting in the hard work, including my dad (Con), Tomás Griffin, Jean Courtney, Jerry Griffin, Bríd Stack, Alan Delaney… I could go on. It’s a great club and there are some good athletes coming through. It’s an exciting time for Killarney Valley.”

After Lynch completes his Leaving Cert, he will start preparing for life as a college athlete. He will study kinesiology in Colorado and on the track he hopes to keep on moving in the right direction. That means getting his times down (his current PBs are 1.50.59 over 800m and 3.51 over 1500m), representing Ireland, and hopefully winning a national title in America.

“Obviously I’ll take every step as it comes,” the ambitious Kerryman says, “but the Olympics is the main long-term target, hopefully in LA in 2028.”

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