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Gold Cup evokes great memories for the people of Killarney



by Eamonn Fitzgerald

Cheltenham will hold centre stage next week. Even people who say they have no interest in sport are enthused by the Aintree Grand National and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Celebrating St Patrick’s day, our national feast day, is special worldwide for parades such as the big one in Dublin and the marvellous effort here locally in Killarney, with a parade the centrepiece of a wonderful programme of events.

The Gold Cup evokes so many memories of Irish spirits raised as Florida Pearl, Forget Me Not, Beef or Salmon and so many more lifted the treasure of National Hunt racing, An Corn Óir.

Look no further than 2002, 2003 and 2004 and Killarney’s outstanding jockey Jim Culloty charging up that Cheltenham hill to victory. Those were famous years for the local followers of the equine stakes. Three years in a row by the outstanding Lewis Road jockey. Best Mate won his third Gold Cup in 2004, becoming the first horse since Arkle 40 years earlier to seal the treble.

Trained by Henrietta Knight and ridden by Culloty, the horse ran in the claret and blue colours of Aston Villa. No doubt Jim’s mother Maureen will be following all the action at Cheltenham from her home in Killarney.

I suppose it was a longshot for Jack Kennedy to be fit to ride in this year’s big race. The Dingle jockey has not fully recovered from a broken leg sustained early last January. Disappointment for the 23-year-old Dingle man, so it looks like 43-year-old Davy Russell will take his place.


Move just a few miles down the road on our bothairín na smaoite from Moss Keane’s Currow to Castleisland and, more specifically, the Latin Quarter of same for memories of one of the greatest sports writers of all to come rolling back to us.

Con Houlihan was different and what’s more he made a difference in sports journalism. Not for him the blow-by-blow account of who scored what and how many minutes were left in the contest. He saw the bigger picture. He ever went into a press box in his life, be it Croke Park, Fitzgerald Stadium, Cheltenham, Harold’s Cross, Lansdowne Road, Old Trafford, or wherever there was a sporting contest. He wanted to be among the plain people of Ireland, savouring how much sport meant to them.

Who can ever forget Con’s take on his annual trips to the Cotswold Hills to be among the plebs with the ham sandwiches wrapped in the racing pages of the newspapers - in stark contrast to the well-heeled ‘beef or salmon’ upper classes.

However, when Killarney’s own Jim Culloty coaxed Best Mate for more coming up that hill, the Irish roar and the mini-tricolours signalled supremacy for the small nation over the best from the British Empire. A win over the auld enemy is special in any sport. Big Con reported from Cheltenham as follows:

“When Arkle stormed up the hill to his first Gold Cup, few of his myriad admirers realised that nibs of snow had started to come with the wind; yesterday it was very cold in the Cotswolds but in retrospect most of those who were on Cheltenham’s racecourse will remember the time between about half past three and four o’clock as a fragment of Summer. Such was the enormous outburst of emotion that for a little while the thin wind seemed not to matter. And no doubt there are decent men and women who will dip into their imaginations at some distant date and say that they were there – and they will be right.”

Con died in 2012 and I had the privilege of a two-hour visit with him at St James’ Hospital, Dublin a very short time before he died.

What a wonderful report he would have had in 2022 when Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the 182-year history of the race. She also became the first woman to be leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival with six victories, including the Champion Hurdle on Honeysuckle, in 2021.

The following year she became the first female jockey to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard A Plus Tard for Henry de Bromhead.



Opponent gets 10-match ban for using discriminatory language towards Kerry player



A rival player has been suspended for using discriminatory language in a match against Kerry FC, the League of Ireland has confirmed.

The FAI’s Independent Disciplinary Committee handed Harry Curtis of UCD a 10-match ban for the offence, which took place during the game between the two sides in Mounthawk Park, Tralee last week.

Curtis was sent off in injury time. UCD won the game 2-1.

“An Independent Disciplinary Committee of the FAI has sanctioned UCD AFC player Harry Curtis for using discriminatory language towards a Kerry FC player in the SSE Airtricity Men’s First Division fixture on 10 May 2024,” a League of Ireland statement read.

“The FAI and League of Ireland maintains a strict zero tolerance approach towards any act of discrimination and are committed to ensuring that League of Ireland matches remain a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.

“In accordance with FIFA Regulations and the FAI Disciplinary Regulations, Harry Curits will serve a 10-match suspension. Please note the decision of the Independent Disciplinary Committee may be appealed.”

Kerry FC issued the following statement welcoming the ban: “We condemn discrimination in football and are constantly working to kick it out of the game.

“Mounthawk Park and Kerry FC is a community where everyone is welcome regardless of race, ethnicity, and other diverse backgrounds.

“We would like to thank the Independent Disciplinary Committee in the FAI for their continued efforts and dedication to keeping discrimination out of the game.”

Last week Dundalk goalkeeper George Shelvey was also suspended for 10 games for abusing referee Rob Harvey.

Kerry FC were also involved in two alleged cases of racial abuse last season. In September, they claimed a Longford Town player aimed a “racial remark” at one of their players. The matter was referred to An Garda Síochána.

Earlier in the 2023 season, Kerry released a statement condemning racist online comments that had been made about the black players in their squad.

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TEAM NEWS: Kerry and Monaghan name starting 15s for Killarney showdown



All-Ireland SFC Group 4

Kerry v Monaghan

Saturday 3pm

Fitzgerald Stadium

Live on GAAGO

Jack O’Connor has rewarded Munster final Man of the Match Tony Brosnan with a spot in Kerry’s starting 15 for Saturday’s All-Ireland group phase opener against Monaghan.

Brosnan kicked three points from play a fortnight ago and he retains his place in a forward division that also includes Dara Moynihan, Paudie Clifford, Seánie O’Shea, David Clifford and the recalled Paul Geaney.

Dingle veteran Geaney starts in place of youngster Cillian Burke, who drops to the bench.

Shane Ryan returns in goal instead of Shane Murphy while the back six and midfield remain unchanged from the seven-point victory in Ennis.

Graham O’Sullivan is a notable absentee from the matchday 26. The Dromid defender’s groin injury was described by O’Connor as “minor” after the Clare game, which O’Sullivan also missed.

Monaghan manager Vinny Corey has also named his side for tomorrow’s Sam Maguire encounter at the Fitzgerald Stadium and he has made five changes from the Farney Army’s last outing (the Ulster preliminary round defeat to Cavan on April 7).

Four of those switches come in attack as Stephen O’Hanlon, Micheál Bannigan, Michael Hammill and Seán Jones replace Garland, Irwin, Loughran and McCarron.

Experienced midfielder Darren Hughes, who was forced off with a knee injury in that match in Clones six weeks ago, is unavailable and is replaced by Micheál McCarville.

Rory Beggan starts in goal after a potential move to the Carolina Panthers in the NFL did not materialise. Talismanic forward Conor McManus will wear the number 15 jersey.

The last time these teams met was in the league at St Tiernach’s Park in February. Kerry prevailed on a scoreline of 3-15 to 1-12.

Tickets for Kerry v Monaghan can be purchased here for €25. Three-match bundles for the entire group stage are also available for €50.

The match will not be televised but it will be streamed on GAAGO.


1. Shane Ryan

2. Paul Murphy

3. Jason Foley

4. Tom O’Sullivan

5. Brian Ó Beaglaoich

6. Tadhg Morley

7. Gavin White

8. Diarmuid O’Connor

9. Joe O’Connor

10. Tony Brosnan

11. Paudie Clifford

12. Dara Moynihan

13. David Clifford

14. Seánie O’Shea

15. Paul Geaney

Subs: Shane Murphy, Cillian Burke, Seán O’Brien, Adrian Spillane, Barry Dan O’Sullivan, Dylan Casey, Stephen O’Brien, Mike Breen, Killian Spillane, Darragh Roche, Armin Heinrich.


1. Rory Beggan

2. Ryan Wylie

3. Kieran Duffy

4. Ryan O’Toole

5. Karl O’Connell

6. Killian Lavelle

7. Conor McCarthy

8. Gary Mohan

9. Micheál McCarville

10. Stephen O’Hanlon

11. Micheál Bannigan

12. Michael Hamill

13. Ciarán McNulty

14. Seán Jones

15. Conor McManus

Subs: Darren McDonnell, Jack McCarron, Stephen Mooney, Dessie Ward, Ryan McAnespie, David Garland, Jason Irwin, Andrew Woods, Barry McBennett, Joel Wilson, Thomas McPhillips.

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