Eamonn Fitzgerald speaks to former Mayo footballer John Gibbons about Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final.
No Kerry v Tyrone game on Sunday due to COVID problems in Tyrone, so the focus is on Dublin and Mayo tomorrow in the All-Ireland semi-final.
It seems like an eternity since Mayo won the Sam Maguire. You have to go back to 1951, in fact, and since then they have lost finals in 1989, 1996 (after a replay), 1997, 2004, 2006, 2012, 2013, 2016 (after a replay), 2017 and 2020. There is just one member alive of that last Mayo team to win the Sam Maguire and that is the powerful Paddy Prendergast, who has been living in Tralee for over 40 years. Glad to say Paddy is alive and in good health.
Many of our readers will remember Willie McGee, the red-headed full forward who really almost single-handedly beat Kerry in an U21 All-Ireland final by scoring four goals. McGee and the stylish centre-forward John Gibbons later teamed up as the central plank of the Mayo senior attack, meeting Kerry in two NFL finals in the early seventies.
EF: John Gibbons and I were working colleagues, but in direct opposition in those finals. During the week I spoke to John in his Louisburgh home and first asked him how Mayo are coping without the injured Cillian O’Connor.
JG: Mayo have coped reasonably well without Cillian, but you cannot lose a player of his quality without seriously diminishing your forward line. He has been Mayo's star forward for years: no other Mayo forward has come close to him with his forward play, his scoring ability from play and, very importantly, his free-taking.
Free takers win All-Irelands. There is a list as long as your arm, from Tony McTeague, Jimmy Keaveney, and a longer list in Kerry alone. Think recently of Michael Murphy, Stephen Cluxton even, Dean Rock, someone who is able to score frees under the biggest pressure. That's what Mayo have lost in Cillian. Young Ryan O'Donoghue has done very well but he is untried at this level.
What of the other younger players?
Tommy Conroy has great talent and played very well in the second half against Galway, but he was anonymous in last year's All-Ireland. Darren McHale, another newcomer, was taken off at half-time against Galway. That's what you get from young players: inconsistency. They are talented but inconsistent and with only two experienced players in the forward line (Aidan O'Shea and Diarmuid O'Connor), it's expecting a lot of the young players to step up to the mark and it took the introduction of 'old-timer' Kevin McLoughlin at halftime against Galway to change the course of the game. I believe that Mayo will really miss Cillian - that will be their first real test without him.
How do you rate the new kids on the block, John?
Of the other newcomers Pádraig O'Hora at full back – provided he has recovered from a shoulder injury – is a fine prospect. He is physically strong and athletic, not afraid to tackle and break forward. He should have Lee Keegan beside him and probably Michael Plunkett in the other corner. I would expect the half back line to be Paddy Durcan, and we all know his ability, Young Player of the Year Oisín Mullen at centre back, and probably Eoghan McLaughlin or Stephen Coen at left half back. That line has the attacking potential to trouble Dublin. It's how they can handle their defensive duties against the Kilkenny, O’Callaghan, Rock – forwards and others who may well decide the match.
At midfield Mattie Ruane is developing into one of the best midfielders in the country but if the real Brian Fenton turns up, Mattie will have his hands full.
Aidan O’Shea has been a huge player for Mayo but has had a disappointing record in Croke Park, scoring so little in 6 outings. Where would you play him?
The dilemma of where to play Aidan O'Shea is a head-scratcher. I thought he had a marvellous game against Galway. His work rate is always top class and if you examine his displays, he never gets the amount of frees that he deserves. He will probably be fouled twice while in possession and yet will have a free given against him for over carrying. I would play him at full forward but I think he prefers to roam around the centre forward spot so that he's involved more in the play.
Are Dublin on the wane?
They are they still a strong force. However, if Mayo play against Dublin in the first half as they did against Galway then the game will be over by half-time regardless of whether Dublin are on the wane or not. Mayo were sloppy in the back line and gave away two sloppy goals. Their forwards in that first half were wasteful in the extreme. You won't get away with that against Dublin.
Having said that I believe Mayo will put it up to Dublin and that it will be a close encounter, as I genuinely believe they can win.
I take a different view to my friend John Gibbons. Dublin have not been beaten in six years and I expect them to continue on their way tomorrow. Yes, there are signs that they may not be as sharp as heretofore and have lost a few key players, none more influential than goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton. There was a big hullabaloo in the media that he never announced publicly that he had retired. He departed on his own terms. He owed Dublin or the GAA public nothing after a marvellous career. Fear ann féin is ea Cluxton. As far as I can recall, neither did Maurice Fitzgerald make a public announcement about his retirement.
Evan Comerford, the new Dublin keeper, is quite competent but has not yet perfected the skill of consistently finding teammate with the kickout. I wonder will Mayo press up on those kickouts. I believe they should because Dublin love to launch attacks from deep. They are superbly fit and are quite content to inter-pass and hold possession 50 yards from goal. They will not attempt Holy Mary kicks, with a high chance of failure. Hold the ball until a chink appears in the opposition’s defence and the ball is delivered to the player in the best position to score. This is usually predicated by the runner coming from deep. It could be anyone, not just running, but galloping at high speed. It may be Fenton, James McCarthy, Ciarán Kilkenny, Johnny Small, Con O’Callaghan, take your pick. Kerry folk will remember Eoin Murchan doing just that and scoring the goal that deprived us of the All-Ireland we should have won.
In the Leinster final Brian Fenton was largely invisible. He will be influential tomorrow.
For Mayo, Aidan O’Shea has to be a leader; he must lead from the front tomorrow, to inspire the young cohort playing with the big boys on the grand stage for the first time. I have been impressed by the progress of the young ones on the Mayo team and wish them well tomorrow.
Mayo bridesmaids once more? Unfortunately, I think so.
If Big Sam hates the present so much, why should we entrust him with Ireland’s future?
by Adam Moynihan
Yesterday, by complete coincidence, I consumed two pieces of media that focussed on brash, larger than life Englishmen.
For those unfamiliar with Brown’s work, “rude” is a very kind way of describing his frankly awful brand of outrageously offensive comedy. Many of his jokes cannot be repeated here but the narrator of the documentary sums him up well when he notes that, “on stage [Brown] uses themes that most other comedians discarded several decades ago”. He developed a significant following regardless, making millions of pounds off his live gigs, VHS tapes and DVDs.
I was struck by the many similarities between Allardyce and Brown, two controversial celebrities whose success has never been greeted with the acclaim they feel it deserves.
Allardyce is considered one of the leading candidates for the vacant Ireland managerial post and, when prompted by host Eoin McDevitt, he willingly threw his hat into the ring at a Second Captains live show in Dublin. The former Bolton, West Ham and England boss was initially given a warm welcome by the audience but McDevitt and co-hosts Ciarán Murphy and Ken Early subsequently pointed out that the atmosphere soured as the interview wore on.
Allardyce certainly has a tendency to rub people up the wrong way. He and Roy Chubby Brown have that in common. But that’s not where the parallels end.
Perhaps the most tangible link is both men’s aversion to foreigners. Brown frequently takes jabs at immigrants as part of his routine, while Big Sam is vociferously opposed to non-English managers and owners coming to the Premier League and, in his words, “pinching our jobs”. While Allardyce is obviously nowhere near as overtly xenophobic as Brown, that particular remark is exactly like one of Brown’s gags, albeit without the punchline.
Like Brown, Allardyce rails against modernity and refuses to accept that times change. He claims we have all been brainwashed into thinking that possession football is good in much the same way that Brown believes we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking that taking the piss out of minorities is bad.
In taking that stance, they both reveal how out of touch they are with the majority of the population. (The classic Principal Skinner line “no, it’s the children who are wrong” springs to mind.) Instead of adapting their approach and moving with the times, they remain devoutly true to their methods, however outdated the rest of the world deems them to be. Emboldened by a small cult following of Little Englanders, they lack the self-awareness to realise why they are out of favour with everyone else. And they’re not for changing.
Allardyce, who lost his England job after just 67 days due to alleged professional malpractice, favours a direct style of football. There may be a time and place for such an approach but most people prefer to watch possession-based football, and most players prefer to play it. It’s not a global conspiracy to do old-style managers like Allardyce out of a job. “Tippy tappy football”, as Big Sam calls it, is popular for a reason.
In the documentary, Brown (then 61) laments the fact that he hasn’t been on TV in 18 years. The audiences at his live shows are dwindling and the money coming in isn’t covering his expenditure. But, of course, he and his material are not to blame. Society is the problem.
(The Middlesbrough native is still performing, incidentally, although earlier this year a number of his shows were cancelled. His manager accused venues of “bowing to the woke/snowflake pressure”.)
Allardyce’s best days are more than likely behind him too. His career peaked in the mid-2000s when he brought Bolton all the way to Europe. That was a fantastic achievement but in football terms it’s a lifetime ago.
As I reflected on the interview and the documentary, it occurred to me that giving the Ireland job to Sam Allardyce would, in a way, be like giving The Late Late Show job to Roy Chubby Brown. What message would that put out? What values would it promote?
More importantly, why should we entrust the future of Irish football to someone who clearly despises the modern game?
If that’s how he feels about the present, imagine how he’ll feel about whatever comes next.
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.
Killarney and District Motor Club members honoured by Motorsport Ireland
By Cormac Casey Several members of Killarney and District Motor Club were honoured at the Motorsport Ireland awards lunch in...
Kerry Mental Health and Wellbeing Fest ‘thank you’ event at Brehon
Participation in the 2023 Kerry Mental Health and Wellbeing Fest has grown by more than 100% since 2020 with 98%...
Killarney Coffee Cup project goes back to school
Students from St Brigid’s Killarney recently attended a workshop in Killarney House hosted by the Killarney Coffee Cup project. The...
kerry Active Retirement teams take top prizes at National Bowls Competition
Members of two Kerry Active Retirement bowls teams have taken out top prizes at the 2023 Active Retirement Ireland National...
The Biggest Disco returns to INEC
Following the success of its arena tour in UK and Ireland, The Biggest Disco will be returning to Gleneagle...