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‘If you’re in the Irish league, it’s for the love of the game’ – Boahen

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Ahead of his home debut for the Lakers, Toronto native Godwin Boahen speaks to Adam Moynihan about moving to Ireland, his goals for the season, and what he’s about to bring to the table.

Godwin, welcome to Killarney. How are you settling in so far? Is it your first time in Ireland?

Yeah, first time. So far, so good. Yes, sir. Yesterday we had that little storm, but it's been good so far.

When did you first arrive?

I've been here for two weeks now.

And what are your first impressions of the town? Have you seen much of it?

Basically, I think I've seen all of it. It's beautiful. Very spacious. And lots of greenery.

Is it much different to where you’re from?

Yeah, definitely. I'm from a city and this is a small town. I remember the first day I coached a couple of kids for the St Paul's U10 team. Later, I went out to get some dinner in town and I saw those same kids with their parents. So it's a very small town!

Can you tell me a bit about where you’re from and your background in basketball?

I grew up in Toronto, Ontario and played with a local team called the YAAACE. We had a really good AAU team and I played with a bunch of players who are in the NBA now: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Thon Maker, Oshae Brissett, Justin Jackson… I always ended up being the smallest one so I was always the point guard.

I ended up going to St Michael's College, which is a private school in Toronto. I left the private school at around 15/16 and went to St Louis Christian Academy (Missouri). That was the year that I kind of garnered a lot of interest. I ended up going to UIC (University of Illinois Chicago), where I actually had an Irish teammate: Jordan Blount. That’s my boy. I had four years at UIC. And then, right after that, COVID took over.

So how did the move to Ireland come about?

It was actually kind of crazy. I signed to go play CBA with the Edmonton Stingers and then I got my first injury of my whole life. I broke my ankle. I realised I might as well make sure I come back more than 100%, and not rush the rehab, because it was actually the best time to get hurt, if you know what I mean. Everything had shut down because of COVID.

I had a bunch of agents hit me up, and a bunch of teams showed interest. But it was like no team was willing to push the button because they didn't know if I could still do what I would have done [without the injury]. My uncle found this camp online that is run by Brad Kanis, and Brad hooked me up with St Paul’s.

You’ve played one game already. What have you made of your new teammates and the setup?

We're young but we have energy and we can use that to our advantage. I know the team is 1-5 but I feel like we could have won against Portlaoise, we just made a couple of mistakes. So based on that one game that I’ve played, I feel like we have a chance in this league. But I also understand that a lot of these players are young, and it's gonna take more than just faith to get it done.

Can you describe yourself as a player? What are you going to bring to the team?

I describe myself as “do whatever”. I’ll do whatever the coach wants me to do. I’ve played at so many different levels, and my game has had to change through all those levels. Coming here, the emphasis is on scoring. Because the team is very young, sometimes they get into droughts or it’s just not going through the hoop, so they need someone who can score. And I can do that. I see myself as someone who makes plays.

What are your personal goals for the season?

I want to win. I want to win this league. I know we’re 1-5 but I think there are 12 games left, and the top four teams go to the playoffs. Once you're in the playoffs, it's free game. My goal is to make it to the playoffs and win this league. I know this is not going to be easy. But it's not 30 games. We have 12 games. Just lock in and focus. We can do it.

And finally, just on a personal level, how happy are you to be here?

I mean, to be honest, I'm just very grateful to be in this position. Especially because of where I was last year after I graduated. If you asked me at the time, I never thought I'd be here. Because right after college, I had a deal, I had somewhere to go. But then the injury happens and then I had nowhere to go. And you're just sitting at home and you're actually thinking, am I gonna be able to play again? Am I even going to get a chance?

So I'm just grateful to be here, doing the thing that I love. I guess the injury and me taking the time away made me realise how much I really love the game. It's not like this league pays you millions of dollars or even pays you at all. Really, if you come to this league, it’s for the love of the game.

I'm excited. I'm happy. I'm grateful to be in this league and in this country. I just can't wait to get started.

National League Division 1

Scotts Lakers v Limerick Sport Eagles

Saturday at 7.30pm

Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre

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Killarney girls prepared for Munster final duel

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U16 Munster League Final

Killarney RFC v Ennis

Saturday at 1pm

LIT

The Killarney RFC U16 girls’ team are heading for Limerick today (Saturday) hoping to cap a magnificent season with a trophy.

This talented group of players, many of whom are new to the sport, have taken on all comers en route to the decider and now Ennis stand between them and provincial glory.

Even reaching the final is a great achievement for the Aghadoe-based club. Coach Diarmuid O’Malley says his charges will need to find “another level” to get over the line.

“We have seen [Ennis] play on a couple of occasions this season and what’s clear is that they have being together for many years,” O’Malley said. “We again will need to step it up to another level in order to be able to compete effectively against them.

“I look back on the success of the Limerick hurling team when they reached the All-Ireland final in 2018, not many gave them much of a chance at the time. The common theme was that “it’s a young team and their time will come”. They not only took the opportunity in 2018 but have since won three out of the last four All-Irelands.

“Finals are all about being present, patient and taking your opportunity, and not letting the occasion get to you. These girls have a great approach to everything they have done in the most challenging environment this year in the current global circumstances.

“It’s going to be one hell of a battle against a very good Ennis team and they are very much favoured to win, but nothing is beyond this capable bunch of Killarney girls.”

If Killarney are to cause an upset, their defence will be key.

“We have had a phenomenal run to get to the final and all through the journey the girls have not compromised on the quality of the rugby they are playing. The most pleasing aspect of our semifinal win against Bruff was keeping them to zero as we have put huge emphasis on our defence all season.

“We will very much approach the final versus Ennis in the same way.”

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100 days of Jack O’Connor

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Our sports editor Adam Moynihan analyses the first 100 days of Jack O’Connor’s third spell as Kerry manager.

The McGrath Cup isn’t exactly the acid test – it has been distinctly alkaline so far, truth be told – but Jack O’Connor’s feet are now firmly beneath his desk. It’s hard to believe but he has already put down his first 100 days as Kerry’s manager. I think that gives us the green light to start analysing the poor man to within an inch of his life, as is the custom in these parts.

Kerry have played just two preseason games during O’Connor’s third stint but there is still plenty to pore over. (And if there wasn’t we’d find something, says you.)

THE BEGINNING

Going back as far as Day 1, and even before that, there was significant controversy surrounding his appointment. O’Connor was officially ratified on October 4 but he appeared to publicly flirt with the idea of returning to The Kingdom on an Irish Examiner podcast in August. Some people felt that this was disrespectful to Peter Keane – Kerry had just been knocked out of the championship by Tyrone – and O’Connor later admitted that his comments were “naïve”.

However, I wouldn’t personally go along with this idea that Jack O’Connor ought to have been more mindful of Peter Keane in this situation. The two were competitors in a very competitive field and Keane was technically no longer the Kerry manager after the Tyrone defeat because his term was up. If a journalist asks Jack O’Connor if there is an “allure”, why should he lie and say there isn’t?

The interview process that followed drew sharp criticism in some quarters, particularly amongst Keane supporters, because there was a perception that O’Connor was the preferred candidate before he, Keane and Stephen Stack were interviewed. So what if he was? Complete impartiality is impossible in this kind of scenario. The candidates are known to the board, so some sort of bias is inevitable.

That doesn’t mean they were wrong to meet with Keane and Stack. If Keane was turfed out without getting the chance to make his case, his supporters would have been livid over that as well. There is no nice way to lose a job, particularly one that is as prestigious and coveted as the Kerry gig.

Off The Ball AM went one step further and, quoting an unnamed source, alleged that O’Connor had been hired even before the interview process had started. If true, that would have been a different story. That would be completely unfair and a real slap in the face for Keane and Stack and their respective teams. But the accusations were denied in the strongest terms by outgoing chair Tim Murphy, and OTB AM later apologised for their “groundless, false, and incorrect” claims.

The bottom line, when you sidestep all the politics and gossip, is that Keane was given a three-year term and Kerry were knocked out of the championship by underdogs in Years 2 and 3. No Kerry manager has ever survived such a sequence. There was appetite for change and the board acted.

Only time will tell if they made the right decision by opting for Jack O’Connor. He will be judged by his results, just like every Kerry bainisteoir before him.

LEAVING KILDARE

O’Connor faced some more understandable criticism over the manner in which he left his previous post in Kildare. From the outside looking in, it did appear as though he left them high and dry, but he subsequently explained that he hadn’t actually committed to The Lilywhites for 2022. In fact, he had “more or less” made his mind up that he would be standing aside.

“This thing that I left Kildare because I was asked to manage Kerry or that it was a done deal is absolute and total nonsense,” the Dromid man said. The commute was taking its toll and his management team had largely disbanded.

Even if he had another year with Kildare in the tank, the reality is that no Kerry-born intercounty manager is going to turn down Kerry if the opportunity arises.

CALL-UPS

Now, down to the real business of assembling a squad. Whereas previous regimes were condemned for sometimes overlooking players who were performing well for their clubs, O’Connor has taken a different approach.

Three Austin Stacks players – Dylan Casey, Jack O’Shea and Greg Horan – were drafted in on the back of the Rockies’ heroics in the County Championship. Two more of last season’s most eye-catching club players, Andrew Barry and Jack Savage, were also added to the panel.

Dan O’Donoghue and Darragh Roche both starred for East Kerry in their title-winning campaigns in 2019 and 2020. One could argue that they both might have been looked at sooner.

Elsewhere, goalkeeper Shane Murphy was recalled after being dropped by Peter Keane in 2018. Shane Ryan has done well over the past three seasons but there has been a nagging feeling in the county that Murphy and his unique attributes, particularly when kicking from the tee, might merit a recall. Clearly, Jack O’Connor is of the same mind.

There is also great excitement amongst Kerry fans surrounding the return of Stefan Okunbor. The former Geelong Cats player had made just a couple of appearances for Na Gaeil and St Brendan’s when O’Connor’s first panel was drawn up, but Okunbor was included anyway. He started at midfield in the first McGrath Cup game against Limerick and his eye-catching fetch from the throw-in left those of a green and gold persuasion rubbing their hands with glee.

THE KERRY WAY

There’s no denying that we consider ourselves to be the aristocrats of Gaelic football down here in Kerry. We demand that our senior footballers play the “Kerry way”. This “traditional” style of attack apparently includes plenty of kicking and catching, conveniently ignoring the fact that our best ever team was built around the handpass.

Nevertheless, we do enjoy a fast, direct game, and if the opening two matches in the McGrath Cup are anything to go by, Jack O’Connor intends to deliver on that front.

So far it has been an obvious tactic to get the ball into the hands of the team’s best passers – Paudie Clifford, Seán O’Shea and nominal corner back Tom O’Sullivan – and allow them to spray long, accurate passes into the full forward line.

O’Sullivan in particular appears to be operating as a free man and playmaker, taking advantage of the fact that most opponents drop an extra player back in defence.

This tactic has worked so far with Paul Geaney and Killian Spillane reaping the rewards in the opening preseason fixtures. That has certainly been encouraging. Whether or not the approach will continue to function as well when things get serious remains to be seen.

PLAYER WELFARE

One of the biggest talking points from O’Connor’s first 100 days arrived on the 100th day itself. Last Wednesday night up in Templetuohy, Co. Tipperary, Tony Brosnan and Jack Savage entered the fray as second-half substitutes. The problem? They had lined out earlier that same day for MTU Kerry in their Sigerson Cup victory over UCD. Another MTU Kerry player, Paul O’Shea, was also named on the Kerry panel, but he did not feature against Tipp.

O’Connor’s decision to play Brosnan and Savage just hours after they had finished another match in a different county was rightly called into question. After all, player welfare is a hot button topic and surely there is no shortage of footballers in the county who would be delighted to receive a call-up.

There were mitigating factors, though. Kerry were missing 14 players due to club and college commitments. Without the MTU Kerry trio, they would have travelled to Tipperary with just 20 players. While it should be possible to find replacements, even at short notice, perhaps O’Connor was keen to keep the circle small, so to speak. Particularly with Covid so rampant.

The Kerry boss also indicated that the players were left to decide for themselves if they wanted to play. You might say, well, a fella scrapping to get on the Kerry team is hardly going to say “no”, and that’s a fair enough point to make. Who knows, maybe O’Connor was testing the players to see if they were willing to go above and beyond?

Either way, it’s not something I’d like to see happening again, although in this instance there was no harm done.

GOOD VIBES

By and large, O’Connor has made popular choices up to this point and the mood on the street is positive. Victory over Cork on Saturday in front of a healthy home crowd will add to those good vibes, and with that in mind he is likely to name a strong starting lineup.

But, as the man himself knows all too well, the temperature will gradually increase over the next 100 days or so. O’Connor’s third coming will ultimately be judged in the boiling heat of championship action.

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