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It’s the dreaded ‘Year 3’ that Keane needs to worry about

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Peter Keane is facing a revolt. That’s the latest from my ever-reliable, ever-anonymous source on WhatsApp. He didn’t let me down when he told me that the army were about to roll through the streets of Killarney in armoured tanks to enforce the lockdown, so why should I doubt him now?

In the real world, current and former players have confirmed, in no uncertain terms, that the rumours of an uprising are false.

Peter Keane is probably fielding some tough questions at the moment, though, both from below and from above. The nature of the Cork defeat means that everything must be on the table for discussion, and the players and the county board wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they weren’t searching for solutions.

But realistically Keane’s job was never truly in danger this year. For all the talk of how ruthless and how demanding we are down here, you’d swear we get through managers like Real Madrid, and that Florentino Pérez, not Tim Murphy, was the chairman of the Kerry County Board.

The fact of the matter is that Kerry don’t really sack managers, and the history books back that up.

WALKING AWAY

If we work backwards starting with Keane’s predecessor, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, he resigned in 2018 with two years remaining on his contract. Before that, Jack O’Connor stepped down in 2012 despite having a year to go, Pat O’Shea walked away in 2009 of his own accord, and O’Connor ended his first reign voluntarily after leading Kerry to the All-Ireland in 2006.

Although Fitzmaurice was facing scrutiny following Kerry’s poor showing in the 2018 Super 8s, there is nothing to indicate that the county board were keen on replacing him. They explicitly wanted O’Connor (both times) and O’Shea to stay on.

Things famously got very sour towards the end of Páidí Ó Sé’s tenure, but technically the outspoken bainisteoir was not fired.

While it is true that Ó Sé wanted to stay on for the 2004 season, and it is also true that Kerry GAA didn’t want that to happen, his contract was up at the end of ‘03 anyway. After three years without an All-Ireland and the “roughest type of f***ing animals” comment, which was made during the team holiday in South Africa in January of that year, Ó Sé’s approval rating was low. Kerry GAA decided against offering him a new deal, which is different to sacking him.

A technicality, perhaps, but a point worth noting nevertheless.

UNLUCKY NO. 3

Incidentally, as Páidí found out, ‘three’ is a bit of cursed number for Kerry managers in general.

If an All-Ireland isn’t secured by the end of year three, the writing is invariably on the wall.

Not even the great Micko was immune to it. After three below-par years without winning football’s biggest prize (1987-89), he resigned.

Mickey Ned O’Sullivan took over from O’Dwyer for the 1990 campaign and after a disappointing three-year period, which culminated in the shock defeat to Clare in 1992, he called it a day. Another O’Dwyer protégé, Ogie Moran, got the job in 1993 and he also lasted three years before stepping aside, allowing his former teammate Páidí Ó Sé to take over for 1996.

Páidí secured his first All-Ireland as manager in 1997 (his second year) and his second in 2000 (three years later). As soon as he went three straight years without securing the Holy Grail (2001-2003), he was gone.

Each of the next three managers brought Sam home at the first attempt (O’Connor in 2004 and 2009, and O’Shea in 2007), but when O’Connor went three years without an All-Ireland (2010-2012), he resigned.

His successor, Eamonn Fitzmaurice, won his first All-Ireland in 2014 (his second year) and then did what no other Kerry manager had done in half a century. After going three years without an All-Ireland (2015-2017), he stayed on for another crack of the whip in 2018. That was supposed to be the last year of his contract but he secured a two-year extension before his final year had even begun. This new deal would have kept Fitzmaurice in charge right up to the end of the current season.

He made it past the three-year mark alright but there was tension in the air throughout that fourth one. The Finuge man quit at the end of 2018, saying that he had become a "lightning rod" for "negativity and criticism".

So, what does this all mean for Peter Keane? Well, as disappointingly as 2020 turned out, his head was never really on the chopping block. But history suggests that in this part of the world, it's do or die in Year 3.

If another 12 months pass by without Sam Maguire making his long-awaited return, that salacious WhatsApp gossip about job security could enter the realm of reality.

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Crokes hurlers set for senior championship bow

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Sunday will be a momentous day for Dr Crokes GAA as the club’s hurlers are set to participate in the Kerry Senior Hurling Championship for the first time.

The Crokes famously won the Intermediate in 2020 and after exercising their right to graduate to the top level, they now face into the daunting task of negotiating the rough and tumble of the top tier.

The Killarney club will take on four-time champions Abbeydorney in their first Group 1 pool game, with throw-in at Austin Stack Park at 1.30pm. O’Dorney are sure to provide a stern test; they reached the last four of last year’s competition before exiting at the hands of eventual winners Kilmoyley.

Two teams from each of the three groups of three will progress to the knockout phase.

Crokes will be hoping that the likes of Kerry senior Michael Lenihan and his brother Jack can lead the way on Sunday, while Kerry U20 footballer and accomplished soccer player Tom Doyle is also considered to be a real talent.

Elsewhere in the Kerry SHC, champions Kilmoyley will get the defence of their title up and running against Ballyheigue tonight at 7.30pm, and last year’s beaten finalists Causeway will do battle with St Brendan’s on Saturday at 7pm.

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Neighbours Spa and Crokes vying for Division 1 final

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Killarney rivals Spa and Dr Crokes will face off in Round 5 of the Kerry Senior Football League on Saturday with the winners advancing to the Division 1 league final. The match will take place in Lewis Road at 5pm.

Crokes currently lead the way in Division 1A with seven points from four matches, with Spa one point behind having won two, drawn one and lost one of their four fixtures to date. The new competition structure, which was devised to reduce the amount of games and travel required for all teams involved, sees the top team from each pool (1A and 1B) meet in the decider.

In the other pot, Kerin’s O’Rahilly’s are favourites to finish first as they currently sit on top of the pile with seven points. The Killarney Legion are still in contention – they find themselves just one point behind in second – but Rahilly’s will fancy themselves to win their final group phase match against bottom-of-the-table Beaufort. Legion travel back west to play An Ghaeltacht in Gallarus.

Beaufort have already been relegated to Division 2 for 2022 on the back of four consecutive defeats and they will be joined in D2 by the bottom-placed team in Division 1A. Kilcummin currently occupy that position but they can claw their way out of danger with a final day victory over Austin Stacks.

The second-from-bottom team in each pool will also meet in a playoff to decide the third and final team to be relegated to Division 2. These places will go down to the wire with John Mitchels and Stacks in the firing line in 1A and Rathmore, Kenmare Shamrocks and An Ghaeltacht all potential candidates in 1B.

DIVISION 2

In the second division, Castleisland Desmonds can secure their promotion back to the top table by defeating Na Gaeil in their final fixture, thereby securing top spot in Division 2A. It’s all to play for in 2B as Templenoe, Gneeveguilla and Ballymacelligott are joint top on six points apiece.

The runners-up in both pools will also play each other to decide the third team to be promoted with Glenbeigh-Glencar and St Mary’s in contention in 2A. They will duke it out for that final spot when they meet in Glenbeigh on Saturday; in fact, the winners will secure automatic promotion if Desmonds lose to Na Gaeil in Tralee.

The Dr Crokes B team are currently facing the chop as they sit bottom of 2A on zero points, but they can avoid automatic relegation by beating the team directly above them (Ballydonoghue) away from home on Sunday. Listry can do likewise in 2B if they can get the better of Dromid Pearses in Listry. If Crokes and Listry do the needful, they will meet in a relegation playoff to see who will retain their Division 2 status.

Churchill and Listowel lead the way in Division 3A with Laune Rangers, Milltown/Castlemaine and Brosna in the running in 3B. Glenflesk are safe but the same cannot be said of Currow, who will need to defeat St Senan’s to have any hope of avoiding the drop.

Firies are in pole position in Division 4A with Renard and then Fossa gunning for top spot in 4B. Stacks B and Cordal are in pole position in Divisions 5A and 5B, and it’s all to play for in Division 6 as the B teams of Dingle, Firies, Fossa, Kenmare, Glenflesk and Rathmore, as well as the Dr Crokes C team and Tuosist, are all still in the mix for promotion.

Full fixture list and tables can be found on the Kerry GAA website and across the Kerry GAA social media channels.

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