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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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It’s tip-off time for new-look Lakers

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National League Division 1

Scotts Lakers v Limerick Sport Eagles

Saturday at 7.30pm

Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre

The 2022/23 National League tips off on Saturday evening and the Scotts Lakers will be hoping to get their campaign off to a flyer at home to the Limerick Sport Eagles.

The Lakers narrowly missed out on a playoff berth last time around, mainly due to a disappointing start to the season. Playing their first four home games at alternative venues probably didn’t help; the Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre was being used as a makeshift vaccination centre at the time. That’s all ancient history now, thankfully.

With that in mind, a fast start will be a priority, beginning with the visit of the Eagles this weekend.

ROSTER

It’s always difficult to tell until at least a few matches have been played but head coach Jarlath Lee appears to have made some good moves during the off-season.

Godwin Boahen will be missed but Dutch point guard Esebio Strijdhaftig has come in as a replacement, and Ukrainian big man Dmytro Berozkin – all 6’10” of him – has also come on board.

American shooter Eric Cooper Jr’s time here was brief; he has moved on already with Indiana native Jack Ferguson filling his shoes. Just like former laker Seán O’Brien, Ferguson played college ball with Colgate University.

The Lakers have retained the services of Portuguese player Rui Saravia, a skilled passer who has settled in nicely.

Just as essential as the imports are the local players who make up the majority of the squad. Mark O’Shea and Paul Clarke are important figures in the squad, although their involvement is likely to be curtailed by football commitments for the time being.

Youngsters Jamie O’Sullivan, Senan O’Leary and David Gleeson could well see more game time this season after exhibiting great promise in 2021/22, and other St Paul’s graduates like Mark Sheahan, Jack O’Sullivan and Eoin Carroll will also play their part.

A player to keep a close eye on is Ronan Collins, a Gneeveguilla native who has represented Ireland with distinction at underage level.

The club will be hoping for a healthy turnout for their season opener.

Meanwhile, the Lakers’ crosstown rivals the Killarney Cougars have an away fixture to get things started. They take on SETU Carlow (formerly IT Carlow) at the Barrow Centre on Saturday evening.

WOMEN’S LEAGUE

The St Paul’s women’s team (who are back in the National League for the first time since 2012) are also ready for their opening match of the new campaign. They travel to Kilkenny to take on the Marble City Hawks on Saturday at 7pm.

The team is managed by well-known local coach James Fleming and will be backboned by Killarney players like Lynn Jones, Rheanne O’Shea, Cassandra Buckley and current Ireland U16 international Leah McMahon.

Canadian Sophia Paska (formerly of the Limerick Celtics) and American Yuleska Ramirez Tejeda (ex-Limerick Sport Huskies) will add some recent league experience to the squad.

Paul’s first home game of the 2022/23 season will come next Saturday, October 8 against the Celtics.

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Adam Moynihan: Culture of lawlessness is partly to blame for GAA violence

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Why are so many GAA matches turning violent and/or abusive to the point that they need to be abandoned?

In Kerry, two underage fixtures had to be called off this past month alone. One, an U11 hurling game in which scores weren’t even being kept, was ended prematurely by the referee who was apparently on the receiving end of persistent verbal abuse. Another, an U15 football match in Kilcummin, came to a halt after a Cordal mentor was allegedly physically assaulted. The man in question ended up in hospital.

The spate of violence has not been confined to Kerry. Far from it. Matches in Roscommon, Wexford and Mayo have also been blighted by attacks on match officials. And some referees are rightly saying, “no more”. After a ref was attacked at a minor game in Roscommon last month, referees across the county briefly went on strike in solidarity.

If GAA officials are not concerned about the same thing happening again, quite conceivably on a wider scale, they should be.

Where does it all come from, this abuse and this violence? Why is it so prevalent in Gaelic games?

While it’s true that there is invariably a negative public reaction to instances of violence at GAA matches, I actually think a significant percentage of stakeholders are too accepting of it as a phenomenon.

Take the Armagh-Galway incident from this past summer for example. When Armagh sub Tiernan Kelly waded into a melee and gouged Damien Comer’s eye, the video footage enraged the vast majority of people who saw it. Kelly was widely condemned for his actions, even by outsiders like media personalities and politicians.

But then came the counter-reaction from within GAA circles. They said that Kelly was being vilified. The response was over the top. He was a good guy who simply made a mistake. These things happen.

As a GAA lover I personally can’t stand it when people who don’t follow the sport weigh in on these issues (politicians especially) but, for me, most of what was initially said about Kelly was justified. Sticking your finger in someone’s eye doesn’t just happen. It’s a despicable act of violence. In the end he got a six-month ban, meaning he misses a grand total of zero intercounty matches. Does that punishment fit the crime?

Surely a stronger message needs to be issued that people who engage in violence are not welcome.

When it comes to anyone entering the field of play – be they a supporter, mentor or some kind of hanger-on – and physically assaulting a referee or a player or another coach, they must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms. I’m talking about lifetime bans.

As a further deterrent, clubs and teams who fail to control their members should be punished appropriately. This should include expulsion from competitions for repeat offenders. As long as violent individuals are getting away lightly thanks to disciplinary action that doesn’t go far enough, these things will continue to happen.

GAA rule-makers have to get serious about the scourge of violence before referees pull the plug. Or before someone gets severely injured. Or worse.

I can’t help but feel as though our broadly lax attitude towards the laws of the game is a significant factor also. I’ve written this sentence on numerous occasions before so you may be sick of reading it, but I’ll stop saying it when it stops being true: so many rules in the GAA are so poorly enforced, you wonder why they bothered writing them down in the first place.

You have to hop or solo after four steps, but you can get away with seven or eight. You have to wear a gumshield, but you can tuck it into your sock. You have to be 13 metres away from the referee when he throws in a hop ball, but two metres will do. Managers have to stay off the pitch, but five yards over the line is grand. You have to make a clear striking motion when executing a handpass in hurling, but you can throw it too.

Whatever suits.

There is a culture of lawlessness in Gaelic football and hurling that I don’t think exists in any other sports of their kind.

It makes the games impossible to referee “properly” because every participant and observer has their own interpretation of what’s allowed. The referee can’t be right in everyone’s eyes if the rules have multiple nebulous interpretations.

So, with that in mind, should we be surprised that referees are getting it from all angles? Is it any wonder that people who should never even dream of entering the field of play feel as though they can?

Handing down proper punishments for violent attacks is really important but we must also have far more respect for the rules on a wider scale. No more half measures.

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