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Kerry clubs at odds over controversial Parish Rule



In simple terms, Rule 20 (aka the Parish Rule) states that a player must play for a GAA club in the parish where they live.

It was introduced decades ago as a means of safeguarding smaller clubs; it prevents “ambitious” players from transferring to bigger, more successful teams, thereby ensuring that the smaller teams have enough players to stay alive.

Ironically, over time, the rule began to benefit the larger town clubs. As young country families moved into towns like Killarney for work, their children, in accordance with the Parish Rule and irrespective of their mother or father’s allegiances, had to line out with one of the parish’s three clubs, namely Dr Crokes, Legion or Spa.

The rule appears to be taken more seriously in Kerry than in other counties (notably Dublin and Cork) but even here it has not always been strictly enforced. In some parts of Kerry, neighbouring clubs agree to share a common area (not in line with parish boundaries) from where they can both draw players. Some clubs simply turn a blind eye to the rule altogether. When it boils down to it, a player is unlikely to run into trouble unless there is an objection, which, if it comes, invariably comes from a club in the “new” parish where the child’s family now reside.

One of the most famous cases arose a decade ago when a local couple took matters to the High Court after Firies objected to their two sons lining out for Listry on the basis that the family lived in Firies parish. The fact that the boys attended primary school in Listry and that their home was 1.4 miles away from Listry’s pitch and 7.2 miles away from Farranfore was irrelevant according to the rulebook. The matter was ultimately left to the county convention to decide, and clubs voted 59-23 against giving the O’Sullivans a derogation (i.e. an exemption from the rule).


Now, the issue is becoming a major problem in the Killarney area. With suitable, affordable housing difficult to come by in Killarney town, many young families have decided to settle in satellite parishes like Kilcummin, Fossa and Firies, among others. These parents often have strong personal and familial ties to their own GAA club, and they want their children to follow in their footsteps. However, by the letter of the law, unless the child has represented their town club at under 12 level or above (i.e. if the family relocated after that point), they must line out for the club in their new parish.

The Parish Rule, which was initially brought in to help rural clubs, and then, for a time, helped town clubs, now appears to be benefitting “satellite” clubs more than most.

To the uninitiated, it might not seem like a big deal. The child has a club to play for regardless and surely that’s the most important thing. Some parents do see it that way. But to some dyed-in-the-wool GAA men or women, the thought of their child playing for another club is anathema. There have been instances where the family have said, “it’s our club or no club at all,” and the child has been lost to other sports as a result.

One father who has been confronted with this prospect says the idea of his son lining out in different colours is “upsetting” and “unthinkable”.

“It’s hugely important to me that he plays for my club. The GAA is built on tradition. I played for the club, his family are all involved, and then he’s told he can’t play for the club because of where he lives? Mind-boggling is how I’d describe it.”

There is an even greater concern within Killarney GAA circles that the current trend of losing families to out-migration could eventually lead to a stark new reality; one where there aren’t enough players to sustain all three clubs in the town.

This imagined future isn’t the stuff of science fiction. Current vice-treasurer of Kerry GAA Joe Crowley communicated this very point to local clubs as part of his role as chairman of the parish rule and player registration committee.

It’s a possibility that newly-appointed Dr Crokes chairman Matt O’Neill is fully aware of. Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, he said that the Parish Rule, though good in nature, is causing “difficulties”.

“First of all, I think the Parish Rule is the way to go,” he clarified. “It’s a good rule and as a club we would be in agreement with the full application of it. But it is presenting certain difficulties.

“With rural depopulation, some clubs, particularly in South Kerry, are having difficulties putting underage teams together, which is a pity. [The day after this interview was conducted, it emerged that Valentia Young Islanders were officially looking for a club that would consider an amalgamation at senior level.]

“I think for the likes of Killarney, it’s going to be problematic for the three clubs here in the future because new families are not going to be able to afford to live in the town. It’s already happening. The houses that are coming on the market are going to older people coming here to retire, and people buying for hospitality. Airbnb and things like that. It’s very difficult for young people to buy in the town, and if you don’t have young people living in the town, you’re not going to have children to play with the clubs.

“They’re moving out to the satellite towns and villages and those clubs are picking up a lot of extra young families.

“Killarney is going to find it difficult to service three clubs in the future. That’s the way I see it going.

“It’s going to be a problem down the road, both for rural Ireland and the bigger towns like Killarney. The satellite towns and villages are expanding at a big rate so they’re the beneficiaries of it.”

When it comes to the parents and children involved, O’Neill says it can be hard for them to, effectively, change clubs.

“There are people who can’t live in Killarney so they move slightly outside of town, and they would dearly like their children to play for a Killarney club. Similar situations have happened in Tralee, and the reverse has also happened: people have moved into a larger town looking for work, and they would like their children to play for their home club. There have been a number of cases where derogation has been sought to allow that to happen. The place where the people are living want to hold onto them, and rightly so.

“If there’s somebody who has had a history with the Crokes, for example, and they want the child to play for Crokes, and they have a case, you would like to support them. But the rule is the rule and, at the end of the day, you’ve got to abide by that if you want to play. That’s the game. It can be a bit tough for some people to accept.”


Meanwhile, the clubs in the satellite parishes rightly say that they are merely asking for a rule to be enforced. Although rival clubs might not be happy about the situation, they seem to fully accept that the likes of Fossa, Firies and Kilcummin, for example, are well within their rights to flag players who might be playing for the “wrong” team.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, Fossa secretary Merry Talbot accepted that objections pertaining to the Parish Rule were causing conflict between local clubs, but he added that “Fossa aren’t breaking the rules”.

“This isn’t a rule that Fossa dreamed up. It was brought in as a mechanism to preserve and protect the community spirit of the GAA. Is it the best mechanism? We don’t know. Does it suit everybody? Of course it doesn’t. But it is a mechanism to do that. You would imagine that the smaller club would lose out if it was removed.

“There are people who say the Parish Rule is outdated but give us another mechanism to protect the smaller clubs, something that will stop the better players migrating to the bigger clubs.

“There have been motions to change it or get rid of it and, each year, it’s defeated. The rural clubs would be very much in favour of it. For Fossa, it’s important to try and maintain the Parish Rule. That’s the view the club takes.

“Fossa is bordering Killarney town, which has a couple of big clubs. If there was no Parish Rule and you [an outsider] moved to Fossa and were looking to get your son playing – maybe you were a good footballer yourself – it might sway your decision [to join a bigger club].

“Fossa have many players who are living in other parishes and their kids have to play with those other clubs. It works both ways.

“70% of our membership are non-native, coming from other parts of the county or other counties. If we didn’t protect the club [by using the Parish Rule], would there be many of them playing in town? You’d have to wonder.”

Local club officers seem to agree on one thing (if nothing else): finding a resolution that will satisfy everyone is impossible.

One prospective path forward that has been suggested in the past, and one that appears to be favoured by the town clubs, is a relaxation of the current rule that would allow children to play for the club of their mother or father. This rule has technically been okayed by Croke Park but it must be passed at county convention before coming into effect here in Kerry. However, when Dromid Pearses, a small, rural club in South Kerry, tabled this motion in 2018, it was soundly defeated.

The fact that it was Dromid and not, say, Austin Stacks or Dr Crokes, who put forward this amendment seems to indicate that smaller clubs might be agreeable to a “parent rule” as it could lead to the children of former players coming home, as it were, to the clubs of their forefathers.

The problem lies in getting it passed at county convention by club delegates who have a reputation for favouring tradition over innovation. After a club forum in 2017, Kerry GAA chairman Tim Murphy stated that the Parish Rule is “sacrosanct for clubs and they want it to stay”, although he also said that perhaps it could be tweaked if doing so would benefit small clubs.

Meanwhile, clubs in satellite parishes, who are currently experiencing a boom-time after many years in the shade of their more illustrious neighbours, will rail against any changes whatsoever. And why wouldn’t they?

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Paudie Clifford returns and scores wondergoal as Kerry dismantle Monaghan



Adam Moynihan reports from the Fitzgerald Stadium

National League Division 1

Kerry 3-16 Monaghan 0-14

HT: Kerry 0-10 Monaghan 0-6

A spectacular second-half goal by surprise inclusion Paudie Clifford helped Kerry to an impressive 11-point over Monaghan in Killarney this afternoon.

The All-Star forward wasn’t named on the initial panel of 27 but when his name was called out as No. 26 before the game, a loud cheer rang out around the O’Sullivan Stand. Kerry fans had to wait until the 46th minute to see the Fossa captain make his first appearance of the season but it didn’t take him long to make his mark.

After soloing all of 80 metres, the elder Clifford dispatched a perfect finish beyond the reach of Rory Beggan to send Kerry nine points clear with 51 minutes on the clock.

In truth the game was drifting away from Monaghan before Clifford’s cameo but his sensational contribution made absolutely certain.

With two points on the board and David Clifford and Seánie O’Shea waiting in the wings ahead of Mayo away in two weeks’ time, Kerry manager Jack O’Connor will be a happy man leaving Killarney this evening.


Monaghan stayed in touch with Kerry for the first quarter, thanks in the main to a string of needless fouls that gifted the away team some easy scores.

Conor McCarthy broke the deadlock with one such free in the 6th minute and Tony Brosnan got Kerry off the mark two minutes later with a placed ball of his own.

The reliable Dessie Ward and Kerry’s bustling full forward Darragh Roche exchanged scores before Micheál Bannigan tapped over a free to re-establish the Farney’s early lead.

Kerry then went on a mini-run, instigated by a neat team move that saw Tony Brosnan and Micheál Burns combine to tee up the excellent Tom O’Sullivan for a close-in score.

Good work by Barry Dan O’Sullivan from a hop ball led to another Brosnan free, and then a high, skyscraper of a point from the stand side into the scoreboard end by Donal Down O’Sullivan gave the hosts a two-point lead.

However, two more avoidable fouls handed Monaghan’s free-takers McCarthy and Bannigan a point apiece and midway through the first half, the scores were level at 0-5 each.

The Kingdom finally began to inject some pace into proceedings in the second quarter with Dara Moynihan and Micheál Burns especially active. The All-Ireland champions scored five of the next six points with Roche, Brosnan (free), Moynihan, Donal Down O’Sullivan and Burns all hitting the target.

A tasty individual effort by Monaghan’s best forward, Conor McCarthy, left the scores at 0-10 to 0-6 at the break.


Monaghan’s good work in the first half was rather quickly undone in the second as Kerry exerted their dominance in all sectors. By the time Darragh Roche evaded Beggan and goaled in the 39th minute, the home side led by eight (1-12 to 0-7) and the result already appeared to be beyond question.

In fairness to Vinney Corey’s charges, they rattled off three unanswered points over the next 10 minutes – and they would have scored a goal but for a great save by Shane Murphy – but then Clifford’s introduction set the tone for the remainder.

Adrian Spillane’s goalbound effort was tipped over in the 49th minute (Spillane was the last of Kerry’s six forwards to score) and then Clifford gathered the ball inside his own 65, sprinted straight for goal, and finished emphatically to make it 2-13 to 0-10.

Things got worse for Monaghan four minutes later when Ryan O’Toole saw red for a high tackle on Stefan Okunbor. In the next attack, Tom O’Sullivan sauntered forward to drive a trademark outside-of-the-boot shot between the uprights and Kerry led by double scores (2-14 to 0-10).

Stephen O’Hanlon was one of Monaghan’s shining lights and he scored two of his three points in the final quarter, but they counted for little when all was said and done.

TG4’s Man of the Match Donal Down O’Sullivan capped a fine full debut with a nice goal in stoppage time as Kerry picked up their first league win of the season.

KERRY: S Murphy; G O’Sullivan, J Foley, T O’Sullivan (0-2); P Warren, T Morley, P Murphy; J Barry, BD O’Sullivan; M Burns (0-1), D Moynihan (0-1), A Spillane (0-1); T Brosnan (0-4f), D Roche (1-2), D O’Sullivan (1-3).

Subs: P Clifford (1-1) for Moynihan; S Okunbor for BD O’Sullivan; K Spillane (0-1m) for Roche, G Horan for Warren; R Murphy for A Spillane.

MONAGHAN: R Beggan; T McPhillips, K Duffy (0-1), R Wylie; C Boyle, D Ward (0-1), K Loughran; K  Lavelle, C Lennon; S O’Hanlon (0-3), M Bannigan (0-3, 2f), J Wilson; C McCarthy (0-5, 4f), K Gallagher (0-1), S Carey.

Subs: D Treanor for Lennon; G Mohan for Wilson; T McPhillips for Lavelle; S Jones for Carey; S Slevin for Wylie.

Attendance: 10,232

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Handball continues to shine in Killarney

By Con Dennehy Handball in the Killarney region can look back at 2022 as a year of continued progress, the promotion of handball in East Kerry and the introduction of […]



By Con Dennehy

Handball in the Killarney region can look back at 2022 as a year of continued progress, the promotion of handball in East Kerry and the introduction of the sport to a new generation.

It has been a phenomenal and successful year for the Spa Killarney Club. At the Annual General Meeting of the club this week, one of the highlights of the year singled out for mention was the hosting and promotion of a One Wall National Tournament which attracted players from all over Ireland to the Killarney venue in March.

There was joy for the home club at the tournament when Currow native and Spa Killarney Club member Aoife Walsh had an impressive victory in the highly competitive Ladies B championship.

There was also an international dimension for the club in 2022 when four players took part in the European One Wall Tournament in London. At this event Eoin O’Donoghue won gold in the Open Doubles B championship where he partnered with John Joe Quirke from Glenbeigh and Brendan O’Donoghue won a silver medal in the Over 40 Doubles final.

“As a new club we were delighted with the success we achieved in 2022. In January Aoife Walsh and Sinead Moriarty took home silverware in the highly competitive She’s Ace competition in Tyrone. This really was our springboard for success during the year and resulted in some of our players competing in the One Wall national finals in Roscommon in July. We are looking forward to an exciting 2023 and hopefully welcoming new members to the club,” said Eoin O’Donoghue, PRO of Spa Killarney Handball Club.

The club rounded off a memorable year in October when they hosted the Munster One Wall championships and the Kerry Handball Board AGM in November where club members Kieran O’Brien was elected president of Kerry Handball and Brendan O’Donoghue was appointed delegate to the Kerry GAA Board.

Officers Elected for 2023/2024: Brendan O’Donoghue (Chairman), Sinead Moriarty (Vice Chairperson), David Gillespie (Secretary), Eoin O’Donoghue (PRO) and James O’Brien (Treasurer).

Open Night

Spa Killarney Handball Club will host an Open Night at the Spa GAA Club on Monday night (February 6). This will be an opportunity for attendees to savour the thrill of handball, have a taster game and meet the club players. It commences at 7pm and all over 18s are welcome.

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