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Kerry hurlers on brink of something special

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Joe McDonagh Cup Final

Kerry v Antrim

Saturday at 4pm

Live on RTÉ

Croke Park

The Kerry hurlers will be seeking to end their unfortunate run of Joe McDonagh Cup final defeats when they take on Antrim in Croke Park on Saturday at 4pm.

The Kingdom came up just short against the same opposition in 2020 and again versus Westmeath in 2021 but hopes remain high that this will be their year.

A hard-fought and unexpected victory against the Ulster side in the final group game a fortnight ago certainly gives Stephen Molumphy’s team cause for optimism. 15 points from Podge Boyle proved crucial as Kerry overcame a late Antrim fight-back in Belfast. Another brave team performance will be required if the men from the southwest are to cause another upset this time around.

The reward for Kerry if they win will be a playoff against the lowest-ranked team in Munster - Tipperary - with a place in the 2023 championship at stake. The fact that Kerry will be forced to take part in this playoff match has sparked controversy. Many observers have suggested that prevailing in the Joe McDonagh should automatically give them the right to play in the senior championship.

In fact, the manager of Kerry’s opponents in Saturday’s intermediate decider is of the same mind.

“I think it is something that should have been addressed before now,” Darren Gleeson – a native of Tipperary - said.

“We’ve ended up in a situation where, if Kerry win the competition, they go into a play-off for something they’ve already earned. I thought that was something we’d taken out of our competitions, in the Leagues a few years ago when there were promotion playoffs.

“It shouldn’t be in our games. If you win something, you should have the right to go into the next level of the competition.”

If Antrim win, they will be promoted to the Leinster Championship without having to face a playoff. It certainly seems slightly unfair, but Kerry must nevertheless focus on the task at hand. A win this weekend would be a major leap forward on their ambitious journey.

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Rising cycling star selected for Belgium Project

By Sean Moriarty Killarney cyclist Sam Bolger (18) has been selected as one of four riders for the Belgian Project – one of the most prestigious stepping stones for Irish riders […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Killarney cyclist Sam Bolger (18) has been selected as one of four riders for the Belgian Project – one of the most prestigious stepping stones for Irish riders with ambitions to turn professional.

Northern Ireland-based Belgian Danny Blondell is the man behind the project.

For the last 15 years Blondell selects between four and six Irish riders and sends them to Belgium where they stay with local families and contest pro and semi-pro races.

As a race commentator Blondell is well placed to decide who is deserving of inclusion in the project.

Over the first six months of the year he makes decisions while attending early season races.

Those lucky enough to get selected go to live and race in Belgium for the second six months of the year.

Bolger, from Lewis Road, was selected after winning the junior race in the Cycling Ireland National Road Series in Mayo in March and the Orwell Stage Race in County Wicklow in June.

“He is delighted, it is a very big deal,” his father Paul told the Killarney Advertiser.

“He has had a very good year and the wins in Mayo and Wicklow secured the Belgium Project.”

Bolger will head to Belgium in late July and after to the Junior Tour of Ireland which takes place in County Clare between July 12 and 17.

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The flying Kerryman who never forgot where he came from

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by Eamonn Fitzgerald

Tom O’Riordan RIP

Tommo (as he was affectionately known) died last week at the grand age of 84. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s for a number of years but the Ardfert native was as resilient in the face of his illness as he was when he was running.

He succeeded on many occasions in track and cross country races in Ireland and far afield, and he dealt with that health hurdle with typical stoicism, accepting the irony of his doctor’s prognosis: Parkinson’s won’t kill you but you will die from it.

I first met him in Belfield in the early seventies. While we were training hard with UCD football team he was on a training spin on the same campus.

His competitive career was over having represented Ireland in the 1964 Olympics. He didn’t make the final and he always said in later life that he was disappointed he didn’t make it because he knew he was good enough.

After those Olympics he was appointed as athletics reporter for the Independent. He also covered a lot of football matches and that’s where I got to know him. He was highly respected by players and managers. They trusted him, knowing that he wouldn’t betray confidentiality and publish half-truths or training session secrets. In particular, Mick O’Dwyer gave him carte blanche to the Kerry training sessions. He became a great friend of Páid Ó Sė, who was a regular visitor to his home in Dublin. I have no doubt that he convinced Páidí to use some of those merciless runs up hills to build stamina. Ask the Westmeath men! Tom used these quite a lot in his training for cross-country races.

Heffo didn’t give him the same open-door policy as O’Dwyer did. At Parnell Park, the Dub’s boss operated a closed-doors system for the Dublin training sessions.

Tommo first hit the headlines as a student in his native Kerry and then secured an athletic scholarship to  Idaho University. He impressed, winning races in the majority of the US states.

He was a winner in Ireland on track and cross country, breaking at least 14 Irish records.             

He was very influential as manager of the Irish  cross country team in Limerick preparing John Treacy for victory. They became great personal friends and Treacy often stayed with O’Riordan.

He was a fine journalist and stories abound of him running and double jobbing by covering the particular race for the Indo. More often than not he was writing about a race where he was the winner but he was anything but a self publicist.

He had deadlines to meet so he would create the report and then seek out the nearest telephone to file his report while still wearing his running gear. His son Ian O’Riordan is also a very fine reporter of athletics for the Irish Times.

May Tommo rest in peace.

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