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Kerry SFC Preview: Rahillys’ Savage loss will be East Kerry’s gain

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by Adam Moynihan

When Jack Savage emigrated to Dubai this past week, the world of Kerry club football shifted every so slightly on its axis.

First things first: fair play to the man and good luck to him. The way things are going in this country at the minute I think we can all agree that he has the right idea in getting as far away as possible, for a while at least.

His departure is a major setback for his club, Kerins O’Rahillys, however – and it could well have a knock-on effect for the Kerry Senior Football Championship as a whole.

Rahillys’ first match is against the pre-tournament favourites, East Kerry. With Savage, who is their only current intercounty forward and their scorer-in-chief, Rahillys would have some hope. Without him, it frankly becomes difficult to see how last year’s beaten finalists are going to get enough points on the board to cause an upset.

The fact that this is East Kerry’s first game is significant. Their group is difficult on paper – the Group of Death according to some of us in the media – so there absolutely exists a timeline where they don’t even advance to the next round, let alone reach the final and claim their third title in four years. But in this timeline they more than likely start slowly, as district teams sometimes do, and the clubs around them capitalise on momentum they have already gathered pre-County Championship.

Rahillys have some of that momentum having safely navigated their way through the Club Championship and into October’s final, but without Savage and Cormac Coffey (who has also moved abroad for work), their hand is weakened.

East Kerry are stacked. First of all they have the Footballer of the Year in waiting and his brother, who is set to pick up his second All-Star in a row.

Add to that the best of the rest from some very decent intermediate clubs including, for the first time in a long time, the Killarney Legion, and you’re looking at a really formidable panel of players. All told, there are upwards of 16 current or former county men potentially available to them this season.

Can they be caught? Yes. Will they be caught, especially if they start well and gather momentum? Maybe not.

The new format – group and knockout – will benefit the district sides in the long run as it will guarantee them more games, although I’m not sure if any of them will challenge East Kerry in a meaningful way this time around.

Despite their spotty form this season, the most serious competition could still come from the top club teams, i.e. Dr Crokes and Austin Stacks.

Stacks were quite poor, I thought, against Crokes in the final group game in the Club Championship, but in fairness to them they were down bodies. Dylan Casey and Greg Horan are big losses for them and there was also no sign of two of their main attacking threats in 2021: Darragh O'Brien and Kieran Donaghy.

That defeat against Crokes leaves the reigning champs facing into a relegation playoff against Kenmare, unless they reach the final of the Kerry SFC, that is.

It’s often wheeled out as an excuse for an underperforming team but Crokes really are in transition at the moment. Their starting 15 is as young as it has been in a very long time; new manager Brian McMahon is very evidently phasing out some of the older guys and blooding younger players in the white heat of the championship.

There is talent there – I like what I’ve seen of Neil O’Shea, Evan Looney and Cian McMahon – but the reality of the situation is that the veteran players whose roles are now changing are some of the best players the club has ever produced. Kieran O’Leary, Mike Moloney, Daithí Casey, Johnny Buckley… Guys like that aren’t easily replaced.

It will take time, but even so they still have one of the strongest squads in the county. Shane Murphy, Fionn Fitzgerald, Gavin White (injured), Mark O’Shea, David Shaw, Micheál Burns and Tony Brosnan would probably start for any team in Kerry, and for that reason they have to be considered serious challengers.

Don’t sleep on Templenoe, either. They really impressed during the Club Championship and judging by the major scalps they've claimed over the past couple of years, they are more than capable of going deep into the competition.

It is hard to look beyond East Kerry, though. They may be in the Group of Death but they appear to be the ones wielding the scythe.

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Opponent gets 10-match ban for using discriminatory language towards Kerry player

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A rival player has been suspended for using discriminatory language in a match against Kerry FC, the League of Ireland has confirmed.

The FAI’s Independent Disciplinary Committee handed Harry Curtis of UCD a 10-match ban for the offence, which took place during the game between the two sides in Mounthawk Park, Tralee last week.

Curtis was sent off in injury time. UCD won the game 2-1.

“An Independent Disciplinary Committee of the FAI has sanctioned UCD AFC player Harry Curtis for using discriminatory language towards a Kerry FC player in the SSE Airtricity Men’s First Division fixture on 10 May 2024,” a League of Ireland statement read.

“The FAI and League of Ireland maintains a strict zero tolerance approach towards any act of discrimination and are committed to ensuring that League of Ireland matches remain a safe and welcoming environment for everyone.

“In accordance with FIFA Regulations and the FAI Disciplinary Regulations, Harry Curits will serve a 10-match suspension. Please note the decision of the Independent Disciplinary Committee may be appealed.”

Kerry FC issued the following statement welcoming the ban: “We condemn discrimination in football and are constantly working to kick it out of the game.

“Mounthawk Park and Kerry FC is a community where everyone is welcome regardless of race, ethnicity, and other diverse backgrounds.

“We would like to thank the Independent Disciplinary Committee in the FAI for their continued efforts and dedication to keeping discrimination out of the game.”

Last week Dundalk goalkeeper George Shelvey was also suspended for 10 games for abusing referee Rob Harvey.

Kerry FC were also involved in two alleged cases of racial abuse last season. In September, they claimed a Longford Town player aimed a “racial remark” at one of their players. The matter was referred to An Garda Síochána.

Earlier in the 2023 season, Kerry released a statement condemning racist online comments that had been made about the black players in their squad.

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TEAM NEWS: Kerry and Monaghan name starting 15s for Killarney showdown

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All-Ireland SFC Group 4

Kerry v Monaghan

Saturday 3pm

Fitzgerald Stadium

Live on GAAGO

Jack O’Connor has rewarded Munster final Man of the Match Tony Brosnan with a spot in Kerry’s starting 15 for Saturday’s All-Ireland group phase opener against Monaghan.

Brosnan kicked three points from play a fortnight ago and he retains his place in a forward division that also includes Dara Moynihan, Paudie Clifford, Seánie O’Shea, David Clifford and the recalled Paul Geaney.

Dingle veteran Geaney starts in place of youngster Cillian Burke, who drops to the bench.

Shane Ryan returns in goal instead of Shane Murphy while the back six and midfield remain unchanged from the seven-point victory in Ennis.

Graham O’Sullivan is a notable absentee from the matchday 26. The Dromid defender’s groin injury was described by O’Connor as “minor” after the Clare game, which O’Sullivan also missed.

Monaghan manager Vinny Corey has also named his side for tomorrow’s Sam Maguire encounter at the Fitzgerald Stadium and he has made five changes from the Farney Army’s last outing (the Ulster preliminary round defeat to Cavan on April 7).

Four of those switches come in attack as Stephen O’Hanlon, Micheál Bannigan, Michael Hammill and Seán Jones replace Garland, Irwin, Loughran and McCarron.

Experienced midfielder Darren Hughes, who was forced off with a knee injury in that match in Clones six weeks ago, is unavailable and is replaced by Micheál McCarville.

Rory Beggan starts in goal after a potential move to the Carolina Panthers in the NFL did not materialise. Talismanic forward Conor McManus will wear the number 15 jersey.

The last time these teams met was in the league at St Tiernach’s Park in February. Kerry prevailed on a scoreline of 3-15 to 1-12.

Tickets for Kerry v Monaghan can be purchased here for €25. Three-match bundles for the entire group stage are also available for €50.

The match will not be televised but it will be streamed on GAAGO.

KERRY TEAM

1. Shane Ryan

2. Paul Murphy

3. Jason Foley

4. Tom O’Sullivan

5. Brian Ó Beaglaoich

6. Tadhg Morley

7. Gavin White

8. Diarmuid O’Connor

9. Joe O’Connor

10. Tony Brosnan

11. Paudie Clifford

12. Dara Moynihan

13. David Clifford

14. Seánie O’Shea

15. Paul Geaney

Subs: Shane Murphy, Cillian Burke, Seán O’Brien, Adrian Spillane, Barry Dan O’Sullivan, Dylan Casey, Stephen O’Brien, Mike Breen, Killian Spillane, Darragh Roche, Armin Heinrich.

MONAGHAN TEAM

1. Rory Beggan

2. Ryan Wylie

3. Kieran Duffy

4. Ryan O’Toole

5. Karl O’Connell

6. Killian Lavelle

7. Conor McCarthy

8. Gary Mohan

9. Micheál McCarville

10. Stephen O’Hanlon

11. Micheál Bannigan

12. Michael Hamill

13. Ciarán McNulty

14. Seán Jones

15. Conor McManus

Subs: Darren McDonnell, Jack McCarron, Stephen Mooney, Dessie Ward, Ryan McAnespie, David Garland, Jason Irwin, Andrew Woods, Barry McBennett, Joel Wilson, Thomas McPhillips.

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