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.
Survey reveals Kerry fans’ expectations for 2023
A start-of-season survey carried out by the Killarney Advertiser has revealed Kerry supporters’ expectations ahead of the 2023 campaign, which gets underway on Sunday with a league match against Donegal.
Kerry enjoyed a perfect year in 2022 as Jack O’Connor led his team to glory in the National League, Munster Championship and All-Ireland Championship. It would be an incredible achievement to replicate that success again this time around, but some supporters seem to think that it can be done.
Around 73% of those polled believe that Kerry will reach another All-Ireland final, with the majority (42%) predicting that Sam Maguire will be staying in the Kingdom for another year at least. Just under a quarter of respondents (23%) think that Kerry will fall at the semi-final stage, however, with the remainder (4%) anticipating a quarter-final or round robin exit.
1. How far will Kerry go in the championship?
All-Ireland round robin – 1%
All-Ireland quarter-final – 3%
All-Ireland semi-final – 23%
All-Ireland final (runners-up) – 31%
All-Ireland final (winners) – 42%
That’s what supporters expect to happen, but what would they be happy with? When asked what would constitute a “good year” for Kerry in 2023, 54% stated that only an All-Ireland will do. A further 32% said they would be content with another All-Ireland final appearance. So, effectively, the vast majority of Kerry supporters (86%) won’t be happy unless their team at least makes it to the All-Ireland final on July 30.
2. Kerry need to ___________ for 2023 to be classed as a “good” year.
Reach the All-Ireland round robin stage – 1%
Reach the All-Ireland quarter-final – 3%
Reach the All-Ireland semi-final – 10%
Reach the All-Ireland final – 32%
Win the All-Ireland final – 54%
Neighbours Cork gave Kerry a real hiding in the McGrath Cup at the beginning of this month but it appears as though fans from this side of the county bounds are placing little stock in that particular result. Over 96% of supporters expect Kerry to win their provincial championship. A very small minority (3%) are fearing the worst, i.e. Cork winning Munster.
3. Who will win the Munster Championship?
Kerry – 96%
Cork – 3%
Someone else – 1%
Expectations are lower for the immediate future, however. With several players out injured and others – including star player David Clifford – being rested, most fans reckon Kerry will finish mid-table in Division 1 of the National League. Over half of the readers who responded to our survey (52%) think Kerry will finish 3rd or 4th in the eight-team pool, with roughly one-in-five expecting a 5th or 6th place finish.
Despite the lengthy list of absentees, 21% of supporters are still optimistic that Kerry can retain their Division 1 title. At the other end of the scale, around 1% think Kerry will be relegated.
4. Where will Kerry finish in Division 1 of the National League?
1st or 2nd (winners) – 21%
1st or 2nd (runners-up) – 8%
3rd or 4th – 52%
5th or 6th – 18%
7th or 8th (relegated) – 1%
When asked which opponent they are most wary of heading into the new season, the vast majority of Kerry fans singled out the same Division 2 team.
5. Which opposition team should Kerry be most worried about in 2023?
Dublin – 78%
Tyrone – 7%
Armagh – 6%
Cork – 3%
Derry – 3%
Mayo – 2%
Galway – 1%
Jack O’Connor’s side travel to Ballybofey on Sunday for their first competitive outing of the season. Throw-in is at 2pm with the match being televised live on TG4.
Follow @AdamMoynihan for all the latest Kerry GAA news
“Argentina have Messi but we have the Messiah”
By Michelle Crean Calls for full civic reception for David Clifford Superstar footballer David Clifford has been compared to Argentina’s Messi. At Monday’s full Kerry County Council meeting councillors were full of […]
By Michelle Crean
Calls for full civic reception for David Clifford
Superstar footballer David Clifford has been compared to Argentina’s Messi.
At Monday’s full Kerry County Council meeting councillors were full of praise for both the Fossa and Rathmore teams who won their respective finals a day earlier in Croke Park. Fossa became the All-Ireland Junior Football Champions when they beat Stewartstown Harps, while Rathmore secured the AIB All-Ireland Intermediate Club Football title.
Cllr Mike Kennelly said “we are currently witnessing the greatest footballer ever” as he called for a full civic reception to honour David Clifford.
“I think he’s the greatest inspiration to every Kerry person. We, as an authority, as a county need to acknowledge this. We need to acknowledge David’s greatness and inspiration on his unrivalled success over the last 12 months. Argentina has Messi but we have the Messiah and we’ve got to protect him and honour that. Most people will agree with us that he is the greatest we have ever seen.”
However, cautiously Cllr Cahill added that it’s better to hold a civic reception for both teams rather than single out one player.
“I’m not too sure about singling out David. Maybe talk to the family on that. Paudie got an All Star this year and last year and was Man of the Match at several games. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it but tease it out a little bit further.”
The matter was referred to the CPG.
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