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.
Ireland’s newest and toughest cycle will be a thrilling challenge
Ireland’s newest cycling event comes to Kenmare this month with an exciting and challenging course for the experienced cyclist. Already attracting attention within cycling communities around the country, Velo Kenmare […]
Ireland’s newest cycling event comes to Kenmare this month with an exciting and challenging course for the experienced cyclist.
Already attracting attention within cycling communities around the country, Velo Kenmare will tackle some of Kerry’s toughest climbs and highest mountain passes.
Taking place on October 22, Velo Kenmare is an 135km timed loop route starting and finishing in Kenmare. The total climbing distance is 1,650m, and organisers hope to appeal to serious cyclists who are looking for a new and thrilling challenge.
No stranger to cycling events, Velo Kenmare is being managed by Elite Events Management, who also successfully deliver iconic cycling events Wicklow 200, Ride Dingle and the Ring of Beara Cycle.
Cyclists are encouraged to register for Velo Kenmare on the Velo Cycle Ireland website www.velocycleireland.ie but places are limited for the enjoyment and safety of all participants, and anyone interested is urged to sign up soon as places are filling up.
The tough enough mountain climbs are over Molls Gap, Ballaghbeama Pass, Ballaghasheen and Coomakista. The route will take in breathtaking scenery Kenmare is famous for, and incorporating some of the most stunning parts of the Wild Atlantic Way and Ring of Kerry. It is hoped visitors to the cycle event will be encouraged to stay for a few days, and will all be given €20 vouchers or ‘Velo Dollars’ to spend in local shops which will be redeemable against goods and services in Kenmare.
Riders will be allotted a time slot to allow for a staggered start, taking them along a fully marshalled route, with medical cover, bike mechanic support, and hot food and entertainment at the finish in Kenmare.
Making its mark, Velo Kenmare participant race packs will come inside a yellow Velo Kenmare water bottle and finishers’ medals are in the shape of a yellow cow bell. Prizes will be awarded for the quickest top three male and top three female finishers, and fastest male and female will be awarded the title of King and Queen of the Kerry Mountains.
Experienced cyclists are encouraged to take on this exciting new challenge, testing themselves and their clubmates for the fastest finish across these four gruelling climbs, through some of the most beautiful landscape in the country for the best welcome back at the finish.
It’s tip-off time for new-look Lakers
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.
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.
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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