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Killarney buzzing for once-in-a-lifetime Crokes v Legion showdown

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by Adam Moynihan

Kerry Senior Club Relegation Playoff

Killarney Legion v Dr Crokes

December 5 at 12 noon

Fitzgerald Stadium

It’s county final weekend. Tralee is awash with blue and black and amber. Stack Park will be packed to the rafters for Sunday’s decider between Kerins O’Rahillys and Austin Stacks as two fierce rivals meet in one of the biggest games the county’s capital has witnessed in decades. Based on what we have seen from both teams in this year’s championship, it promises to be a fascinating encounter.

But as far as Killarney folk are concerned, that’s all small potatoes. Forget about Rahillys-Stacks. Forget about Covid. Forget about Christmas. There is only one topic up for discussion this week: Legion versus Crokes in the relegation playoff.

Barring a draw (which will result in a replay) one of the town’s biggest clubs will lose their senior status at lunchtime on Sunday.

For Legion, demotion would be a major disappointment. Ever since a talented crop of players that included James O’Donoghue, Jonathan Lyne, Brian Kelly and Podge O’Connor came of age, the Derreen outfit have harboured dreams of winning Kerry football’s top prize: the County Championship.

They came within inches of glory under Peter Keane in 2015, falling to South Kerry after extra time in a replay. Although they haven’t reached a final since, that dream is still there. Relegation would be a significant step in the wrong direction.

For Crokes, dropping down to intermediate is perhaps even more unthinkable. The team from Lewis Road are one of the traditional powerhouses of Kerry football and, after various stints with the now-defunct Dick Fitzgeralds and a combined Killarney selection, they have been out on their own in the senior championship since the 1980s.

The 13-time champions were All-Ireland finalists as recently as 2019. If they were to be relegated now, two-and-a-half years after gracing Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day, it would surely constitute one of the biggest shocks in the history of Kerry football.

Blessed as Crokes are with intercounty calibre players like Gavin White, Micheál Burns, Shane Murphy, Tony Brosnan and David Shaw, not to mention decorated veterans like John Payne, Mike Moloney, Johnny Buckley, Daithí Casey, Brian Looney and Kieran O’Leary, relegation is the last thing they would have expected.

OPTIMISTIC

Some of the more optimistic observers in our community have suggested that Legion and Crokes have too much about them and whatever happens this weekend, they will come straight back up to senior by virtue of winning the 2022 Intermediate Club Championship. The record books suggest that this is far easier said than done. Of the last 10 clubs to have been relegated, only Kilcummin have managed to return to senior. And they have since been relegated again.

Finuge, Currow, St Michael’s-Foilmore, Laune Rangers, Ardfert, Milltown-Castlemaine, An Ghaeltacht and Rathmore have thus far failed to regain their senior status.

In fact, more relegated clubs have been relegated again than have been promoted back to the top table. St Michael’s-Foilmore are now operating in the Junior Premier (third tier), as are Ardfert and Currow who meet in a relegation playoff on Saturday. The losers will join Finuge, another former senior club, in the Junior Championship (fourth tier) in 2022.

On paper, Legion or Crokes would be the strongest team in next year’s intermediate, but it is clearly not an easy competition to win. Just ask Spa.

There is also the small matter of next year’s County Championship. Becoming an intermediate club will make either team’s players eligible to line out for the 2018 and 2019 champions, East Kerry. Although they fell at the first hurdle this time around, the argument has been made that East Kerry already have too many clubs. Adding Legion or Crokes would unquestionably strengthen their hand further still.

That’s if the footballers in question make themselves available. Ever since Crokes “qualified” for this playoff and the idea of them joining East Kerry first entered people’s minds, some fans have wondered aloud if Crokes’ players would be comfortable pulling on the colours of East Kerry when as recently as two years ago the sides were facing off in a county final.

It’s just idle gossip at this point but it might be something to keep an eye on, particularly if Crokes are defeated.

SPARED?

It is perhaps unsurprising that talk has already turned to championship structures and the opinion that there are not enough senior clubs in Kerry is currently being bandied about. Former GAA President Seán Kelly suggested on Twitter this week that there should be “at least 12”. If the number of senior clubs were to be increased for 2022, it would spare the losers of Sunday’s playoff the ignominy of being relegated at all.

While such speculation will be of comfort to Legion and Crokes supporters, who are no doubt experiencing quite a bit of discomfort at present, the reason this debate is cropping up now is fairly transparent. There may well be valid arguments for increasing the number of senior clubs, but the likes of Rathmore, Kilcummin and An Ghaeltacht will be wondering where all this commotion was when it was their necks on the line.

For the time being at least we must work off the assumption that there will be no change in the number of senior clubs next year and that one of Legion or Crokes are going down. If there is a change, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

FATE

Whoever is defeated on Sunday will lose face as all relegated teams do, but added to the mix is the fact that it will be their greatest, most hated enemies who will seal their fate.

It truly is a once in a generation game – maybe even once in a lifetime – and rain, hail or shine it is sure to draw a huge crowd to Killarney’s Theatre of Dreams. So much is at stake and emotions will be running so high that flash points are almost inevitable. Certainly on the pitch, and maybe even off it.

It might be enjoyable for the neutral (it’s safe to assume that Killarney’s third team, Spa, are not too upset about the current situation) but it is shaping up to be a match that the rest of us will have to endure rather than enjoy.

Only one club can survive. For the other, the unimaginable is about to become a reality.

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Glorious weather for Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships

It was a day of glorious sunshine yesterday (Sunday) as Flesk Valley Rowing Club hosted the 2022 Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships for the very first time in beautiful Castlelough […]

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It was a day of glorious sunshine yesterday (Sunday) as Flesk Valley Rowing Club hosted the 2022 Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships for the very first time in beautiful Castlelough Bay on Lough Lein.

Hundreds flocked to the Valley shore to see the coastal clubs of Kerry race in crews from Under 12 to Masters. As well as clubs from around the Ring of Kerry, there was a strong representation from the Killarney clubs with the Workmen, Commercials and Fossa wearing their colours with pride. The atmosphere, colour, fun and fierce competition produced a spectacular day that will live long in the memory.

The event was opened by the Councillor John O’Donoghue, vice chair of the Killarney Municipal District who congratulated Flesk Valley on their centenary, which occurred during 1920, and wished all of the clubs a successful day’s racing.

The first race was preceded by a special blessing of the boats by Fr Eugene McGillycuddy, who also remembered Brendan Teahan of Cromane Rowing Club in his prayers.

Afterwards John Fleming, chair of Flesk Valley, expressed his immense pride and satisfaction with the success of the regatta.

“It’s our first time ever hosting a regatta, but we wanted to do something special to mark our 102 years in existence,” he said.

“It was a lot of work, but we have a fantastic hard-working committee in Flesk Valley who really pulled out all the stops to make it happen, and we received fantastic support from our members, parents, other clubs and local businesses.”

John also thanked the Kerry Coastal Rowing Association, in particular Mary B Teahan and Andrew Wharton, and the staff of the Killarney National Park for all their support and encouragement in hosting this event.

This was a qualifying event and the Kerry clubs will be heading to Wexford next weekend to complete for honours at the All-Ireland Coastal Rowing Championships.

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Live referee mics should be the norm – swearing concerns be damned

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by Adam Moynihan

I was disappointed to learn that the GAA are preventing TG4 from using their live referee mic in this Sunday’s Wexford hurling final.

(And not just because I had already written an article saying how great live referee mics are and how they are sure to be implemented across the board. Ctrl + A. Delete.)

TG4’s GAA coverage is superb and they raised the bar once again when they mic’d up referee John O’Halloran for the Kerry hurling final between Causeway and Ballyduff.

Pinning a microphone on the referee is standard practice in televised rugby and judging by the positive response to Gaelic games’ first foray into this territory, I was expecting it to become the norm.

It still might but, explaining their decision to The 42, the GAA said that they were not aware beforehand of the ref mic being trialled in Stack Park on Sunday.

“They believe such a development will require more discussion and education if it is to be implemented on a more regular basis in live TV coverage and could possibly need a policy change,” Fintan O’Toole reported.

The image of the Association is surely the primary concern here.

Players and managers – usually the worst behaved participants when it comes to things like swearing – will be among those who get “educated” on the subject. Some verbal abuse that might otherwise be muted for television viewers will, in all likelihood, be picked up by the referee’s microphone. You would imagine that the teams involved will be reminded of this the week of a televised game.

It also makes sense from Croke Park’s point of view to speak to referees and give them guidance on how to conduct themselves when the mic is on.

In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if senior GAA figures are currently fretting over the possibility of an agitated ref making headlines for something they say in the heat of the moment. And make no mistake about it, some match officials can eff and jeff with the best of them.

A friend of mine (a Wexford man, funnily enough) recalls an incident when a teammate was unceremoniously taken out of it by an opponent.

“Ah ref, for f***’s sake!” the victim complained.

“I gave you the f***ing free,” the referee replied. “What do you want me to do, slap him in the face with a wet fish?!”

The GAA might think that a referee swearing like that would leave all of us red-faced. In reality the clip would be a viral sensation and the general public would probably call for the official in question to run for Áras an Uachtárain. (He’d get my ****ing vote.)

The odd swear word from someone involved is bound to sneak through every now and then but you’d hear the same – and plenty more – at any match you attend from Cahersiveen to County Antrim.

Implementing the referee mic on a wider scale is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t appear to take a huge amount of effort or expense for the broadcaster to set it up and, more importantly, it offers a wonderful insight into the unknown.

Listening to referees explain their decisions in real time will clear a lot of things up for commentators, analysts and the media. We will no longer have to speculate about what they did or did not see, or what specific rule is being cited, or why.

Viewers, especially those who might be casual followers of the sport, will appreciate it too and become more educated; I know that’s how I feel when I watch rugby, for example.

It just leads to greater transparency and understanding.

Well done to TG4 and the Kerry County Board for being the pioneers. I’m sure others will follow their lead – as soon as the GAA allow them to do so.

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