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Killarney RFC coast to U16 Munster final

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Munster U16 League Semi-Final

Killarney 26 Bruff 0

Aghadoe

The Killarney RFC U16 girls are on the cusp of provincial glory following a one-sided victory over Bruff in the semi-final of the Munster League.

The Killarney girls were superb on the day despite the wintry January conditions. After taking a 7-0 lead in the first half, they powered on in the second to register a comfortable 26-point win.

They now await the winners of the other semi between Ennis and Ballincollig, which is due to take place this weekend.

ENTERTAINING

Played in front of a large crowd in Aghadoe on a very wet afternoon, the girls from Killarney and Bruff played out an entertaining game of rugby.

Killarney attacked right from the start but the Bruff defensive line was very much up to the challenge; on a couple of occasions they made some great try-saving tackles.

In fairness to the hosts, they kept playing good passing rugby and Bronagh Dorrian eventually forced her way over the line to give them the lead. Dorrian duly converted her own try to make it 7-0 at the interval.

Killarney started off the second half right where they left off. Marina Eager, Niamh Dorrian and Ali O’Donoghue made some weaving runs but again the Bruff tackling was of the highest standard.

Eventually Bronagh Dorrian got over the line for her second try following some good play by centre Holly O’Sullivan. Killarney now had a lead of 12 points. Then some excellent interplay by the outstanding Killarney back row set up Clodagh Foley for the try of the day.

With 15 minutes remaining on the clock, the Killarney No. 8 Ava O’Malley picked from the base of the scrum and touched down for the home team’s fourth try. Captain Fia Whelan converted to bring her side’s tally to 26 and round off the day’s scoring.

The Killarney replacements added a lot to the team’s performance and Gráinne Kennedy, who had been introduced just after half-time, made a great break but was just denied by another excellent Bruff tackle.

PERFORMANCE

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, coach Diarmuid O’Malley said he was “delighted” with his team’s performance.

“Weather-wise it wasn’t really what we would have liked – we like to play a running style of rugby, so the wet conditions wouldn’t have suited. That made the result even more pleasing, against a very abrasive Bruff team who were very resolute.

“Reaching the final is huge for Killarney RFC. Kerry teams normally play second or third fiddle to clubs from the strongholds in Cork and Limerick, and they normally operate in the second or third tier of competitions. These girls are playing in the highest tier in the province, so that is hugely satisfying. A lot of the players are relatively new to the game and they’re really enjoying it.

“We had a huge crowd at the semi-final and they gave the girls great support.”

O’Malley is hoping for another strong Killarney turnout for the final, which is likely to take place the weekend of January 22/23.

KILLARNEY: 1. Annie O’Reilly, 2. Ella Guerin Crowley, 3. Molly Gabbett, 4. Joanne O’Keefe, 5. Jess O’Sullivan, 6. Melissa McCarthy, 7. Clodagh Foley, 8. Ava O’Malley, 9. Robyn Landers, 10. Fia Whelan (captain), 11. Ali O’Donoghue, 12. Bronagh Dorrian, 13. Holly O’Sullivan, 14. Niamh Dorrian, 15. Marina Eager. Subs: Miriam O’Sullivan, Isabella O’Leary, Gráinne Kennedy, Lucy O’Sullivan, Nell Moore, Kate Mangan, Coaches: Diarmuid O’Malley, Josh Whelan. Manager: Anne Gabbett.

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Killarney girls will answer Ireland’s call

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A trio of talented young Killarney rugby players have been called up to the Ireland U18 squad for the upcoming Six Nations festival in Wales.

Ava O’Malley, Fia Whelan and Emma Dunican have all been included in Matt Gill’s panel for the tournament, which will take place between March 29 and April 6. They will link up with their new teammates for three weekend training camps at the IRFU’s High Performance Centre on the Sport Ireland Campus in Dublin during the month of March.

Gill, the current Women’s Provincial Talent Coach for Leinster, will be assisted by Sana Govender, who has previously coached Munster Women’s teams.

“I’m really looking forward to continuing our Irish U18 Women’s Six Nations preparations and getting our camps underway,” the head coach said. “I’m excited to work with Sana and our management team, and to work with this incredibly talented group of players.”

O’Malley, Whelan and Dunican are products of Killarney RFC’s blossoming youth set-up and all three were on the U18.5 team that recently won the Munster League.

Including the Killarney girls, there are seven Munster-based players on the 35-woman squad with 15 hailing from Leinster, eight from Connacht and five from Ulster.

“It’s a very proud day for the girls, their families, teammates and coaches, and for Killarney RFC,” the club commented. “Best of luck, girls!”

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After six frustrating years in green and gold, latest setback was the last straw for Burns

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by Adam Moynihan

The news that Micheál Burns has left the Kerry panel raised a few eyebrows this week as Jack O’Connor indicated that the Dr Crokes man was unhappy with the amount of time he had been getting on the pitch.

On the surface it might seem a little rash. After all, Kerry have only played two competitive matches this year and the 27-year-old started one of them. But a closer look at his career in green and gold reveals that getting dropped for the Monaghan game a fortnight ago is the latest in a long line of setbacks that would take their toll on any footballer.

They say you make your own luck in sport and I’m sure Micheál himself would accept that he could have made more of some of the opportunities that he got, but all things considered he was unfortunate enough at times.

DEBUT

Burns first came to the attention of Kerry football supporters when he won the Man of the Match award in the 2014 All-Ireland minor final.

He eventually made his senior debut against Donegal in 2018, the same day Eamonn Fitzmaurice handed David Clifford and Seánie O’Shea their first starts at senior level. The diminutive but well-built wing forward kicked a point and he kept his place throughout the entire league campaign, scoring in six out of seven games (0-9 in total). It was an impressive return for a rookie.

However, he was still subbed off in six of those games, and this pattern would continue for much of his Kerry career. He started three times in the 2018 championship and scored 0-2 against both Cork and Kildare, yet he was taken off in all three matches.

2019 began with Crokes’ run to the All-Ireland Club final so he didn’t feature for Kerry in the league. His one start all year – against Meath in the Super 8s – ended on bad terms as Peter Keane subbed him off four minutes before half-time. Burns was visibly upset as he sat on the bench. It did seem like a harsh decision at the time. He didn’t play again that season.

The following year, 2020, turned out to be an annus horribilis for all of us but it actually started well for Burns. For my money he played his best football for his county in the pre-pandemic league matches. He wasn’t really known for his kicking at the time but he had clearly been working on this element of his game because he came out with all guns blazing.

After coming off the bench against Dublin in Croke Park, he started and scored in the next four matches, registering 0-2 against Galway, 0-1 against Tyrone, 0-3 against Meath and 0-1 against Mayo. Some of these points were real beauties. But he was still taken off in three of four games.

Covid was a disaster full stop but it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the industrious half forward from Killarney. He started both of the outstanding league fixtures when the season resumed in October but he couldn’t recapture that early season form. He didn’t see action in that disastrous defeat to Cork in the Munster semi-final as Keane started the match with a midfielder and a back in the half forward line.

FRUSTRATION

He started two games in the shortened 2021 season (against Dublin in the league and Tipperary in the championship) and once again his year ended in frustration when Keane left him lingering on the bench during Kerry’s extra time defeat to Tyrone in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Burns might have been expecting his name to be called when David Clifford went down with an injury at the end of normal time – he was the last remaining forward on the bench – but instead Kerry turned to Paul Geaney, who had already been subbed off earlier in the game. Burns was eventually brought on as Kerry’s tenth sub with just four minutes of extra time to go. Whatever way you spin it, that must have been tough to take.

Jack O’Connor returned in 2022 and Burns hasn’t started a championship match since, although he did come on when Kerry beat Galway in the All-Ireland final. He also saw game time in each of Kerry’s last five championship outings of 2023. He didn’t score in those appearances last year and the lack of scoring threat from Kerry’s half forwards was a talking point at season’s end, but it could have been quite different for Burns had things gone his way.

He might have had a tap-in goal against Tyrone if Seánie O’Shea was feeling generous, and against Derry he was all alone and in a far better position when David Clifford decided to stop up and take a point to give Kerry a two-point lead late on. They were small moments but if they fell his way they could have shifted the narrative in Burns’ favour.

He played against Derry in the 2024 season opener but he didn’t have his best game and was substituted at half-time. Then he didn’t play against Monaghan the following weekend. After experiencing an uncommon amount of setbacks in his six-year career, this was evidently the straw that broke the camel’s back.

COMMITMENTS

No doubt some will say that it’s an honour to even be on the Kerry panel and there’s no shame in playing second fiddle to the calibre of forwards that Burns was up against. They’re right, of course, but that doesn’t mean that the man has to be content with not starting. The commitments that come with intercounty football are enormous. It’s hard enough when you’re getting the rewards you feel you deserve; it’s much harder when you’re not.

Burns will go back to his club and I’m sure he will be an important player for them for years to come.

As for Kerry, having a squad member depart mid-season is ideally something that you wouldn’t want to happen but if a guy isn’t happy, maybe it’s for the best. I’m sure Micheál’s friends on the panel will be sad to see him go but it shouldn’t be a big distraction. They are a professional group and it will be business as usual against Mayo on Saturday night.

For Kerry and for Burns, life goes on.

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