Killarney Valley AC continued their upward curve last Sunday when they entered men’s and women’s teams in the prestigious National Indoor Track and Field Championships, which were held in Abbotstown in Dublin.
Despite going up against the best of the best in terms of Irish athletics, the Killarney Valley contingent gave a good account of themselves at the state-of-the-art National Indoor Arena, with coaches Tomás Griffin and Con Lynch coming away with plenty of positives to reflect upon.
The women’s team was comprised of Sarah Leahy, Ciara Kennelly, Alison Butler, Grace O’Meara, Ellen Moloney and Melissa Ahern, while the men’s team included Conor Gammell, Oisín Lynch, Kevin O’Callaghan, Sam Griffin, Jason O’Reilly, Dara Looney and Darragh O’Leary.
The nature of the team event presents a number of challenges and opportunities for the forward-thinking club, as coach Tomás Griffin explained to the Killarney Advertiser this week.
“The indoor league is senior elite level so you’re competing against really strong athletes, including some Olympians,” Griffin said. “Part of the criteria is that you try to cover as many of the events as you possibly can within all of the athletic disciplines. You compete as a team, as opposed to normal athletics competitions which are very much based on the individual.
“If you are 16 or you turn 16 in the year of competition, you can participate. That allows us to give our up-and-coming athletes the opportunity to compete as part of a representative team alongside our more established, older athletes.
“There are two rounds with half the events in all disciplines covered in Round 1 and the other half in Round 2. Last week in Round 1 the track events were the 50m sprint, the 200m sprint, and the 800m, along with the 4 x 400m relay. So, for those events alone, you have to have sprinters and you have to have middle distance athletes all stepping up to compete against one representative from all the other clubs.
“The field events were the shot putt, the long jump, and the pole vault. You can see there you’ve got to have a pretty diverse club that is trying to focus on as many disciplines as possible on the development sides of things.”
Individual athletes earn points based on where they finish in their event (12 points for first etc.), with points tallied together to make up the team’s overall total. There are 12 clubs vying for the women’s title and 13 fighting for the men’s. After Round 2, which takes place on January 23 in Athlone, the top six clubs will advance to the finals.
The demands that such a competition place on a club mean that it is a major achievement to be able to take part at all. Apart from Killarney Valley, Leevale AC from Cork were the only other club in Munster who fielded a team.
“For us to have enough athletes of that age or above, that are competent enough in their disciplines to be able to represent us and compete – and score – is a significant breakthrough. We scored quite well across some of the events. There were some events that we struggled to cover because we’re still trying to develop the full range, but as a club we know that we need to develop those disciplines.
“And we have some younger athletes who are 13 or 14 and they’re now learning pole vault, for instance. If we can maintain the momentum then we will have pole vaulters in a couple of years’ time.”
Griffin says the Killarney Valley competitors really enjoyed the experience, while also putting in some impressive performances.
“They loved it. The bigger powerhouse clubs have very high-profile athletes at their disposal; there were four Olympians whom our athletes got to compete against and interact with.
“Our own Sarah Leahy did exceptionally well in the 60m sprint. She ran the joint fastest time in the league, a personal best of 7.61 seconds, which is the fastest she has ever run 60m indoors.
“In the men’s 60m sprint, Conor Gammell made the top five and ran a personal best. We also had Sam Griffin, who is normally a long jumper, who ran a personal best of 7.58 seconds. He finished third in his race. Dara Looney, another long jumper who was doubling up on sprints, finished fifth and also had a personal best.
“Melissa Ahern, an up-and coming sprinter, ran 8.43 seconds, and Ellen Moloney, who was a first-timer at this level, ran a personal best as well. We have a good batch of sprinters competing and it’s good to expose them to this level.
“Alison Butler scored some valuable points for us in the 800m, and in the men’s 800 Oisín Lynch ran a massive personal best. Our shot putt thrower Kevin O’Callaghan is new to athletics; he had to throw an adult shot (7.2kg) for the first time and he did well, scoring five points for us. In fact, he threw the heavier weight nearly as far as he had been throwing the lighter weight.”
Griffin was keen to stress the importance of each individual team member to the overall group effort and whatever happens in Round 2, he is convinced that entering the competition will have huge benefits in the long run.
“We set ourselves of goal of having a team at National League level by 2023 so we’re a year ahead in that regard. It shows that we’re on the right trajectory.”
“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.
Exclusive: Paudie Clifford reflects on “emotional” All-Ireland Junior Club final
by Adam Moynihan
Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser this evening (Wednesday), Fossa captain Paudie Clifford reflected on an emotional All-Ireland Junior Club final against Stewartstown of Tyrone.
Fossa emerged victorious on a scoreline of 0-19 to 1-13 but much of the talk in the aftermath has been focused on ill-discipline. Clifford was one of six players to be sent off in the second half, although he himself was the victim of arguably the worst offence: a vicious elbow to the face in the first minute of stoppage time.
Thankfully, the Kerry star was not badly injured in the incident.
“I’m good,” Clifford confirms. “I’ve a cut on the lip. Probably lucky, really. But no, I’m okay.
“David touched on it (in his post-match interview on TG4), there was a lot of emotion at the end of the game. There was a lot at stake.
“These things happen.”
The elder Clifford is still disappointed about his own red card, however. Not over the fact that he was sent off per se, but for the explanation given by referee Thomas Murphy.
“The referee said it was an eye gouge and sure it clearly wasn’t an eye gouge. That’s why I was so annoyed. That’s why I said it in the speech. I was seriously annoyed that he said it was an eye gouge.”
Although the video footage indicates that Clifford has right on his side, he does clearly put his hand in his opponent’s face. If the referee had said that the red was for a hand to the face, would he have accepted that?
“I wouldn’t have had any arguments with that really. It was the fact that he said it was an eye gouge that I wasn’t happy with.”
As for the aforementioned acceptance speech, an unorthodox address in which he said “well done” to the match officials before claiming that he shouldn’t have been red carded, Clifford simply puts it down to the immense “emotion” he was feeling at the time.
Sunday’s victory marked a glorious end to what was a memorable season for Fossa. The relatively small club on the outskirts of Killarney sampled unprecedented success, something Clifford attributes to his hardworking teammates.
“Winning an All-Ireland seems so far away at the start of the year. You have to get out of your group and try to win Kerry, and even then you still have a long way to go.
“After all the hard work that the team has put in, it was unreal to get the reward at the end.
“We’ve had a lot of bad days in the last few years when we haven’t performed on the big occasion. There’s no other way of putting it. But in fairness to the lads, they didn’t put a foot wrong all year. They won Division 4 of the County League and the O’Sullivan Cup (East Kerry Junior Championship) when me and David weren’t there.
“On Sunday Matt Rennie caught massive balls when we needed him to. Dan Connell has been unreal all year since he came back from San Fran and he played very well. David got the big points. The fellas who came off the bench, like Rian Colleran, made a big difference.
“To be fair, there weren’t many fellas that didn’t play well for us. It was a fairly solid performance against a tough team. I thought [Stewartstown] were very good. Very powerful runners and a very good inside forward line.”
Younger brother David was typically sensational, kicking 0-11 (eight from play) en route to yet another Man of the Match award. The Footballer of the Year turns 24 on Sunday. Is there room for even more improvement in his game as he enters his mid-twenties?
“I suppose he’s going to try and go out and improve every day,” Paudie says. “I’m sure he’s striving towards that, but it remains to be seen. I wouldn’t put it past him.”
The elder Clifford (26) also reserves special praise for Fossa’s management team, in particular bainisteoir Adrian Sheehan and coach Eamonn Fitzmaurice.
“Adrian is a very good man-manager. Everyone gets on with him. But he’s very tactical too and another thing about him is that he’s always willing to learn. He’s very modest and he’s always willing to listen to the players and take their opinions on board.
“I really hope that he gets a chance at intercounty level once he’s finished with us, be it minor or U21. But obviously we don’t want him to be finished with us for a long time.
“Eamonn then is an absolute genius really. It’s like he makes things very simple but he also gets a lot across, if you get me?
“He’s very calm. At half-time, if things aren’t going well, he’s really able to calm things and get us ready. He’s able to spot things in a match as well. He has all the attributes you could want in a coach.”
The 2023 National League gets underway next weekend (January 28/29) with Kerry facing a tough away trip to Donegal on the Sunday. After an extremely long season with county and then club, it would be understandable if the Clifford brothers were granted an extended rest period before linking back up with their Kerry teammates in Currans.
But, in his distinctive, matter-of-fact tone, Paudie says that he and David won’t be taking too much time off.
“I’ve been talking to Jack. [The break will be] a few weeks. Nothing major.
“We’ll be ready to go again in a few weeks.”
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