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Killarney’s forgotten soccer club who had a ‘sexy’ but unfortunate name

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In the summer of 1975, a band of wide-eyed teenagers with dreams of conquering Kerry soccer formed a new club called the Killarney Rangers. A little over a year later, they were gone. This week Adam Moynihan spoke to former players Diarmuid O’Donoghue and Tom Griffin about Killarney’s forgotten team.

 

Who were the Killarney Rangers?

Tom Griffin: We all came from the Franciscan Youth Club, which was very strong at the time, and most of us were in the Parish Hall Youth Club as well. We were all mates.

Diarmuid O’Donoghue: Yeah, there was a gang of us. We were all from within a two-mile radius of Killarney. There were fellas from the Park Road, we had town fellas like Mike Buckley, and myself and my brother Donal were the farthest out. We had five-a-side indoor soccer teams that played in the Parish Hall.

TG: That was a big thing at the time. Every year there was a big indoor soccer tournament. Kelly’s Villas were the kingpins; they were always the team to beat.

DOD: We were the rivals as such. We were mostly Legion but we had Mike Buckley, Colm Galvin and Jerry O’Leary as well who would have all been Crokes.

TG: There was a Franciscan Friar here in town, Fr Vivian. He was very involved with the youth club. He moved on to Waterford and in 1975 he contacted us about doing an exchange. So off up to Waterford we went and part of the day was a soccer match between ourselves and the local club. We thought we were something special after that so we said, “why not go into the league?” That’s kind of where the whole thing came from.

What made you want to form your own team? Why not join Killarney Athletic?

DOD: We were too young. We were only kids at the time. You’re talking 16/17/18. We didn’t even think about joining them.

TG: Athletic were very supportive, though. They played us in challenge matches ahead of our first season in the KDL.

‘Rangers’ is a rather unusual name for an Irish soccer club. What was the thinking there?

DOD: We had no idea about Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic. It was just a sexy name.

TG: We were thinking more in terms of the Texas Rangers than Glasgow Rangers!

DOD: We were also oblivious to the fact that Canon Michael Lyne, one of the Lynes of Cleeney and a great Legion man, was the patron of Glasgow Celtic. We didn’t know any of that. They were probably thinking to themselves, “Killarney Rangers?!”

TG: We did everything wrong that we could do wrong. What people might not realise now is that we were only just after coming out of the ban (on members of the GAA playing or attending foreign sports). I think ‘71 was when the ban was lifted. The GAA was still totally and utterly dominant. The attitude of the old lads in the cloth caps was very much, “keep these boys down”.

 

[caption id="attachment_32576" align="aligncenter" width="824"] Diarmuid O'Donoghue and Tom Griffin looking back at an old Rangers team photo from 45 years ago.[/caption]

 

Diarmuid, you went on to have a fine Gaelic football career and you lined out with Kerry during the Golden Years. Was anything said to you about playing soccer?

DOD: No. My father (Jameso) was the chairman of the Legion at the time but he never said a word to me. Can you imagine the hassle he must have been getting in the pub or above in Legion from staunch GAA fellas?

Did the soccer ever clash with the football?

TG: We probably weren’t on the go for long enough to actually get into confrontation.

DOD: And we were a bit young. We were just on the periphery of the Legion seniors so it wasn’t a big issue.

Where did the black and green kit come from?

DOD: That’s a good question now. Two interesting facts about the jersey. First of all, it was not Irish-made, which would have been a big thing at the time. And secondly, one of our fellow Legion clubmates, Weeshie Fogarty, wore one of those jerseys when he refereed intercounty matches.

Really? That’s amazing.

 

[caption id="attachment_32575" align="aligncenter" width="800"] The great Weeshie Fogarty sporting a Killarney Rangers jersey while refereeing a match between Cork and Dublin. Also pictured are Billy Morgan and Tony Hanahoe.[/caption]

 

TG: I’ll tell you another good one. We had two teams in the Parish Hall five-a-side: an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ team. We discreetly made ourselves the ‘B’ team and the other lads the ‘A’ team so they’d think they were the best! The two sides met in the semi-final so there had to be a change of jerseys, and we got our hands on a set of Legion ones. We won the toss and because all the Crokes boys were on the ‘A’ team, we put them in the Legion jerseys! The ‘B’ team won the tournament out in the end.

Brilliant. Where did the idea for the design come from?

DOD: It was Legion and Crokes, basically. That’s what it came down to. Green for Legion and black for Crokes. We had black shorts and black and green socks.

TG: Most of the time, it was whatever socks came out of the washing machine.

Where did you play your matches?

DOD: Up by St Finan’s. When you go up Lewis Road and turn back the avenue towards the hospital, in there on the right-hand-side.

What was it like inside there?

DOD: Muck.

TG: Yeah, all the pitches were poor at that time. It was by no means the worst pitch in the county.

And how did you fare in the Kerry District League?

DOD: I’ll put it this way to you: we were all tip-tappy. We thought we were fantastic but we were playing in muck and gutter in Division 2 against (Gaelic) football teams. Scartaglen, Ballydesmond, the Bower from Rathmore… They kicked the s*** out of us.

TG: They didn’t have much skill but they had the physical strength. We were all throwing shapes like we were superstars in the making. That summer in ‘75 we played a couple of challenge games and also in a youth club competition out in Millstreet. We felt we did okay. Before we entered the league, we figured that we were as good as, and maybe better than, what was already out there.

DOD: We lost more league games than we won, we’ll put it that way.

Who were some of your key men?

DOD: Joe Howe was a very good player. Colm Galvin too. Mike Buckley was good. Eamon Murphy was our oldest player at 19. He was one of the centre backs. Very lithe but he could get up for a ball. His brother, Mike, would have been with him at the back. And, of course, Ray Hoctor was there as well.

TG: When we started we used to play Ray centre half. For us, he was as big and as strong as we had. And sure he went on to become one of the best centre forwards in Kerry for years.

The team broke up in 1976. What happened?

DOD:  I would say lack of organisation and immaturity.

TG: And the age profile as well. A lot of lads were doing the Leaving Cert so they were going off to college and work. The structure just wasn’t there to keep it going.

DOD: The league gave us a chance and it was a case of sink or swim. We sank.

And Killarney Celtic were founded that very same year. Did many Rangers players make the switch to the Celts?

DOD: It was more or less half and half. Some went to Celtic and some went to Athletic. Joe Howe, Mikey Lyne, Ray Hoctor and myself would have been Celtic and Mike Buckley, Pat and Jimmy Reen, Colm Galvin and Tom went to Athletic.

TG: I went to Celtic first, actually!

How did Celtic manage to succeed where Rangers had failed?

DOD: They had a lot of Spa boys which gave them more numbers. And they were more organised. They probably learned from everything that we did wrong.

TG: They had a couple of older heads as well. Guys like Byron Holmes and Bill Healy. They were just a little bit more mature and they were sticking around, whereas our fellas were going away. I think there was a groundswell of feeling that there was room for another team in the town. We probably started it but Celtic went on and did it better.

All in all, do you have happy memories of your time in the green and black of the Killarney Rangers?

DOD: It was great. We really enjoyed ourselves. We carried a big bus to our matches and the women in the youth club used to come along with us.

TG: The groupies! It was brilliant, Adam. Playing with your best mates around you and not a care in the world. The craic before and after the matches was magic. Great memories.

 

Main photo: The Killarney Rangers team that lined out in the 1975/76 Kerry District League. Back: Joe Howe, Neilie O’Keefe, Mike Buckley, Donal O’Donoghue, Jimmy Reen, Mike Murphy, Mikey Lyne and Mike Hickey (referee). Front: Ray Hoctor, Pat Reen, Eamon Murphy, Colm Galvin, Diarmuid O’Donoghue, Tom Griffin and Paddy O’Donoghue (manager).

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Eileen rewarded for her dedication to athletics

By Sean Moriarty Well-known Dalton’s Avenue woman Eileen Switzer has been named as the Honorary President of Killarney Valley Athletic Club in recognition of her work as a volunteer. The club held its annual awards night on Friday night last. As well as presenting awards to club members in recognition of their achievements at home […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Well-known Dalton’s Avenue woman Eileen Switzer has been named as the Honorary President of Killarney Valley Athletic Club in recognition of her work as a volunteer.

The club held its annual awards night on Friday night last.

As well as presenting awards to club members in recognition of their achievements at home and abroad they decided to honour Mrs Switzer for her “lifetime of volunteering to the community, to sport, to youth and for championing diversity and inclusion”.

“Eileen has been an advocate, a coach and an administrator in the sport of athletics for over 60 years in the town of Killarney, Kerry and beyond,” said club chair Jerry Griffin.

Eileen and her husband Frank have dedicated their lives to the community games and athletics in the greater Killarney area.

“I enjoy, but I don’t like, all the limelight,” she told the Killarney Advertiser.

“I like to watch newcomers as they come up through the ranks, many of the Community Games people of the past are now running the committee.”

In a life time dedicated to volunteerism in Killarney Eileen has helped sports like golf, pitch and putt and badminton grow.  She was also heavily involved in the local Irish dancing scene and remains a great supporter of Kerry Parents and Friends.

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Eamonn Fitzgerald: How to improve the modern game

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Fixing the tackle, binning the bin and cutting the numbers… Former Kerry goalkeeper Eamonn Fitzgerald puts forward a number of measures that he feels would rejuvenate Gaelic football

In recent weeks most of the discussion on Kerry football has centred on the appointment of Jack O’Connor as manager of the Kerry senior football team. The Sam Maguire hasn’t returned to Kerry since locals Kieran O’Leary and Fionn Fitzgerald lifted the Holy Grail in 2014. The domination of the Dubs with the six-in–a row and the disappointments of the past three years, when Peter Keane was very unlucky not to manage Kerry to victory, has led to a deeper frustration among the Kerry supporters.

Some followers of football are losing interest in the game as it is played today. Some say they don’t bother going to games anymore, because the style of football has deteriorated into a mixture of basketball and athletics.

The romanticised recollections of the high-fielding of Mick O’Connell and the marking your own man, thou shalt not pass type of football is largely gone. Joe Keohane, Teddy O’Connor, Paddy Bawn, Paudie O’Shea and a host of others made sure that the opposition’s attackers never got a chance to have an unchallenged shot at the goalkeeper. Zonal defence, how are you?

THE  TACKLE

Mick O’Dwyer always said that there is no really clearly defined tackle in Gaelic football, and I agree fully with him. He saw it from three sides: as a defender, attacker and manager. I talked to him many times about this.

There are three basic types of tackle in Gaelic football: (a) the side tackle, the most common one, (b) the front tackle, (c) the tackle from behind. The referee is the sole judge and has to decide if it is a free in or a free out. Types (b) and (c) don’t pose any real difficulties in decision making. Both are fouls. But a shoulder to shoulder is allowable. However, if a player gets a fair shoulder and falls to the ground, invariably the referee favours the fallen one.

One Kerry football defender of the past perfected the ideal ruse. When he was slowing up in his latter days with Kerry and he faced a jinking speedster, he ushered him out towards the sideline, gave his customary right belt of a shoulder, and then assisted the forward with a helping hand to ensure he stayed on his feet. Free out. Over-playing the ball.

The rule regarding tackling states that you must use one hand and one hand only, but the problem is: what does a defender actually do with that one hand, as opposed to what he is allowed do.

Tackling in Gaelic Football is confined to tackling the ball. It is illegal to trip, punch, hold, drag, pull or rugby tackle another player.

For defenders all you can do safely without conceding a free in is to shadow the opponent with both arms outstretched, doing a sprightly dance like David Rea’s Riverdance, hoping you can entice/force the forward out to the sideline where he is least likely to score. Two hands draw the foul. Of course, some defenders play to the optics using the one hand and raising up the other hand so that the ref thinks he is not fouling. What is the defender doing with that hand? Playing the ball trying to punch it out from the attacker? If that hand delivers a punch to the solar plexus, so be it, as the referee is usually unsighted. Or, as happens too often in club games, the referee is not up with the game and cannot see what is really happening. As he makes his way to the scene, I believe that he is unduly influenced by the roar of the crowd. “Free in, ref!”. Thank you very much says Seánie O’Shea and Dean Rock.

Rugby is very clear-cut when it come to the defined tackle and to some extent in soccer, where the sliding tackle is not acceptable.

While there is some credence in the perception of these disillusioned football followers, who long for the Kerry football style of the good old days, I don’t see it through the same rose-tinted glasses. Too often in the past the hard man was lauded for his physical prowess and not for his skills. I can see the merit of the modern possession game, but not endless lateral hand-passing, the fulcrum for launching a successful game strategy, which was one good reason why Dublin won six-in-a-row. They were also a great team.

You’re a loser all the way with Dean Rock and Seánie O’Shea delivering almost 100%. Take a recent game as an example. Seánie kicked 15 points versus Dr Crokes and 14 of those were frees, from any distance from 45 metres inwards. The winning score was 17 points. So a reliable free-taker is essential on any team.  He repeated the performance on Sunday last by scoring 11 points to squeeze past Dingle. The scoring in football games nowadays is very high and even more so in hurling.

PITY THE REFEREE

I have great sympathy for the referee in football and have never commented on the performance of the referees in these pages, unless I attended the game. Second-hand accounts are biased, unreliable and unacceptable. When I attend games in person, I comment on the performance of the referee, but never personalise these comments. It is a judgement on performance not on the referee as a person.

Quite simply, I respect referees. I believe they have an impossible job. It’s tough enough at intercounty level but pity the ref in some local game where he does not have neutral umpires or linesmen. The ref should apply the rules, but also apply common sense, knowing the difference between a deliberate intentional foul and body contact where the player is playing the ball, not the man. No free or card for such, even if the player falls to the ground.

The modern game has evolved and there is much to recommend it, but I believe that it can be made much more enjoyable for players and spectators by making necessary changes

IMPROVEMENTS

Some of the he rules are not clear-cut, particularly the tackle.

Rid the game of the mark. The idea was that it would reward high-fielding, a wonderful but fast–fading feature of the game. It has not done that, particularly around the middle of the park. Midfield is often bypassed today and worst of all a mark is allowed for a player near goal, who manages to catch a low ball stumbling to the ground and raises his hand within a few seconds to signal his achievement. Did he, or did he not, raise his hand? Invariably the referee awards the mark and a simple tap over for a certain point, which may be the winning score.

Learn from the women’s game. The LGFA has got it right with the clock (in major venues) taking the timing of games away from the referees. The same happens in basketball. The clock stops when there is a hold up in play. Then there are no grounds for dispute. I have seen too many games where the referee played too much overtime, or too little, and the winning scores came during the extended time. Recently I witnessed 13 minutes added on by a referee. There is a lot of stoppage time in 13 minutes.

Spectators have watches and stopwatches/timers on their phones, so then the arguments commence. That time added on is at the discretion of the referee. He has too much to do already and more advisory discretion should be given to umpires and linesmen. In the absence of a clock, let the other officials bear that responsibility.

Get rid of the water-breaks too. Too often they influence the flow of the play. Pardon the pun, but too often they also change the run of play.

13-A-SIDE

I would love to see the teams reduced to 13 players. Take out the full back and the full forward, create more space and set the scene for more open football. I have seen it used very successfully at colleges level and it is a joy to watch. Also, it would help rural clubs in particular, who are hard pressed to have 15 players available due to depopulation and other factors. It would help clubs to field their own team instead of being forced to join up with their neighbouring parish, probably their greatest rivals for many years. Amalgamations are undesirable, but often necessary. I think of South Kerry clubs in particular.

There is an argument to get rid of all referees’ cards, red, yellow and black. For a start dump the black card. As it is, some players feign injuries, waste time and run down the clock. The 10-minute penalty and 14 players effectively means the sin-binned player returns after seven, six or dare I say five minutes. The timekeeper is the ref. He is not God almighty and he has enough to do.

The modern game of football has plenty going for it, but there are responsibilities on the GAA authorities, the referees, the managers and the players to improve the enjoyment of the game. Ditto for the spectators, the hurlers on the ditch, or in this case the footballers on the terraces. Too many are not conversant with the new rules. It is hard to blame them; there has been too much tricking around with the rules governing football that it can be hard to know the updated position.

That situation with local club rivalry and natural bias leads to misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the facts and rules that leads to difference of opinions, to put it very mildly.

Pity the poor ref having to make instant decisions, de facto on his own. Video analysis is not confined just to The Sunday Game. Many club games are also filmed. The ref can’t win. Who would want to be a referee? Certainly not for the money – a very modest €40 for a local senior game.

Is it a just reward for running the gauntlet of some players, or a few officials who spend half their time encroaching onto the pitch, and the tirade of abuse from spectators, usually personal, misguided and unwarranted?

Who’s reffing the game on Sunday next?

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