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Lakers to make long-awaited return to Killarney home

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National League: Division 1 South

Scotts Lakers v UCC Demons

Saturday at 7.30pm

Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre

The National League season is in full swing by this stage but from a Killarney perspective, something has been missing. With the Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre being used as a vaccination facility, the Lakers have been without a proper home for the first month of the campaign. Their two “home” fixtures to date have been staged 25km away in Castleisland. Both matches have ended in defeat.

All that will change this Saturday night as the St Paul’s senior team make their long-awaited return to the venue known locally as the Aura, or the Auracle (a nod to the Golden State Warriors’ Oracle Arena, traditionally one of the loudest venues in the NBA).

The Aura has seen some incredible nights since the Lakers returned to top-level basketball in 2017. Now, after a long layoff due to the pandemic, the club are hoping that supporters will return in their droves to see a new-look team that is packed with young, local talent.

Imports Ben Miller (Canada), Emilian Grudov (Bulgaria) and Rui Saravia (Portugal) will lead the way alongside Killarney men Mark O’Shea and Paul Clarke, but the rest of the squad is comprised of talented teenagers like Jamie O’Sullivan and Senan O’Leary.

Standing in their way this weekend are the UCC Demons, an imposing side who have won their opening four league games in convincing fashion. The Cork outfit also made light work of Ulster University in the first round of the President’s Cup with Tala Fam Thiam and American Andre Kennedy splitting 50 points in a 88-61 win.

It will certainly be a tough match-up for a Lakers team still finding their feet but head coach Jarlath Lee believes that last weekend’s 94-59 victory over WIT has given them a timely lift.

"We needed the confidence boost,” Lee admitted after the Lakers picked up their first win in four attempts. “We should have won our first game but complacency creeped in. I’m delighted that we never let that happen tonight.

“Ben Miller displayed great leadership and decision-making, especially in the second half. Senan O’Leary showed why I have him as a starter at the age of 17 by scoring 16 points, and Jamie O Sullivan, another teenager, had 20 points.

"We’re building for the future and we are taking the right steps. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. Daniel Carroll was on the scoresheet again with four points, but I was mainly impressed with his defence. Mark Sheehan is always positive, always ready. A great kid to be a part of any team.

“But we will get back to work on Monday night and focus on Demons. It’s a home game so we'd really love a big crowd and loud fans to help us."

The club have reminded supporters that season and patron tickets are now available from any club officer.

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Relegation battle has town divided

By Sean Moriarty This is bigger than the county final itself – with the main prize on offer being bragging rights in the town. After an unprecedented run of events during this year’s Kerry Senior Football championship Killarney’s two biggest clubs, Dr Crokes and Killarney Legion are set to face off in a relegation battle […]

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By Sean Moriarty

This is bigger than the county final itself – with the main prize on offer being bragging rights in the town.

After an unprecedented run of events during this year’s Kerry Senior Football championship Killarney’s two biggest clubs, Dr Crokes and Killarney Legion are set to face off in a relegation battle that is sure to divide the town.

In sporting terms, the outcome of the big game, set for December 5, is simple enough. The winner stays in the Senior Championship next season and the losers will have to play in the Intermediate Championship.

Fans of the black and amber or the green and white face an anxious week. Winning the county title is one thing – consigning your cross town rivals to second division football in football is altogether a bigger prize.

Senior officials from both clubs are being very guarded on a potential outcome as both sides know the significance of this play off.

“It is a pity that two Killarney clubs, with a long tradition of playing football in the top tier, find themselves in the position of having to play off to avoid relegation,” Matt O’Neill, Cathaoirleach of Dr Crokes, told the Killarney Advertiser.

“Both teams will fight tooth and nail to stay in the senior ranks. I am confident that on Sunday week our lads will do themselves and the club proud, as always, and give their all in the quest to keep the black and amber to the fore.”

Crokes are based off the Lewis Road with Legion a short distance away on the other side of the bypass.

“Everyone has an opinion on this,” Legion PRO, Elaine O’Donoghue, told the Killarney Advertiser. “Both sides will be nervous – may the best team win. There are a lot of questions, are the Crokes suffering after defeat to Kerins O’Rahillys [in the semi-final]? Are our lads suffering after losing to St Brendan’s for the third year in a row?”

Every football fan will be keeping a close eye on next weekend’s Intermediate County Final too which takes place on December 4.

The winners of the match between Beaufort and Tralee side Na Gael will be automatically promoted to replace the losers of the Killarney play-off in the Senior Championship next season.

Should Beaufort prevail, a (relatively) local team could replace a town team in the top flight.

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68% of fans say penalty shootouts ‘not right’ for Gaelic football

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by Adam Moynihan

Local Gaelic football supporters are largely against the practice of deciding matches with penalty shootouts, a poll carried out by the Killarney Advertiser can reveal.

Over two-thirds (68%) of those surveyed said they don’t think that penalties are “right” for the GAA with the remaining 32% standing on the other side of the fence.

Traditionally exclusive to the game of soccer, penalty shootouts were first introduced to Kerry GAA competitions in 2020 as a method of settling fixtures “on the day”. This was deemed necessary as there was less time for replays due to the profound effect the coronavirus pandemic had on last year’s sporting calendar.

A number of high-profile Kerry club matches have gone to penalties since they were introduced, including last season’s County League final between Austin Stacks and Rathmore, last month’s Kerry SFC Round 1 match between Legion and Spa, and Saturday’s county semi-final between Stacks and St Brendan’s.

Stacks emerged victorious in that televised last four clash as former Kerry player Kieran Donaghy scored the winning kick to send the Tralee club through to the final.

Before penalty shootouts became the norm, drawn GAA matches either went to a replay or to extra-time and then a replay if necessary.

Sorting a match out on the day is now commonplace, although some observers have voiced concerns about introducing what is effectively a soccer exercise to Gaelic games. When asked for their thoughts on penalties, a number of respondents to our survey made the same or similar observations.

“Penalties do not encapsulate the basic skills of Gaelic football,” one reader said. “Kicking from the hand is the key fundamental skill of the sport so that seems a more fair and apt way to decide a game.”

Another fan commented: “Penalties are for soccer. Marks are for Aussie Rules. Can we come up with anything ourselves?”

On the other hand, some respondents said that penalties were “fine” and a few suggested that they be used for any game bar a final.

Kerry GAA have confirmed that the upcoming county final and relegation playoff will go to replays if the sides are level after 60 minutes. However, next Saturday’s intermediate final between Na Gaeil and Beaufort will go all the way to penalties if required.

OTHER OPTIONS

When asked to select the “best” alternative method of deciding a Gaelic football match from a list provided by the Killarney Advertiser, over 40% of the people surveyed opted for a free-taking shootout from 35 metres.

‘More extra-time’ was the second most popular option with 23.61% of the vote.

An additional period of ‘next score wins’ was next up on just under 20%, with a 1 v 1 ice-hockey-style shootout, which would see the kicker carry the ball in hand before shooting for goal, was selected by 16% of supporters.

Whether or not the GAA are open to changing things up is uncertain. For the time-being at least, it appears as though football matches will continue to be decided using this controversial method.

Killarney Advertiser Penalty Shootout Poll (carried out online on November 23/24)

Are penalty shootouts right for Gaelic football?

Yes 31.94%

No 68.06%

If a replay is not possible, which of these alternative methods of settling a match is best:

Free-taking shootout from 35 metres 40.28%​

More extra time 23.61%

Next score wins 19.44%

1 v 1 ice-hockey-style shootout (ball in hand) 16.67%

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