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Lost in Castlebar: Kerry are miles off where they need to be (but that’s okay)

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by Adam Moynihan

My visit to MacHale Park was ill-fated from the start.

When I arrived at the gate at the corner of the stand and the scoreboard end, I was welcomed in and directed to the media tower way over on the other side of the pitch. It was my first time working on a match at this venue but 'media tower' sounded about right. I am a member of the media after all (the mainstream media if some of the replies to my recent tweet about Tommy Robinson are to be believed).

After eventually reaching the tower and climbing the steps into a dark hallway, I opened up door No. 1. It was TG4's commentary gantry. Doors No. 2 and 3 were both radio booths. I don't know if the steward at the gate had me pegged as a Gaeilgeoir or as someone who has a face for radio but either way I wasn’t where I was meant to be.

I wandered back over to the entrance to figure out what was going on. A lost Kerryman dazed and confused in MacHale Park. Sadly, this would become the theme of the evening.

This time the doorman sent me down underneath the stand where I was greeted by another steward who was manning an elevator. "Are you press?" I am, I said, as I flashed my GAA-issued press ID card like an FBI agent arriving at the scene of a crime.

"That's no good to you here," the steward replied in lilting Mayo tones. "Have you any cash?" Some local wit (which was greatly appreciated my end). He opened the doors and brought me up to the press box with plenty of time to spare.

Around an hour later I would have gladly slipped him a 50 to let me the hell out of there.

Kerry were completely outran, outfought and outmanoeuvred on the night by a rampant Mayo platoon who had no interest in taking prisoners. Kevin McStay’s side looked championship-ready. Jack O’Connor’s side looked ready for bed.

Two avoidable goals added exclamation points to the half-time scoreline but even if you took the goals out of it (to paraphrase the last Kerry manager), the gulf between the teams was alarming. The defenders in navy blue were stuck to the ground and the hosts took full advantage with the swashbuckling Aidan O’Shea and incessant Jordan Flynn to the fore.

At the other end, Kerry’s forwards struggled to create separation from their markers when making runs for the ball. When they did find some space, and when the pass was right (which happened far less often than it should have), they failed to make inroads against a physically imposing Mayo defence. This resulted in low-percentage shots from unkind angles. Their execution rate of 27% was a clear reflection of this.

Mayo led by 11 at the break and the game was already over. The introduction of David Clifford and Seánie O’Shea helped the visitors to win the second half but that came as no consolation at all, really.

It was a very disappointing result and performance and you felt for the travelling Kerry support, but in fairness we were warned that this might happen. Jack O’Connor told us that Kerry would have to train through the league and that the players’ conditioning would not be right. If you were to compare how Kerry moved around on Saturday night versus how they were moving this time last year, it would be like looking at two different teams. Not least because several automatic starters weren’t on the pitch.

To be frank, Kerry are miles off where they need to be if they want to win another All-Ireland, but that’s okay for now. Of all the All-Ireland titles that Kerry have to their name, none of them were ever won in February.

As for the immediate future, the manager has spoken of his desire to reach six points, a magical number that has guaranteed Division 1 survival in all but one of the last 15 seasons. That means they will need to win two of their remaining four fixtures. Next up is Armagh at home on Saturday (5pm) followed by Tyrone away, Roscommon at home and Galway away.

Armagh’s form to date has been all over the place. After beating Monaghan in Round 1, they had a comeback draw against Mayo in Round 2 and then they lost to surprise package Roscommon on Sunday last. They have been too erratic for anyone to predict what kind of challenge they will offer up this weekend but they are unlikely to give anything away easily.

It’s difficult to feel confident for Kerry given how far off the pace they were in Castlebar but you would expect Clifford and O’Shea to start, and that’s something. You would also expect a positive reaction from the players who manage to hold on to their starting positions, particularly in the familiar surrounds of Austin Stack Park.

I know I’m a soft Killarney boy but I’ll hardly get lost in Tralee, and this Kerry team shouldn’t be getting lost around there either.

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Kerry Camogie vow to back players in shorts/skorts controversy

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by Adam Moynihan

The Kerry County Board will back their players if they decide to defy the rulebook and wear shorts after officials at the Camogie Association’s National Congress voted to keep the controversial skort.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, Kerry Camogie chairperson Ann Marie Russell confirmed that she is fully behind the players, the vast majority of whom want the skort to be binned.

“I know there have been calls for a protest, that they would all go out the first weekend of the championship and wear shorts,” Russell said. “If the players felt that was something they wanted to do, Kerry Camogie would absolutely support them.

“It should be up to the people who it affects. It doesn’t matter to me what the players wear or what they look like. They should be comfortable.”

The punishment for not wearing the correct playing gear is a yellow card which can be followed by a red card for dissent if not rectified.

Players say the skirt-like garment is not comfortable and they were hopeful that it would finally become a thing of the past when the issue was raised at Congress in Kildare last weekend.

However, a motion by Tipperary and Kerry to replace it with shorts was defeated by 64% to 36%. A similar proposal by Great Britain and Meath which would have given players the option to choose between skorts and shorts also fell well short of the two-thirds majority required (55% against, 45% in favour).

Voting was carried out by delegates from the various county boards as well as members of central and provincial councils. The majority of voters were female.

As one of Kerry’s two delegates, Russell confirmed that she voted in line with the players’ wishes, but she fears that delegates from some counties didn’t do likewise.

“Our job as delegates is to speak on behalf of the players and I definitely felt as though that wasn’t reflected by some of the other counties. I don’t know any girl in any age group at any level that goes to training in a skort. That, in itself, should speak volumes to the powers that be. Even the counties that wanted to keep the skorts, there’s no way their girls go training in skorts. I know they don’t.

“When camogie first started, women weren’t allowed to wear pants, so they had no choice but to wear skirts. They were longer at the time and things have evolved since then. The design is better. But there is a misconception that there are shorts underneath the skirts so ‘what’s the big deal?’ They’re not shorts, they’re compression shorts. That’s not the same thing.

“And look, I’m not wearing the skorts so it doesn’t matter to me. You have to listen to the players. That’s what I feel.

“We’re making decisions that really have little relevance to us, so we really have to take our players’ opinions into it. I’m not sure how many delegates go back and ask their players about these motions before they vote on them.”

Also speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, Kerry senior player Niamh Leen outlined the specific issues players have with the skort.

“If you went around the country, I guarantee you that you’d only find a handful of girls actually training in a skort,” the Clanmaurice woman said. “I’ve never been to a training session where someone was wearing a skort. We’re all in shorts.

“The practical side of it is that they’re really uncomfortable. They’re constantly rising up and I spend the majority of the match pulling the skort down instead of concentrating on the game. It shouldn’t be that way.”

According to Leen, the discomfort felt by players is not just physical. There is also a psychological discomfort involved.

“I am very paranoid about the skort, especially the length. You spend a lot of time bending over to pick up the ball and I am conscious of it. Even if you size up, it’s still too short. The only way to counteract it is to wear Skins (base layer) underneath which I don’t really like doing because that’s not overly comfortable either.

“It should be a players’ vote at the end of the day. We’re the ones who actually have to wear them and we should be the ones having the say. But, unfortunately, it’s not up to us.

“It’s very, very annoying. I could use harsher words but it is just frustrating, you know? We’ve wanted this motion to be passed for so many years.

“Nobody I know likes playing in a skort and it’s frustrating that our own organisation aren’t taking the players into account.”

This is not the first time a proposal to replace the skort has been rejected and players will have to wait another three years for the next Congress to try to alter the rules on an official basis.

Leen believes that she and her colleagues should not have to wait that long and questions the reasoning of those delegates who voted to keep the status quo.

“Honestly, I think it’s to keep the tradition and to keep us unique, and maybe they see the skorts as being more feminine, which is just mind-boggling for me. I just don’t understand how that could be a reason to keep something that’s making girls uncomfortable.

“I understand that it’s the tradition, but sometimes traditions have to move on.”

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MATCH PREVIEW: Kerry name strong team for league final showdown with Armagh

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by Adam Moynihan

Lidl National League Division 1 Final

Kerry v Armagh

Sunday 3pm

Croke Park

Live on TG4

The Kerry ladies return to Croke Park on Sunday hoping to retain their Division 1 crown and managers Declan Quill and Darragh Long have named a strong-looking line-up for their battle against Armagh.

Kerry mostly used the league for experimenting but they still managed to win five of their seven matches, enough to secure a top two finish.

Now almost all of The Kingdom’s big hitters are back in play, as evidenced by the team they have selected for this weekend’s Division 1 decider at HQ.

Eleven members of the side that lost to Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland final have been selected to start against Armagh. The four “new” starters are goalkeeper Mary Ellen Bolger, full back Deirdre Kearney, midfielder Mary O’Connell and full forward Emma Dineen.

Dineen has rejoined the panel following a spell abroad and has slotted seamlessly into Kerry’s full forward line. She will be flanked by Footballer of the Year Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh and the skilful Hannah O’Donoghue, who scored 1-2 against Galway a fortnight ago.

The only really notable absentee – apart from veterans like Emma Costello and Louise Galvin who haven’t yet featured for the team in 2024 – is Síofra O’Shea. The dynamic attacker, who heroically came off the bench in last year’s All-Ireland despite damaging her ACL in the lead-up to the game, is still rehabbing that serious injury.

Meanwhile, the return of All-Star defender Cáit Lynch bolsters Kerry’s back six. The Castleisland Desmonds woman has been used sparingly so far this year and she came on at half-time in that final regulation league game versus Galway.

Quill and Long are likely to call on substitutes Amy Harrington and Danielle O’Leary to make an impact if and when required.

Kerry’s sole loss in the league came at the hands of their final opponents, Armagh, who are looking to emulate what The Kingdom achieved last season by winning Division 1 at the first attempt after gaining promotion from Division 2 the previous season.

The Orchard County beat Kerry by 3-14 to 1-13 at the Athletic Grounds just over a month ago.

They flew through the regular phase of the 2024 competition, winning six games in a row before losing to Dublin in Round 7 with many key players being rested.

Star forward Aimee Mackin has been in blistering form. She has racked up 6-21 (4-15 from play) to date, including 2-6 (1-6 from play) in that meeting between the eventual finalists in March.

Armagh had not yet named their team for the final as this article was being published.

This match forms part of a double header with the Division 2 final between Kildare and Tyrone (1pm). Both games will be televised live on TG4.

Kerry team to play Armagh:

1. Mary Ellen Bolger (Southern Gaels)

2. Cáit Lynch (Castleisland Desmonds)

3. Deirdre Kearney (Na Gaeil)

4. Eilís Lynch (Castleisland Desmonds)

5. Aishling O’Connell (Scartaglin)

6. Ciara Murphy (MKL Gaels)

7. Kayleigh Cronin (Dr Crokes)

8. Mary O’Connell (Na Gaeil)

9. Anna Galvin (Southern Gaels)

10. Niamh Carmody (Captain – Finuge/St Senan’s)

11. Niamh Ní Chonchúir (Corca Dhuibhne)

12. Lorraine Scanlon (Castleisland Desmonds)

13. Hannah O’Donoghue (Beaufort)

14. Emma Dineen (Glenflesk)

15. Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh (Corca Dhuibhne)

Subs: Ciara Butler, Danielle O’Leary, Amy Harrington, Ciara McCarthy, Ciara O’Brien, Katie Brosnan, Aoife Dillane, Bríd O’Connor, Kate O’Sullivan, Eilís O’Connor, Fay O’Donoghue, Jess Gill, Róisín Smith, Siobhán Burns, Keri-Ann Hanrahan.

Follow Adam on Twitter/X for all the latest updates from the Ladies Division 1 final at Croke Park

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