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McGrath Cup form indicates that Kerry have plenty of work to do



Adam Moynihan analyses Kerry’s performances in the McGrath Cup and looks ahead to their prospects for the National League

Kerry fans knew that this year was going to be tougher than last year and the opening couple of weeks of 2023 have really hammered that point home.

2022 was as close to perfection as you could hope for. 16 games. Three goals conceded. One defeat. Four trophies (including the only one that really matters). It would be a huge ask to replicate all those achievements in consecutive seasons, especially considering the busy “off-season” the players had in between.

The McGrath Cup is a pre-season tournament so the results themselves are of little importance. That being said, the manner of the Cork defeat in the opening round was a little unsettling - and not just because losing to Cork has a naturally unsettling effect.

The far fitter and hungrier hosts carved Kerry up and ran in five goals in a 12-point massacre. They could have scored seven or eight goals so rampant was their attack, and so sluggish was Kerry’s new-look defence. By January 4, Kerry had already coughed up more goals than they did in the entirety of 2022.

The way they started the Clare match in Tralee on Sunday last was also pretty disappointing. Clare raced into a 4-0 lead in the opening 10 minutes as Jack O’Connor’s side faltered in attack. They had at least six turnovers - most of them sloppy unforced errors - while failing to muster a single shot at the posts.

It appears as though the team's conditioning is miles off their own high standards at this early stage of the season. Whenever the likes of Seán Powter ran at them at pace in Páirc Uí Rinn, or when speedy Clare corner backs Manus Doherty and Ronan Lanigan did likewise in Austin Stack Park, the Kerry players just didn’t have that sharpness or that power in the legs to stay with them.

The reality is that between all the jigs and the reels, they simply haven’t had the opportunity to put in the necessary work just yet. And given how early it is in the year, that shouldn't be giving Kerry fans palpitations.


Obviously the fact that the reigning All-Ireland champions are massively understrength should not be overlooked. Kerry were missing the club-tied sextet of David Clifford, Paudie Clifford, David Moran, Jack Savage, Paul Murphy and Shane Ryan for both matches. Gavin White, Seán O’Shea, Stephen O’Brien and Paul Geaney were absent too.

Graham O’Sullivan and Brian Ó Beaglaoich participated in the warm-up at Stack Park but Arthur Fitzgerald had them doing additional runs while their teammates were making their final preparations in the dressing room. This indicates that they are slightly further behind the rest in their attempts to get match fit.

Midfield appears to be an issue as we head towards the start of the league, especially now that Diarmuid O’Connor could be set for a period in the treatment room. The 23-year-old Tralee man injured his ankle in the first half against Clare and he later returned to the dugout on crutches. A scan will reveal the full extent of that one.

Joe O’Connor is a loss as well. Last year’s joint captain is expected to miss the intercounty season after picking up an ACL injury on club duty.

To be frank, Kerry were cleaned out at midfield against Cork. They found it very hard to win primary possession and Colm O’Callaghan had the run of the place, scoring 2-4 from play.

They tried out a few options against Clare but, worryingly, Kerry’s best midfielder on Sunday wasn’t playing for Kerry at all. David Moran gave an exhibition of high fielding in the blue of Kerins O’Rahillys as they unfortunately came up short against Kilmacud Crokes in Croke Park.

I say “worryingly” because the 34-year-old could well retire from intercounty football in the coming days or weeks. It’s not set in stone by any means – he might do another year - but the veteran will make a decision on the matter now that Rahillys’ involvement in the Club Championship has ended.

Despite his age, his injury history and his relative lack of mobility in relation to other candidates for centre field, Moran is clearly still Kerry’s best ball-winning midfielder. No other player gives Kerry a truly dependable "out" when their opponents push up on their kickout.

With that in mind, Jack O’Connor may yet convince him to stay on for one more cut.

Even if he does stay on, though, it's unlikely that he'll see much action in the early stages of the league. He will need a period of rest after a long season with Strand Road.

So, whatever happens with Moran, Kerry will need new blood in this department. Can Barry Dan O’Sullivan, Stefan Okunbor or Ronan Buckley step up and stake a claim for the championship?

O'Sullivan has shown glimpses of the physicality that earned him a call-up and Buckley broke forward and kicked an important score against Clare. We haven't seen too much from Okunbor so far; he may need more minutes before he finds his feet.


Although Kerry failed to advance to the final, the McGrath Cup wasn’t all doom and gloom.

The nature of the comeback victory over Clare was positive considering the brutal start and difficult conditions.

Of the newcomers to the panel, Barry Mahony of St Senan's and Feale Rangers has been a joy to watch. Operating between the opposition 45 and 65, he sprays passes around like a prime Xabi Alonso.

A lot of ball has been going through the hands of Tony Brosnan too, which suits him. He’s playing well as a result. Darragh Roche, the match-winner against Clare, has also emerged from the McGrath Cup with a lot of credit to his name.

It’s also good to see Mike Breen back in green and gold following that nasty hamstring injury that ruled him out of the 2022 campaign. As evidenced by his impressive debut season in 2021, the strong half back from Beaufort is built for intercounty football.

Broadly speaking there is no massive cause for concern but it must be said that Kerry's National League fixtures looked difficult as soon as they were set. Away matches against Donegal, Mayo, Tyrone and Galway await. That Donegal match in Ballybofey on January 29 will be The Kingdom's first competitive outing of the year.

With the Cliffords expected to be rested for a period after Sunday’s All-Ireland Junior Club final, and with key players O’Shea and White currently out, only a foolhardy follower would back Kerry to retain their Division 1 title.

The calendar has a new look to it again in 2023 but we could well see Kerry adopting a strategy of old. Use the league as an extended pre-season and try to peak in time for the serious business of the championship.



Kerry Camogie vow to back players in shorts/skorts controversy



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



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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