Connect with us


Meet the Kerry woman rubbing shoulders with Serena and Nadal



Molly Sullivan chats to Adam Moynihan about life as a strength and conditioning coach to professional tennis player İpek Öz

Molly Sullivan always wanted to work in professional sports but she never imagined it would happen like this. Despite playing a bit of tennis as a kid, the Ballyhar native admits to only having a passing interest in the sport. Up until recently, that is.

In April she came on board as strength and conditioning coach for up and coming Turkish player İpek Öz. The last few months have been a whirlwind of international travel, Grand Slams, and mixing with some of the greatest tennis players of all time.

It’s all bit surreal, Sullivan admits, although when you speak to her it doesn’t take long to figure out how she has ended up where she is. During our walk around Killarney House and Gardens on a sunny Tuesday morning, the 24-year-old comes across as clear-minded and driven; the type of person for whom mediocrity isn’t an option.

Initially she wanted to be a sports agent so she studied Law and Psychology in UL, but the draw of a more hands-on role was strong.

“It was a crossroads, left or right, and I couldn’t really decide for a very long time,” she recalls. “In the end I went and did a Masters in Sports Performance in UL. I finished that a year-and-a-half ago. Now I’m doing a Masters of Science in Sports Nutrition, which I’ll be finishing in November.”

Upon graduating from her first Masters, she quickly picked up an S&C gig with the Irish swim team. She enjoyed the role (despite dealing with the effects of the pandemic during her time there) but she ultimately came to the conclusion that it wasn’t for her.

“My boss there referred me another S&C coach, Ian Jones, who has worked in the NFL with the Houston Texans. That was my thing when I was studying, I wanted to go and work in the NFL. When Ian offered me a job, I was delighted. I took it because of the amount of connections Ian has and the amount of people he knows.”

A short time after linking up with Jones, her foresight paid off - albeit it in an unexpected manner.

“I was working with Ian for less than three months when he sent me a voice note saying that there was an American tennis coach looking for a strength and conditioning coach, and would I have any interest in travelling out there and trialling it for a few weeks.”

The athlete in need turned out to be the No. 1 female tennis player in Turkey, İpek Öz.

Sullivan, an accomplished rower who earlier this year won a national title in the women’s quad with Killorglin RC, jumped at the opportunity. Although she readily confesses to not being a big tennis fan up to that point.

“I actually wasn’t to be honest with you,” she smiles. “I used to play it when I was a kid but I would only watch the majors. I was never a hardcore tennis fan. But I just always wanted to work in professional sport. That was the goal. So it was a no-brainer to take the job.”

In addition to taking care of Öz’s physical training, Sullivan also manages the nutrition side of things. She says she has been taken aback by the sheer volume of work pro tennis players get through on a daily basis.

“It’s so different to any sport I’ve worked in. It’s insane the amount they have to go through. There’s a documentary on Netflix worth watching called Untold: Breaking Point. It shows how mentally draining it is.

“It’s all about showing up and doing the exact same thing for hours, and then doing the gym for an hour. And then repeating that the next day. In terms of workload, it’s very high.

“İpek gets up in the morning and hits [balls] for two or two-and-a-half hours on the court. It’s every other day basically for me; one day will be a weights session and the next day will be a conditioning session. So she’s training for about four hours every day, at least.

“Injury risk is always a problem, and you have to think about nutrition constantly. As a player you really have to love what you’re doing or else it just won’t work.”

By chance, Sullivan’s appointment has coincided nicely with the most exciting time in the pro tennis calendar. Since linking up with her new employer for the first time in Sweden (where Öz won a €25,000 tournament), the Kerry woman has been at Wimbledon, Roland Garros and, most recently, the US Open.

She helped Öz through a two-week training camp in Istanbul before flying out to the latter tournament, which is still ongoing. The Turkish player, who is currently ranked 165th in the world, exited in the qualifiers at the hands of Leolia Jeanjean of France last Wednesday.

İpek Öz and Sullivan at the US Open.

It was nevertheless an incredible experience for Sullivan, not least because of the famous faces she bumped into while working at the iconic Flushing Meadows venue.

“The US Open was cool because all the main draw players arrive early. While we were there I watched Rafa Nadal practice every day. You meet them all in the corridor every day. I was just star-struck all the time.

“I’ve met Nadal a good few times actually. He came very early [to the US Open]. I just decided to go to Arthur Ashe Stadium, which is open to anyone with accreditation, and he was in there practicing. He took a photo with me afterwards. The following morning I saw him in the hallway and he said ‘good morning’. He’s just really sound and makes time for everyone. That’s the impression I got from him.”

Nadal is playing at Flushing Meadows for the 20th time.

This particular US Open is very special indeed for one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Serena Williams. The 40-year-old is expected to call it a day once her involvement in this year’s tournament is over; she is in third round action today (Friday) against Ajla Tomljanović. Sullivan is growing accustomed to being around the likes of Nadal and Andy Murray and Naomi Osaka, but she admits to being especially starstruck around the 23-time Grand Slam champ.

“I remember one day I was talking to İpek and I said, ‘Jeez, I’d love to meet Serena Williams’. And 10 seconds later, I swear, she was there warming up next to us. I turned around and was like, ‘I can’t be here right now’.

“I don’t like bothering players when they’re doing something so I actually caught her for a picture after her practice two days later. She was sound. Very nice about it.”

Serena Williams and Molly Sullivan.

What do her family back in Ballyhar, a rural townland near Killarney, make of it all?

“They think I have notions now I’d say,” Sullivan jokes. “They think it’s unreal though. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve had it planned when I was studying that I wasn’t going to end up anywhere else besides professional sport. Thankfully it has paid off now.”

Next up is a busy period that includes trips to Bucharest, Budapest and Parma. Sullivan says Öz is making good progress as she comes to terms with elite level tennis.

"She’s doing okay. She’s dealing with a lot of other things on the side that is affecting her mentally (Öz recently split with her coach). Other than that she’s going well. It’s her first year in Grand Slam tournaments so it’s a huge difference for her. You’re walking into the US Open and there are thousands of people there asking for pictures and autographs. And hers was a night match so everyone was drinking… It’s just a different kettle of fish altogether.

“She’s aiming to get into the top 100, and then the top 50. It’s all leading up to January, really, and the Australian Open in Melbourne. The big goal for İpek will be to win a few matches at a major.

“It’s exciting. The Australian Open is supposed to be the nicest of all of them for the athletes and coaches. The facilities are meant to be insane. You’re treated like royalty at the Grand Slams. It’s really nice to be a part of it.”

As for her future beyond that, Sullivan’s ambitions remain sky high, although she does feel as though being a woman is an “obstacle” in her chosen field. She was fortunate that Öz “really wanted” a female S&C coach, but job-hunting in male sports may prove to be more challenging.

“It’s not easy getting a job in professional sports as a female strength and conditioning coach. It’s just not that common yet. I was the only one at the US Open from what we could see. The females there were sports psychologists, nutritionists, or you’d see the odd physio. The majority of the teams were all male. I was constantly getting asked when I was playing because everyone thought I was a tennis player.

“Being a girl is still an obstacle, for sure. Especially working with men’s teams. That’s why I did my second masters; I wanted to have everything covered from an employer’s point of view.

“I’d like to help İpek get as high as she can in the rankings and go on that journey with her a bit. I’ll just see how that goes really and then, like I said, I always wanted to work in the NFL. I had planned to do that this summer on an internship but when I got offered this job, it took precedence.

“We’ll just have to see where it goes.”

Continue Reading


Almost impossible to look beyond East Kerry but Dingle are best placed to challenge



Adam Moynihan breaks down the groups and likely contenders in the 2023 Kerry Senior Football Championship

Group 1: East Kerry, South Kerry, West Kerry, Templenoe

Defending champions East Kerry are on the hunt for their fourth county title in five years and with a talented squad that’s looking as stacked as ever, only the brave would back against them.

Rathmore’s promotion back to senior level means that Kerry players Shane Ryan and Paul Murphy are missing from last year’s nine-point final victory over Mid Kerry but East Kerry’s strength in depth in all sectors means that no individual player is irreplaceable – excepting the obvious.

David Clifford’s performance for the ages in Fossa’s landmark intermediate semi-final win over Stacks provided a stark reminder of his awe-inspiring talents. Paudie Clifford was excellent too and this year the Two Mile brothers are joined on the panel by four clubmates – another glaring indicator of how far Fossa have come.

James O’Donoghue must be considered an injury doubt after only managing a cameo in Legion’s last outing but his clubmates Brian Kelly, Jonathan Lyne, Darragh Lyne and Cian Gammell are all likely to feature. Current Kerry senior panelists Chris O’Donoghue and Darragh Roche (Glenflesk), Ronan Buckley and Ruairí Murphy (Listry), and Donal O’Sullivan (Kilgarvan) would also be expected to play their part, with plenty of young talent from all seven clubs hoping to break into the starting line-up.

Realistically, the holders should navigate Group 1 with little fuss with South Kerry, West Kerry and Templenoe battling it out for second.

South Kerry and Templenoe played out a draw in the group stage of last year’s championship so there might not be much between them this year either.

West Kerry will be aiming to pick up at least one result after losing all three of their fixtures in 2022.

VERDICT: East Kerry and Templenoe

GROUP 2: Kenmare Shamrocks, Rathmore, St Kieran’s, Feale Rangers

Kenmare came mightily close in the Senior Club final and they should be able to carry that momentum through to the County Championship. Seánie O’Shea is obviously their one bona fide match winner but they’re also strong around the middle third where James McCarthy, David Hallissey and Kevin O’Sullivan put in the hard yards.

The fact that Feale Rangers reached last year’s semi-final indicates that they’re on an upward trajectory. The question now is can they repeat the trick? In 2022 the team was backboned by Listowel Emmets players (seven started that defeat to Mid Kerry) and those lads are coming into this competition in confident form having secured a spot in the still-to-be-played Junior Premier final.

Rathmore are always a tough championship team and the Ryans (Cathal and Mark at midfield and Shane at full forward) are sure to be a handful for any opposition.

St Kieran’s have troubled decent teams in the not-too-distant past – although they lost all three group games (including one against Kenmare) a year ago.

VERDICT: Kenmare and Feale Rangers

GROUP 3: Mid Kerry, Spa, Kerins O’Rahillys, Shannon Rangers

In 2022, Spa found the going tough in a Group of Death that included East Kerry and Dingle. The draw has been kinder to them this time around and they would probably expect to beat Rahillys and Shannon Rangers.

The wheels came off against Dingle in this year’s Senior Club Championship but they impressed the week before against Kenmare. Dara Moynihan, Evan Cronin and Cian Tobin will be important players in attack, with Dan O’Donoghue manning the midfield and Shane Cronin protecting their defensive third from number 6.

Mid Kerry, runners-up last season, will provide their sternest test in this pool. A lot of eyes (including those of Jack O’Connor) will be on Cillian Burke after his heroics for Milltown/Castlemaine in the semi-final of the Intermediate Club Championship. His clubmate Éanna O’Connor (son of the Kerry bainisteoir) will also play a crucial role at centre forward.

Rahillys are facing a relegation playoff if they fail to reach the final of the Kerry SFC and their form in recent weeks would suggest that making it that far is a long shot.

VERDICT: Mid Kerry and Spa

GROUP 4: Dingle, Dr Crokes, St Brendan’s, Na Gaeil

Breaking free of East Kerry’s stranglehold will not be easy but crafty Senior Club champions Dingle are surely best placed to wriggle loose. With four in-form Geaneys in the forwards – Paul, Mikey, Conor and Dylan – they have the tools to trouble any defence, and the return of their established AFL player Mark O’Connor adds solidity going the other way. They also have the incomparable Tom O’Sullivan pulling the strings. As things stand, they are easily the standout club team in the county.

Their Group 4 opponents Dr Crokes will be aiming to improve upon their showing in 2022 when they bowed out at the quarter-final stage. Naturally much will depend on the availability or otherwise of star players Gavin White and Tony Brosnan. White missed the recent Senior Club semi-final defeat to Kenmare with a hamstring injury. Encouragingly, Brosnan (who has been sidelined with a recurrence of a lung problem) was togged for that match, though he did not play.

The Killarney club will be fancied to qualify from their group alongside Dingle, although St Brendan’s – strengthened by the addition of an unknown number of Austin Stacks players to their ranks – could be dangerous.

The other team in the pool, Na Gaeil, are facing a relegation playoff against Rahillys once both sides are finished with the Kerry SFC. Reaching the final of this competition would spare them but Na Gaeil can count themselves unlucky to have been handed a difficult draw for the second year in a row.

VERDICT: Dingle and Dr Crokes

All things considered East Kerry and Dingle appear to be the frontrunners to capture the Bishop Moynihan trophy but there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way, starting this weekend with a full round of fixtures.

All eight matches will be either televised or streamed online. Dingle v Dr Crokes is on TG4. The remaining seven matches are on Clubber.


Friday 8pm Na Gaeil v St Brendan’s (Austin Stack Park)

Saturday 3pm Templenoe v West Kerry (Fitzgerald Stadium)

Saturday 5.30pm Rahillys v Shannon Rangers (Austin Stack Park)

Saturday 7.30pm East Kerry v South Kerry (Austin Stack Park)

Sunday 1.30pm Rathmore v St Kieran’s (Fitzgerald Stadium)

Sunday 2.15pm Dingle v Dr Crokes (Austin Stack Park)

Sunday 3.30pm Feale Rangers v Kenmare Shamrocks (Fitzgerald Stadium)

Sunday 4.15pm Mid Kerry v Spa (Austin Stack Park)

Continue Reading


Kerry’s old dogs ready for Tyrone challenge in All-Ireland final



Adam Moynihan chats to Kerry Masters goalkeeper Tony Lyons ahead of the over 40 All-Ireland football final

Hi Tony. Thanks for speaking to me.

No problem, Adam.

Can you tell me about the Kerry Masters’ season to date?

We played six round robin games in the league phase to see which competition we would be in at the end. There are five championships in all with the senior championship being for teams that finish 1st to 4th in the league, the plate for 5th to 8th and so on. There were 23 counties involved in total this year with new entrants like Armagh, Derry and Limerick.

We won five of our six league games against Limerick, Cork, Waterford, London and Clare. Unfortunately we were well beaten by Dublin during the league phase but that served us well because we knuckled down after that and upped the training to twice a week.

We also got a physical trainer on board from Keel, David Clifford, and he has had a huge influence on our development the last couple of months, allied to Adam and Gary O’Reilly from Glenflesk, and Jason Foley from Keel.

We then beat Derry in the All-Ireland quarter-final by a point, setting up a semi-final against Galway in Limerick which we won by 12 points to 7 a couple of weeks back. it That quarter-final win against Derry was our most pleasing result of the season because we were down a few bodies.

What’s the standard like?

The standard is actually very good. While we don’t have a lot of former Kerry players with us – aside from William Kirby and Aidan O’Mahony – we do have a very good calibre of club player with us, the likes of John O’Connor from Kerins O’Rahillys and John Paul Leahy from Ballyduff for example. We’ve come across some big names in some of the games. Limerick had Ciarán Carey, Dublin had Denis Bastick, Cork had Nicholas Murphy and John Miskella, and Derry had Paddy Bradley.

The first halves of the games are really competitive with the second halves probably becoming more of a war of attrition. The key is having depth in your squad and being able to bring players in and out at the right time as players tire, and I think Adam and his management team have mastered that at this stage.

Would a number of the players have represented Kerry at some level in the past?

We haven’t a huge amount of former Kerry seniors but some of the guys would have represented Kerry at junior and underage level at various stages. What the management team focused on when it became apparent some of the former players weren’t joining was getting good quality club players who could commit and make most of the trainings, and I think that has worked well for them.

What’s key as well is that a lot of the players have been playing very recently for their clubs either at senior or junior level. That’s a huge help.

How are the fitness levels?

Depends on what time of the season you’re talking about! The first few weeks is all about trying to knock off the pounds and get to a certain level of fitness. In fairness to Adam O’Reilly, he places a big focus on the warm-up which is important for players of all ages but especially for those of us over 40.

Very few of the starting 15 would last the 60 or 65 minutes so it’s important that the replacements coming in can add an impetus and build on what the guys before them have done. Last year our panel was probably a little light but we have added well with the likes of Kevin Lynch (Castleisland Desmonds), Mark Crowley (Kenmare) and James Nagle (Keel) – all strong and very fit guys – coming in.

Tell me more about your management team.

Adam O’Reilly is the manager. He came on board this year and brought Gary O’Reilly and Jason Foley with him. Gary looks after the statistics, gear and so on and Jason is a selector as well as taking parts of training at various times. David Clifford came on board about two months ago as physical trainer and he has added greatly to the set-up, improving our fitness levels and tackling in particular.

What’s the most enjoyable part of playing with the Kerry Masters?

A huge part of it, Adam, is playing with guys who you would have tried to knock lumps out of at club level over the years! There’s a big social part to it also with us meeting for a pint or two after games and, as well as that, guys getting back into a dressing room environment and having the craic at training.

For some guys who were never lucky enough to wear the Kerry jersey, there’s a huge sense of pride to put it on at this stage. It’s a real an honour. To be fair to the other teams we played, they have treated us with a lot of respect because they know Kerry teams will play football first and foremost.

Also it’s nice to involve our families, kids, partners, and wives and for them to come to the games. We have noticed a lot more people coming to our matches this season.

Which of your teammates are the best craic?

There are a few fellas like Tim O’Donoghue who thinks he’s hilarious but the jury’s out on that one. I suppose the goalies, myself and Niall Hobbert, would be jokers but then the rest of the panel would tell you the jury is out on us too! Kirby is good craic, as is the former Spa man Brian O’Sullivan Darcy. It’s great fun. I would thoroughly recommend it to any guy 40 or over who wants to play a bit of competitive football and also continue training in what is almost like a club environment.

How would you rate your chances in the final on Saturday? Are you expecting a difficult challenge from Tyrone?

Look, it’s going to be very tough. Tyrone have won the last two All-Ireland finals at Masters level and they have the experience, whereas this is our first go, as it were. They have a solid team built with the likes of Seán Cavanagh, Conor Gormley and Stephen O’Neill in their ranks.

It will be a tall order for sure but we’ll give it our all and the whole panel are chomping at the bit and ready for action.

Kerry v Tyrone takes place on Saturday at 4pm in Roscommon. Follow @KerryMastersGAA on Twitter for more information.


Continue Reading