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O’Donoghue Cup Final: Make or break for Crokes and Legion

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East Kerry Championship: Final
Killarney Legion v Dr Crokes
Sunday at 2.15pm
Fitzgerald Stadium

 

Losing to your fiercest rivals is never a pleasant experience but the outcome of Sunday’s Killarney derby, an O’Donoghue Cup final no less, will be particularly excruciating for either Legion or the Crokes.

The fact of the matter is that neither of these sides have achieved what they set out achieve in 2019. Though they have sampled contrasting levels of success in recent years, both Legion and Crokes started out in January expecting to win. Competitions have come and gone, however, and so too have opportunities to pick up silverware. For Stephen Stack and Edmund O’Sullivan, this weekend’s East Kerry Championship final could be a season-defining moment.

SILVERWARE

Unfortunately for this undeniably talented Legion team, that coveted piece of silverware remains as elusive as ever. My clubmates won’t thank me for bringing it up but it’s now 25 years since that Club Championship victory over Waterville, the club’s last triumph of note at senior level. This will be Legion’s fifth O’Donoghue Cup final since 2013 (sixth including the 2014 replay) but, remarkably, you have to go all the way back to 1976 for the club’s last win at district level.

It would mean an awful lot to this current crop of players to get over the line this time out. And for manager Stephen Stack, the next 60 minutes of football will make all the difference when it comes to grading his first year in charge. It might seem harsh but that’s the nature of the beast, and no one will be more acutely aware of that than Stack himself.

If Legion can upset the odds and beat the Crokes, the rather limp County Championship exit at the hands of St Brendan’s will be a distant memory.

TROPHYLESS

For a generation of Crokes players and supporters, winning is all they’ve known.

The club’s senior team have won at least one major trophy (i.e. County Championship, Club Championship, O’Donoghue Cup, Division 1 of the County League, Munster Club or All-Ireland Club) in each of the past 16 seasons, an incredible run that has seen them capture no fewer than 40 titles.

Now, unexpectedly, Crokes stand on the brink of their first trophyless season since 2003.

The All-Ireland, Club Championship and County Championship finalists will be favourites to beat the Legion – they have done so twice already this season – but it’s certainly an uncomfortable position to find themselves in.

MATCH-UPS

Legion’s preparations have been hindered by injuries to some key players, perhaps most notably two of their Kerry panelists, James O’Donoghue and Danny Sheahan. O’Donoghue picked up the sponsor’s Man of the Match award in last weekend’s semi-final against Gneeveguilla despite being forced off midway through the second half with a lower leg injury. The former Footballer of the Year appeared to be in some distress and you don’t need me to tell you that he would be a huge loss if he’s unavailable for the final.

Sheahan, meanwhile, has had surgery on a shoulder problem so he will not be available. The tough-tackling full back, who was called up to Peter Keane’s extended panel during the 2019 season, is another big loss for Legion as he would be the natural choice to pick up Crokes’ top scorer, Tony Brosnan.

Team captain Pádraig Lucey missed the semi-final but he is expected to make his return on Sunday.

Jonathan Lyne and Podge O’Connor have been in really good form of late and bainisteoir Stack will need to get serious performances from them, and from everyone else, if his side are to bridge that 25-year gap.

STRONG

For their part, Dr Crokes had to make do without experienced defenders Fionn Fitzgerald and David O’Leary for their semi-final while David Shaw and Jordan Kiely remain longer-term casualties. They still had quite a strong line-up for that victory over Spa, however, with the front eight of Johnny Buckley, Daithí Casey, Micheál Burns, Gavin O’Shea, Brian Looney, Tony Brosnan, Mark O’Shea and Kieran O’Leary looking particularly imposing.

Burns kicked five points in a Man-of-the-Match display while the younger O’Shea cousin, Mark, chipped in with 1-1 from full forward. Tony Brosnan added 1-4, a relatively low return by his extremely high standards.

Normally the O’Donoghue Cup is an added bonus for the Crokes but considering the way the year has gone so far, Sunday’s final takes on far greater significance.

Motivation will be at an all-time high because, in truth, the only way 2019 could get any worse for them is if they lose to Legion in the O’Donoghue Cup final.

That’s the difference here: victory for Legion would make their year, defeat for Crokes would break theirs.

VERDICT

The Crokes, who are gunning for their 13th East Kerry Championship since the turn of the century, are favourites. There’s no denying that. Legion will be hoping that three final defeats in seven months has had an adverse affect on the old enemy’s confidence but they’ll need everyone at it on the day regardless. If one or two key players are unavailable, it obviously makes things more difficult.

One thing’s for sure: it won’t be one for the faint of heart.

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Ireland’s newest and toughest cycle will be a thrilling challenge

Ireland’s newest cycling event comes to Kenmare this month with an exciting and challenging course for the experienced cyclist. Already attracting attention within cycling communities around the country, Velo Kenmare […]

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Ireland’s newest cycling event comes to Kenmare this month with an exciting and challenging course for the experienced cyclist.

Already attracting attention within cycling communities around the country, Velo Kenmare will tackle some of Kerry’s toughest climbs and highest mountain passes.

Taking place on October 22, Velo Kenmare is an 135km timed loop route starting and finishing in Kenmare. The total climbing distance is 1,650m, and organisers hope to appeal to serious cyclists who are looking for a new and thrilling challenge.

No stranger to cycling events, Velo Kenmare is being managed by Elite Events Management, who also successfully deliver iconic cycling events Wicklow 200, Ride Dingle and the Ring of Beara Cycle.
Cyclists are encouraged to register for Velo Kenmare on the Velo Cycle Ireland website www.velocycleireland.ie but places are limited for the enjoyment and safety of all participants, and anyone interested is urged to sign up soon as places are filling up.

TOUGH CLIMBS

​​​​The tough enough mountain climbs are over Molls Gap, Ballaghbeama Pass, Ballaghasheen and Coomakista. The route will take in breathtaking scenery Kenmare is famous for, and incorporating some of the most stunning parts of the Wild Atlantic Way and Ring of Kerry. It is hoped visitors to the cycle event will be encouraged to stay for a few days, and will all be given €20 vouchers or ‘Velo Dollars’ to spend in local shops which will be redeemable against goods and services in Kenmare.

Riders will be allotted a time slot to allow for a staggered start, taking them along a fully marshalled route, with medical cover, bike mechanic support, and hot food and entertainment at the finish in Kenmare.

Making its mark, Velo Kenmare participant race packs will come inside a yellow Velo Kenmare water bottle and finishers’ medals are in the shape of a yellow cow bell. Prizes will be awarded for the quickest top three male and top three female finishers, and fastest male and female will be awarded the title of King and Queen of the Kerry Mountains.

Experienced cyclists are encouraged to take on this exciting new challenge, testing themselves and their clubmates for the fastest finish across these four gruelling climbs, through some of the most beautiful landscape in the country for the best welcome back at the finish.

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It’s tip-off time for new-look Lakers

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National League Division 1

Scotts Lakers v Limerick Sport Eagles

Saturday at 7.30pm

Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre

The 2022/23 National League tips off on Saturday evening and the Scotts Lakers will be hoping to get their campaign off to a flyer at home to the Limerick Sport Eagles.

The Lakers narrowly missed out on a playoff berth last time around, mainly due to a disappointing start to the season. Playing their first four home games at alternative venues probably didn’t help; the Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre was being used as a makeshift vaccination centre at the time. That’s all ancient history now, thankfully.

With that in mind, a fast start will be a priority, beginning with the visit of the Eagles this weekend.

ROSTER

It’s always difficult to tell until at least a few matches have been played but head coach Jarlath Lee appears to have made some good moves during the off-season.

Godwin Boahen will be missed but Dutch point guard Esebio Strijdhaftig has come in as a replacement, and Ukrainian big man Dmytro Berozkin – all 6’10” of him – has also come on board.

American shooter Eric Cooper Jr’s time here was brief; he has moved on already with Indiana native Jack Ferguson filling his shoes. Just like former laker Seán O’Brien, Ferguson played college ball with Colgate University.

The Lakers have retained the services of Portuguese player Rui Saravia, a skilled passer who has settled in nicely.

Just as essential as the imports are the local players who make up the majority of the squad. Mark O’Shea and Paul Clarke are important figures in the squad, although their involvement is likely to be curtailed by football commitments for the time being.

Youngsters Jamie O’Sullivan, Senan O’Leary and David Gleeson could well see more game time this season after exhibiting great promise in 2021/22, and other St Paul’s graduates like Mark Sheahan, Jack O’Sullivan and Eoin Carroll will also play their part.

A player to keep a close eye on is Ronan Collins, a Gneeveguilla native who has represented Ireland with distinction at underage level.

The club will be hoping for a healthy turnout for their season opener.

Meanwhile, the Lakers’ crosstown rivals the Killarney Cougars have an away fixture to get things started. They take on SETU Carlow (formerly IT Carlow) at the Barrow Centre on Saturday evening.

WOMEN’S LEAGUE

The St Paul’s women’s team (who are back in the National League for the first time since 2012) are also ready for their opening match of the new campaign. They travel to Kilkenny to take on the Marble City Hawks on Saturday at 7pm.

The team is managed by well-known local coach James Fleming and will be backboned by Killarney players like Lynn Jones, Rheanne O’Shea, Cassandra Buckley and current Ireland U16 international Leah McMahon.

Canadian Sophia Paska (formerly of the Limerick Celtics) and American Yuleska Ramirez Tejeda (ex-Limerick Sport Huskies) will add some recent league experience to the squad.

Paul’s first home game of the 2022/23 season will come next Saturday, October 8 against the Celtics.

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