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Opinion: Rahillys’ wild proposal has some merit – but only some

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by Adam Moynihan

When I say that my eyebrows were raised as I scrolled through the statement on the Kerins O’Rahillys website on Thursday morning, I mean they were raised from start to finish.

The Tralee club, who last weekend lost their senior status for the first time ever, spoke of their “anger” at the county board and their “ire” at getting demoted to intermediate while divisional teams enjoy a “special status” that spares them such a grisly fate.

The post (penned by club PRO Pat Flavin) went on to remind us of Rahillys’ exploits in last year’s Club Championship. With county calibre talent like David Moran, Tommy Walsh, Jack Savage and Barry John Keane to the fore, they reached the All-Ireland semi-final before coming up short against eventual champions Kilmacud Crokes. It was a long campaign that required sacrifices.

“This is why we feel for this group of lads, who have soldiered on despite the loss of so many key players and coping with injuries etc,” the statement continued.

Clearly, Rahillys feel that they still deserve to be a senior club. And they offer us a “solution that can suit everyone” – one that they describe as a “small change”.

Take the divisional teams out of senior, move them to the Intermediate Club Championship, and replace them with the top eight clubs at intermediate level.

This would mean that the 2024 County Championship would be comprised exclusively of club sides - with Rahillys being one of those club sides, naturally enough.

Whatever you think of their idea, you have to admit they have balls.

It's one thing for a manager or a chairman to respond to a question from a journalist and say something like, "yeah, we're a bit disappointed, we feel there should be more senior clubs". But to publish a lengthy manifesto on the club website outlining why they shouldn't be relegated just days after being relegated? And to suggest that divisional teams like East Kerry and Mid Kerry should be booted out of the championship next year, just three days before those two teams contest a county final?

Of course any club is entitled to fight their own corner, but I was genuinely taken aback by what I was reading. As official club statements go, this one was pretty wild.

The fact that Rahillys are making this proposal now, immediately after they have fallen through the trap door, has unsurprisingly been ridiculed by some observers. It comes across as self-serving given the circumstances. It should be pointed out, however, that they have tabled a motion to increase the number of senior clubs twice in the past five years, so it is an issue that has been on their mind for a while.

The thing is, they’re not alone in thinking that change is necessary.

The debate surrounding the number of senior clubs in Kerry has been lumbering on for years. The general consensus is that eight simply isn't enough.

As the rapid and unexpected demise of Legion, Austin Stacks, and now Kerins O'Rahillys shows, it's very easy for clubs to have an off year, or an off month, and lose their coveted place in the County Championship. It can also prove very hard to get it back.

Meanwhile, divisional teams are always invited back to the feast, irrespective of the contribution they made to last year’s shindig.

For what it’s worth, my own instinct is that 16 senior clubs is too many. It would dilute what is a very competitive and very entertaining Senior Club Championship and it would make it basically impossible to include the eight divisional teams in the County Championship. Rahillys are clearly fine with that, but I have a feeling there would be strong resistance in other corners of the county.

One of the redeeming qualities of the current format is that it gives the best players from smaller clubs the opportunity to compete in the senior championship. Significantly, these smaller clubs far outnumber the would-be senior clubs who might be in favour of a radical overhaul.

That’s one part of Rahillys’ proposal that has to be dismissed as fanciful. They say that their suggestion constitutes a small change and it can suit everyone. Removing the divisional teams from the County Championship, dropping them down to intermediate and taking their intermediate clubs away from them is not a minor alteration. For example, East Kerry would be left with three clubs: Listry, Firies and Kilgarvan. Mid Kerry would be left with just two: Keel and Cromane. How does that suit them?

Raising the number of senior clubs to 10 or 12 seems more realistic. Keep the eight divisional outfits and have a playoff round to see who qualifies for the 16-team championship. The best district sides will still make it and still contribute to our showpiece competition in a meaningful way.

(This would also go some way towards levelling the playing field in the Munster and All-Ireland Intermediate and Junior Club Championships. That might not be good for Kerry clubs hoping to make it to Croke Park, but it would be objectively fairer to everyone else.)

Most importantly, in the interest of fairness and transparency, any decision on restructuring the championship needs to be made before all relevant championships start, not after they end. The county board can't decide there will be 10 or 12 senior clubs next season and allow the already relegated Rahillys to be one of those clubs.

Of course I understand Rahillys' frustration. They're a great club with a great history. They want to play in the County Championship and they feel they offer more than certain divisional teams. But the rules were the same for everyone at the start of the season. The senior clubs knew what they needed to do to avoid relegation.

In the statement they're not shy about highlighting the failings of South Kerry, West Kerry, Feale Rangers, St Brendan’s and Shannon Rangers in 2023. With respect, Rahillys weren’t great themselves. Fair enough they were missing some important players but that could happen to any team. They were well beaten in their three group games in the Club Championship and then they lost to Na Gaeil in the relegation playoff.

The goalposts can’t be shifted now to make allowances for them because they’re a big club.

That wouldn’t be right, and I said the same thing last year when it was Stacks, and the same thing the year before when it was Legion (and nearly Dr Crokes).

If there are to be changes, they need to come into effect in 2025 so that the 2024 competitions are run off with those changes in mind. So, for example, if the number is to be increased to 12 then tell clubs that there will be no senior teams relegated in 2024, and that the four semi-finalists in the intermediate will be promoted.

A club like Rahillys would fancy their chances of being one of those four teams. In fact, if they really feel that they’re a senior club, they should be going out to win the Intermediate Championship. That, in my opinion, would be the right way to do it.

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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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