Templenoe to test Crokes in last eight
Former Dr Crokes and Kerry goalkeeper Eamonn Fitzgerald previews all four of this weekend’s Kerry SFC quarter-final ties.
“It will be great weekend of football and some close ties. Some games may go to extra-time and shudder the thought that any game will be decided on a penalty shoot-out, the last resort. There must be a final result to each game on the day. Which team has been practising penalties?”
That was the final paragraph in last week’s preview of Round 1 of the Kerry SFC. That was the fate of Spa on Saturday last. Legion beat their local rivals 5-4 on penalties after a very well contested local derby.
Champions East Kerry’s bid for their third title in a row came unstuck in Tralee as Stacks prevailed in a very low scoring affair (1-7 to 1-5). That scoreline would indicate a very close affair. It was, for a brief few moments near the end. But East Kerry were never in this game. A late 1-1 flattered them in a match that Stacks dominated from start to finish.
Elsewhere, a winning scoreline of 0-13 to 1-3 appears one-sided, but it took Crokes a long time to assert superiority. They won well without playing well against a very limited opposition in West Kerry. Crokes are building a new team giving senior championship debuts to Mark Cooper, David Naughton and Evan Looney. They were in from the start and can be well satisfied with their debuts.
So, what of the next round? With just a week since they last played, the team managers will be hoping that any injuries sustained will be cleared up for this weekend’s fixtures.
Legion v St Brendan’s (Sat 7pm, Austin Stack Park)
This is a tough one for the Legion, a club team meeting a district board team. St Brendan’s did well to get over the fancied Kenmare Shamrocks in Round 1.
Dominance at midfield will be crucial in this game, where the Kerry and Na Gaeil stars Diarmuid O’Connor and Jack Barry will be expected to exert superiority. Which big men will Legion play there to avert that dominance?
If Legion do well here, they will expect Conor Keane, James O’Donoghue and Jamie O’Sullivan to tack on those winning scores. O’Donoghue went off injured so Legion will be hoping he has recovered. They will also look to Jonathan Lyne, Brian Kelly, Billy McGuire, Rob Leen, Chris Davies and Darragh Lyne to stifle St Brendan’s.
Dingle v Kerins O’Rahillys (Sat 5pm, Austin Stack Park)
This looks to have the makings of the best of the weekend’s matches. Both teams came through the last round in style.
Former Kerry star Tommy Walsh was excellent against St Kieran’s, winning so much possession and scoring six points in total. Was his retirement from intercounty football premature?
Dingle impressed me in Tralee. Powered by no fewer than five Geaneys - they aren’t all brothers - they had a right battle with Mid Kerry, the beaten finalists from last year. Right corner forward Conor Geaney scored the match-winning goal in the very last minute when extra time seemed certain. One must allow for the bad weather, but even so a final tally of 1-7 to 0-8 was a disappointing score. Mid Kerry missed two great goal opportunities. After 20 minutes, Cathal Moriarty’s penalty shot hit the woodwork and went over for a point instead of the expected goal.
Later, Seán O’Brien was clear through on his own, but a superb save by Gavin Curran denied him the goal they needed. Conor Geaney’s superb finish was the difference. Kerry colleagues Tom O’Sullivan and Paul Geaney set up this winning score. The latter sent in a speculative shot that was misjudged by the Mid Kerry rearguard and Conor fetched a great ball before using the ciotóg to crash the ball low past Seán Coffey. The injured Gavan O’Grady did not start for Mid Kerry and his scoring potential was missed. After the Geaney goal he pointed a free.
Templenoe v Dr Crokes (Sunday 12.45pm, Fitzgerald Stadium)
Templenoe are backboned by their four Kerry senior players and when these two teams met in the Club Championship, Templenoe shocked the Crokes with a five-point win. Two early Templenoe goals rocked the Crokes that day and they were chasing the game (unsuccessfully) thereafter.
Templenoe learned nothing against a woefully weak Shannon Rangers team and will be without Killian Spillane this season. That will blunt their scoring power, but it will take a step-up in performance by Crokes to overturn the result of their last encounter in Templenoe.
It will be interesting to see if Crokes will take Gavin White out of his customary centre back position to partner Johnny Buckley at midfield, releasing the towering Mark O’Shea to number 14 where he would be expected to revel in high fielding.
Austin Stacks v South Kerry (Sunday 2.45pm, Fitzgerald Stadium)
Stacks are the bookies favourites not alone to win this game but also to do the Club and County Championship double. They have a very good, disciplined defence, rarely committing fouls, and hey break at speed. Even their full back line add on the points. Their midfield is strong, but the forwards are wasteful. Still, they will have enough to outscore South Kerry.
Are Kerry really a one-man team? Let’s take a look at the numbers
Joe Brolly and others have described Kerry as a one-man team. Brolly recently said the All-Ireland champions are “mediocre” and “nothing” without David Clifford.
Let’s analyse the numbers to see just how reliant Kerry are on the reigning Footballer of the Year…
Since making his debut in 2018, Clifford has scored 24 goals and 234 points in his 57 league and championship appearances.
He has registered 20-139 from play, plus four penalties, 85 frees, and 10 marks. He is averaging 5.4 points per game.
So far in 2023 Clifford has scored 47 of Kerry’s 195 points (24.1%). This is slightly down on his percentage from last year (25.2%), although he has missed two games so far compared to one in 2022.
Here are the figures for the previous four years:
2021 Clifford got 63 out of Kerry’s 217 points (29%)
2020 42 out of 186 (28.8%)
2019 36 out of 285 (12.6%)
2018 51 out of 240 (21.3%)
Remarkably, Clifford has scored every single time he has taken to the field.
In recent weeks he has been sensational. He had 2-6 against Clare, 0-8 against Mayo and 1-5 against Cork. Against Mayo in particular, many of his teammates underperformed. This, to a large extent, is what has prompted the debate – although Brolly has called Kerry a one-man team in the past.
His numbers are certainly impressive and he is unquestionably Kerry’s most important player. But how do his stats stack up against those of his rivals, and his own teammates?
We would need to compare Clifford’s data against all the other top forwards to get a full picture but just by way of example, Dean Rock kicked (or fisted) 30.6% of Dublin’s points in 2022. Clifford’s highest ever percentage for a season is 29%.
Shane McGuigan has scored 37.1% of Derry’s points in the 2023 championship. Clifford has notched 34% of Kerry’s total. Does this make Derry a one-man team?
Clifford has scored 50% or more of Kerry’s points in just one of his 57 games. (He got 1-5 out of 1-10 against Galway in 2018.)
In the 2023 All-Ireland group stage alone, this feat has already been achieved by the aforementioned McGuigan, Darren McCurry (Tyrone), Cormac Costello (Dublin) and Oisín Gallen (Donegal).
Clifford has been Kerry’s top scorer in 23 of his 57 games, and joint top scorer in seven. Naturally enough, someone else has been top scorer the other 27 times.
Looking at campaigns as a whole, Clifford has been Kerry’s top marksman in the championship just once, in 2018. (He was also joint top scorer in 2020 as he and Killian Spillane both scored 0-4 in Kerry’s only match.)
Meanwhile, Seán O’Shea has been Kerry’s leading scorer in the championship three times (2019, 2021 and 2022).
Clifford and O’Shea made their debut together in 2018. Their scoring rate is almost identical. O’Shea has scored 338 points in 64 appearances (5.3 points per game) versus Clifford’s 306 points in 57 appearances (5.4 points per game).
O’Shea has scored 25% of Kerry’s points since January 2018. Clifford has scored 22.7%. Clifford is more prolific from play, granted, but if nothing else the percentages clearly show that more than one man is getting the points on the board.
All told, over three-quarters of Kerry’s points during Clifford’s career to date have been scored by his teammates.
Of course, putting the ball over the bar isn’t everything. Clifford also contributes via assists and by drawing defenders’ attention away from his fellow forwards. Unfortunately the assist data is not readily available and the amount of attention he attracts is not easily quantifiable.
Clifford also seems to strike for goals and points at important times. Again, this data is not readily available.
Kerry’s record in games in which David Clifford did not play is surprisingly good. He has missed 10 fixtures. Kerry have won eight of them and lost two.
The Fossa forward is a phenomenal player but several of his teammates are also legitimate stars in their own right. The likes of Jason Foley, Tom O’Sullivan, Seán O’Shea and Paudie Clifford are elite footballers who would start for most, if not all, other teams in the country.
Kerry’s captain is a generational talent, and he is standing out even more at the moment because a number of his teammates haven’t really been playing to their potential. Kerry have been depending on him more in recent weeks. That much is true.
But you have to question if a one-man team is even possible at this level. For example, as good as Clifford was against Cork, Kerry still needed O’Shea to kick his five points. Jason Foley had an excellent game in defence, keeping the dangerous Brian Hurley scoreless from play.
It’s never really just one guy, even if the highlight reel might suggest otherwise.
Would Kerry win the All-Ireland without Clifford? Probably not. Every team needs their best player, even more so if the player in question is a potential GOAT candidate.
However, when we look at the numbers, and also when we consider the calibre of some of the players around him, it seems unreasonable to say that Kerry would be “nothing” without him.
Kingdom hoping to lay some old ghosts to rest at Páirc Uí Chaoimh
by Adam Moynihan
All-Ireland SFC Group 1
Cork v Kerry
Saturday at 3pm
Páirc Uí Chaoimh
I was one of the unlucky few to have been present at the last Cork-Kerry clash in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in November of 2020. It was a truly awful night.
The match was played behind closed doors which made for an eerie, unsettling atmosphere, and the rain came down harder than I ever remember seeing first-hand.
Unfortunately, Kerry came down hard too. Mark Keane’s last-ditch goal clinched an unexpected victory for the hosts and, just like that, Kerry’s year was over.
It always hurts when your team loses but that one completely floored us all. It was such a horrible way to lose a game and I felt so bad for the players as they trudged off the field, soaked to the bone and shaken to the core.
They got some form of payback the following year when they won by 21 in the Munster final, and again last year when they ran out 11-point winners in the semi-final. But something tells me that it would mean a lot more to return to Páirc Uí Chaoimh and do the business there.
It won’t be easy. The final scorelines in the last two games suggest that it was all one-way traffic but that simply wasn’t the case. In 2021, Cork led by 1-5 to 0-4 at the water break (remember those?) and they pushed Kerry hard 12 months ago too. There was nothing in that match right up until the 50th minute, at which point Kerry brought on David Moran and Paul Geaney and ultimately pulled away.
You can never really read too much into the McGrath Cup but Cork demolished Kerry in January. Their form since has been spotty but they did well to see off Louth last week, with the returning Brian Hurley (shoulder) kicking eight points in a two-point win. Hurley has proved to be a handful for Kerry full back Jason Foley in the past.
Significantly, John Cleary’s side are strong in a key area where Kerry struggled against Mayo: midfield. Ian Maguire and Colm O’Callaghan scored 0-2 each in Navan (and the latter scored 2-4 in that aforementioned McGrath Cup game at the start of the year).
Jack O’Connor named his team last night with Adrian Spillane replacing Tony Brosnan and Paul Murphy coming in for Dylan Casey. Spillane will add some extra brawn and energy around the middle third. Going by the last outing, Kerry need it.
It is also worth noting that David Clifford has never really shot the lights out against Cork. He has been well minded by Maurice Shanley, Seán Meehan and Kevin Flahive in the past three championship meetings, with the retreating Seán Powter also getting stuck in when needed.
Flahive suffered a cruciate injury late in last year’s game but he could potentially be in line for a comeback tomorrow; he has been added to Cork’s 26 for the first time in over 12 months.
Meehan has been ruled out with a hamstring injury so Shanley may be asked to track the Footballer of the Year this time around.
Clifford was one of the few bright sparks against Mayo and he would love to bring that form to the Páirc on Saturday. With vital points on the line, there would be no better time to lay some ghosts to rest.
From a Kerry perspective, you would hope – and perhaps expect – that Clifford and his teammates can do exactly that and get the show back on the road.
1. Shane Ryan
2. Graham O’Sullivan
3. Jason Foley
4. Tom O’Sullivan
5. Paul Murphy
6. Tadhg Morley
7. Gavin White
8. Diarmuid O’Connor
9. Jack Barry
10. Dara Moynihan
11. Seánie O’Shea
12. Adrian Spillane
13. Paudie Clifford
14. David Clifford
15. Paul Geaney
Subs: S Murphy, T Brosnan, D Casey, BD O’Sullivan, R Murphy, M Burns, M Breen, S O’Brien, D O’Sullivan, C O’Donoghue, S O’Brien.
1. Micheál Aodh Martin
2. Maurice Shanley
3. Rory Maguire
4. Kevin O’Donovan
5. Luke Fahy
6. Daniel O’Mahony
7. Matty Taylor
8. Colm O’Callaghan
9. Ian Maguire
10. Brian O’Driscoll
11. Ruairí Deane
12. Killian O’Hanlon
13. Seán Powter
14. Brian Hurley
15. Chris Óg Jones
Subs: P Doyle, C Kiely, T Clancy, K Flahive, P Walsh, E McSweeney, B Murphy, J O’Rourke , M Cronin, S Sherlock, F Herlihy.
New bio-energy therapy clinic open on Beech Road
Have you ever wondered what happens when you deal with an emotionally charged situation or experience high levels of stress...
Spotted an otter lately?
Users of Killarney National Park are being asked to keep an eye out for otters – one of the country’s...
Kerry International Film Festival presents Youth Filmmakers Showcase in Killarney
Kerry International Film Festival (KIFF) will collaborate with SONAR, a Killarney-based youth film group, and ELF (Emerging Limerick Filmmakers) to...
Listry Community Counci honoured Local resident Tony Darmody with the presentation of the O’Shea Award at its recent Annual General...
Killeen House Hotel changes hands
The Killeen House Hotel, an award-winning 23-bedroom hotel in Aghadoe, Killarney, has announced its sale to Killarney businessman Patrick Eviston,...