The Journey Begins: Kerry embark on fresh All-Ireland quest
by Adam Moynihan
National League: Division 1
Kildare v Kerry
Sunday at 1.45pm
Deferred on TG4 (5.35pm)
It’s only January. It’s only the league. It’s "only" Kildare. But already summertime looms so close we can almost taste it.
The return of Jack O’Connor, coupled with an unshakable feeling that this maturing crop of Kerry players are on the brink of something magnificent, has set hearts and minds racing.
Summer in Dublin. The sun beating down. Croke Park rocking, packed to the rafters. And 15 Kerrymen striding purposefully behind the Artane Band. If that image doesn’t stir something in you, you must be lost. Put down the Killarney Advertiser and seek assistance.
It’s hard not to lose the run of yourself in Kerry; at times I think that losing the run of ourselves is part of our DNA. We adore our team. We adore them so much we sometimes lose sight of reality. “If you’re not first, you’re last” is funny when Will Ferrell says it, yet it’s a mantra we seem to take it pretty darn seriously around here. We’re not idiots, we know we can’t win every year. But every year we come back and expect to win.
And, despite the fact that it has now been seven going on eight years since we last won an All-Ireland, expectations remain high. According to a survey carried out by the Killarney Advertiser this week, 81% of supporters are predicting that Jack O’Connor’s team will win Division 1 of the National League (up from 34% in 2021). Almost 98% think The Kingdom will retain their Munster crown (up from 96% in 2021).
As for the biggest prize? 63% believe that Sam Maguire will be returning to Kerry in July – the exact same percentage as last year. Every respondent is predicting that Kerry will, at the very least, reach the All-Ireland semi-final.
The road ahead of us is long and winding. As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Kerry demolished their opponents in the McGrath Cup and although the manager insisted that he had no choice but to field strong lineups, he also said that confidence and momentum is key. With that in mind, he will go with his strongest possible 15 (as he sees it) for the potentially tricky league opener against his old team, Kildare.
Dara Moynihan is back in contention after recovering from a quad strain and star forward David Clifford will start after being held in reserve for much of the Cork game.
Mike Breen (hamstring), Stephen O’Brien (hamstring), Gavin Crowley (unspecified), Joe O’Connor (knee) and David Moran (groin) are out. O’Connor will also be without the club-tied Na Gaeil quartet of Diarmuid O’Connor, Jack Barry, Stefan Okunbor and Andrew Barry, as well as Pa Warren of Gneeveguilla.
Shane Murphy could well be thrown straight into league action after impressing in the McGrath Cup final and fellow newcomer Dan O’Donoghue is in contention to start at corner back. He will being doing well if he manages to displace Brian Ó Beaglaoich; the An Ghaeltacht man had fine season in 2021. Jason Foley and Tom O’Sullivan are probable starters at 3 and 4.
Tadhg Morley is likely to anchor the defence from the centre back position with Paul Murphy and Gavin White either side of him. Kerry find themselves short of options at centre field – they are missing five midfielders in total - so regular centre forward Seán O’Shea will probably continue to deputise alongside Adrian Spillane.
Paudie Clifford should start at 11 with Micheál Burns, Dara Moynihan and Jack Savage the likely candidates for the half forward spots. David Clifford and the in-form Paul Geaney will line out in the full forward line, possibly with Killian Spillane, although Tony Brosnan will also be hoping to get the nod.
Kildare are newcomers to Division 1 having earned promotion in 2021 under Kerry’s new manager. That Jack O’Connor factor is bound to add some spice (after the Cork game, Tadhg Morley joked that The Lilywhites will be “gunning” for their former bainisteoir), and St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge is known to be a cauldron.
Kerry will be plenty motivated too, however, and this is a match they should be winning.
VERDICT: Kerry by four.
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.
Is Killarney green or blue? Celtic and Athletic to face off in tonight’s league final
Kerry Premier A League Final
Killarney Celtic v Killarney Athletic
Tonight at 7.45pm
Mounthawk Park, Tralee
Killarney Celtic will be gunning for their fifth league title in a row tonight (Friday) when they take on crosstown rivals Killarney Athletic in Tralee.
Celtic have been the dominant force in Kerry soccer in recent times with Athletic playing second fiddle. This will be the third Premier A final in a row to be contested by the Killarney clubs; Celtic won the 2020 decider 4-0 and last year’s final ended in a 3-0 victory for the club from Derreen. (The 2020/21 season was scrapped due to the pandemic.)
Prior to that, Celtic defeated Castleisland in 2019 and Dingle Bay Rovers in 2018, both on a scoreline of 1-0.
Celtic and Athletic also met in the 2017 final. The Blues prevailed in that particular encounter to capture their first ever Premier A title.
As for this season, Neilus Hayes’ Hoops qualified for the final by virtue of their first-place finish in the Premier A. Despite losing key players – including attackers Ryan Kelliher, Stephen McCarthy and Trpimir Vrljicak – to the Kerry FC project, the Celts won 12 of their 14 matches and ended up with an imposing goal difference of +34.
Athletic were not far behind, however; Stuart Templeman’s team only lost one league game all season en route to 35 points – one behind Celtic and 11 clear of Castleisland in third.
Interestingly, both of Celtic’s losses came at the hands of Athletic. The Woodlawn outfit impressively beat the old enemy 3-2 and 0-1 over the course of the regular season.
Goals by Roko Rujevcan, Pedja Glumcevic and a 90th-minute winner by Brendan Moloney clinched that dramatic 3-2 win in October of last year. It was a result that signalled Athletic’s intentions for the rest of the season.
Rujevcan was also on the scoresheet when Athletic snatched a rare away win at Celtic Park on April 30.
Celtic’s imposing record in finals probably makes them slight favourites and in the likes of John McDonagh, Brendan Falvey, Wayne Sparling, Kevin O’Sullivan and Witness Odirile they have a potent mix of steel and skill.
But Athletic will take heart from their recent results in this fixture and they will be hoping that two of the stars from the 2017 team – Shane Doolan and Shane Lynch – can lead the current crop of players to glory.
Meanwhile, the Division 2B final between Killarney Athletic B and Atletico Ardfert that was also due to take place tonight has been cancelled. Athletic have received a walkover.
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