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Which end is the “scoring end” at the Fitzgerald Stadium?

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The Lewis Road End of the Fitzgerald Stadium.

Every pitch has one, but what makes it “easier” to score into one goal than the other? Adam Moynihan investigates this strange phenomenon.

Your team is down at half-time and struggling. After a quick bout of soul-searching, maybe even some finger-pointing, the manager tells you to settle down as he launches into a season-defining team talk. More of this, less of that, these lads aren’t up to much etc. etc. You bounce on your toes and head back towards the pitch, but there’s still time for one more nugget of encouragement. One line that will render your lacklustre first-half performance meaningless, banish all self-doubt and restore the confidence you need to stage a heroic comeback.

“We’re playing into the scoring end as well, boys.”

On the surface it might seem like a silly thing to say, especially to the uninitiated. The posts are the same width at both sides of the pitch. The crossbars are the same height. It’s the very same patch of grass. But ask any footballer if they have a favourite end to shoot into and the answer will be a resounding ‘yes’.

For some reason players do feel as though they find it easier to score at one end of the ground, and whatever ground you’re at, there tends to be an overwhelming consensus between players (both home and away), officials and supporters as to which end is the “scoring end”. Everyone knows without really knowing why. Can this odd phenomenon be explained logically, or is it pure superstition?

THE PARK

The home of football is probably as good a place as any to start our investigation and the majority of people say that in Killarney’s Fitzgerald Stadium, the Lewis Road end is easier to kick into than the scoreboard end. I reached out to a number of Kerry players past and present and the majority agree that it is tougher to play down into the scoreboard end of the ground.

But why? They say the wind is the primary factor and some amateur meteorology on my part confirms that our prevailing south-westerly breeze would tend to blow from the Torc Terrace corner of the stadium (between the stand and the scoreboard terrace) diagonally across the field to the far corner of the terrace side.

That much makes sense. Now, let’s see if the stats back this up.

In Kerry’s last 10 matches in Killarney dating back to 2017, 181 points (including goals) have been scored into the Lewis Road end - and a total of 202 points have been registered at the scoreboard end.

That means that on average Kerry and their opponents have managed 2.1 points per game less while shooting into the supposed “scoring end”.

If we isolate Kerry’s totals in these matches, we see that the home team have kicked or punched 112 points playing into the “scoring” goal, and 116 points down in front of the scoreboard.

The opposition, meanwhile, have found the scoreboard end far more appealing. They have racked up 86 points at that side of the pitch, while notching just 69 at the Lewis Road end.

However, if we look a little closer, we notice an interesting trend. Points scored over the bar are identical at both ends of the pitch (160), but twice as many goals have been scored at the scoreboard end (14 versus 7). This is, perhaps, where the famous wind comes into play. As it is more difficult to kick points into the breeze blowing down from the scoreboard side, Kerry and their opponents seem to be going for goal more often when playing in this direction. The Kingdom have managed six goals in their last 10 halves of football facing the scoreboard, compared to four going the other way.

Their opponents have fared even better in this department, scoring eight goals into the scoreboard end and just three into the Lewis Road net.

Having said that, both home and away teams are still managing to score the same amount of points playing into the “scoring end” as they are playing into the “bad end”.

So, if this statistical snapshot is anything to go by (which, in fairness, it might not be considering it only covers intercounty matches played at the stadium since 2017) this idea that the Lewis Road end is easier to score into appears to be psychological.

Kerry's last 10 matches at the Fitzgerald Stadium (both teams combined):

Lewis Road End: 7 goals, 140 points (181)

Scoreboard End: 14 goals, 160 points (202)

Kerry's last 10 matches at the Fitzgerald Stadium (Kerry):

Lewis Road End: 4 goals, 100 points (112)

Scoreboard End: 6 goals, 98 points (116)

MINDS

Nevertheless, the fact remains that every ground has its “scoring end”, and without vast swathes of empirical data to debunk the notion, it will continue to play on people’s minds.

A poll carried out on my Instagram (@AdamMoynihan) confirmed that all of the local pitches have commonly defined scoring ends. For Dr Crokes, it’s the town end near Deerpark Pitch & Putt course. One player said that it always seems to be brighter at that side of the pitch, which could be explained by the fact that the opposite end is more sheltered with high embankments on all sides of the ground. Another described the scoreboard end goal as “deceptive”, and I have a theory on this myself.

As a handy free taker (and by that I mean “a taker of handy frees” as opposed to “a handy taker of frees”), I’ve always found it tricky to shoot into goals with open spaces behind them.

At Crokes, the top goal has an open area behind it and I think it’s harder to gauge distance when kicking into this kind of backdrop. With no fixed points immediately behind the target, it can feel like the posts are miles away.

The same can be said of the top goal at my home ground in Derreen, which has a second pitch running directly up behind it. Legion folk will tell you that the scoring end is down towards the car park and I can definitely attest to the fact that, psychologically at least, it feels easier to play that way.

There may be another reason that I personally prefer shooting into that goal, and it could also explain why every home team has a favourite end: familiarity. We almost always warm up at the clubhouse end, training drills are often staged there, and whenever I would go for a kick on my own, I would tend to kick into that goal more often than the top one. I would say that the vast majority of clubs and players are the same.

We are creatures of habit so it stands to reason that the more we train in a certain environment, the more comfortable we are there, and this transfers over to match situations.

For Spa, the goal at the road end is considered to be the easier one to score into, something the natives attribute to an apparent slope in the pitch. Maybe it’s a simple trick of the eye but if there is even a very minor decline, perhaps that could make a slight difference. Once again, backdrop may be a factor: the top goal has a wide open space behind it.

The same can be said for Fossa, who also have another pitch behind their top goal. Players seem to agree that the road end, which has a neat row of trees serving as a backdrop, is the “scoring end”.

Kilcummin’s pitch is a slight anomaly with regards to the backdrop factor. The scoreboard end is thought to be more favourable for forwards, but it is the supposed “bad end” that is more enclosed. However, it might actually be slightly too enclosed. The wall of tall, dark trees immediately behind the goal makes for an imposing structure, which, perhaps, is slightly off-putting for would-be scorers. I always found it tough to kick points up there anyway, although it would probably be unfair to blame that on the conifers.

Maybe it’s the prevailing wind. Maybe it’s familiarity. Maybe it’s the slant of the pitch. Maybe it’s the backdrop. Or maybe it’s all in our heads. Whatever the reason or reasons, scoring ends exist and in the ultra-competitive world of the GAA, their existence will continue to be a source of comfort to desperate teams in desperate times.

We might be down 10 points, but we’re playing into the scoring end this half. Anything is possible.

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Killarney Valley AC named Club of the Year at national awards ceremony

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Members of Killarney Valley Athletics Club had cause for celebration on Wednesday as they picked up the prestigious Development Club of the Year prize at the 123.ie National Athletics Awards.

The award is handed out annually to a club who have made a positive impact on behalf of the sport within their community.

Sprinter Sarah Leahy of Killarney Valley and UL was also honoured with the Female University Athlete of the Year award.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, coach and committee member Tomás Griffin said he and his clubmates were “delighted” and “very proud” to accept the Club Development award on behalf of all their athletes, coaches and administrators. The opening of their new track alongside St Brendan’s College in 2020 has been crucial, Griffin explained.

“The facility a catalyst but the passion was always there and we had people doing their best and coaching long before there was a track. To see the momentum that came with the opening of the track being maintained is great. We now have a waiting list of people looking to join the club.

“Did we see ourselves winning an award like this, in an organisation of 53,000 members and 400 clubs? No. But was it always possible? Yes. Killarney as a town across all sports – Gaelic football, soccer, basketball, cycling, judo, rock climbing – it’s a place where people excel. The bar is already raised. But being able to reach this level and achieve what we have in just two years shows what other talent is out there.”

Killarney Valley now boast five Irish internationals, 320 registered members and 22 Athletics Ireland accredited coaches. The club won 107 provincial and national medals in 2022, and they had 155 graduates from their Couch to 5k programme. Many of these participants are now regulars in the local Park Run and are continuing their personal health and fitness journeys with the club.

Nine Killarney Valley representatives attended the awards ceremony on Wednesday: Tomás Griffin, Jerry Griffin (chairperson), Bríd Stack, Gene Courtney, Con Lynch, Karen Smith, Sarah Leahy, Jordan Lee, and Madie Wilson-Walker. Sarah’s parents Mike and Marie also made the journey.

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Jiu-jitsu champion Wilson da Silva sets sights on world title

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This week Adam Moynihan called to the Movement & Fitness Club on New Street to catch up with Killarney man Wilson da Silva. The 38-year-old Brazilian recently won gold at the European Championship for Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and now he’s gunning for a world title.

Wilson, congratulations on your latest success in Rome and Abu Dhabi.

Thank you, Adam.

Before we chat about that, let’s go back to the start. How did you end up living in Killarney?

I came here around 15 years ago because I met someone from Killorglin and we went out for five or six years. After we broke up, I came to Killarney. I’m pretty much half-local, half-Brazilian now.

What part of Brazil are you from?

The northeast. A place called Recife. If you look at the map, it’s the nearest point to Ireland.

Do you get to go home often?

I try to go once a year, you know? I was home earlier this year and then before Covid. But once a year I go home in the summertime.

It must be nice to get some sunshine.

It’s nice, man. Even recently the doctor told me I have Vitamin D deficiency. My skin colour needs the sun! So I go home once a year. I follow the doctor’s advice.

How did you get into jiu-jitsu?

I did it back home in Brazil but I continued here in Killarney. I trained with guys here, Pedro Bessa and Tom McGuire. Then there is another club in Killarney and I trained with them up until four years ago. Things weren’t working out so I started my own gym. I just wanted to do things my way which was to have a clean place, no ego, no drama, no stress, no jealousy. Just come, train jiu-jitsu and help each other. And it’s going well.

Was it hard to go out on your own?

In the beginning it was really difficult because I was opening a second club in the town, on my own. There was really only one guy who wanted to train with me, but then my fiancé (Ewelina) started training and one became two, two became three, and it started to grow. Now we have classes for babies from three years up, kids and teenagers. We’re doing jiu-jitsu and capoeira for all ages. I guess it’s something good for the community.

Can you tell me a bit about jiu-jitsu? Is it similar to other sports?

If you were to describe jiu-jitsu to someone who never saw it, it would be very similar to judo. You have people throwing each other and putting each other on the floor. The jiu-jitsu match is five minutes long and the goal is to checkmate the opponent, to make your opponent quit, or tap out. So there is a lot of ground work, grappling, and wrestling. It’s an excellent sport and great for self-defence. I can’t recommend jiu-jitsu enough.

So there’s no striking?

There is no striking but [in terms of self-defence] there is ducking from striking, turning a strike into a mobilisation. It’s about finding locks on the body – the joint moves this way for example (he turns his arm) – figuring out how the anatomy of the body works.

It seems quite technical and intellectual.

Yes, it’s a very intelligent sport. I trained in weightlifting for a long time, for many years. With time it simply comes down to reps, breaking muscle fibre, and you’re not learning anything. It’s boring. With jiu-jitsu you’re constantly thinking. You’re constantly working your brain.

I compare it to a game of chess. First you figure out how to move the pieces, and then you have to play strategy. Look ahead to the next move and what your opponent can do to you. The moves are complicated and you’re always learning new things. It requires a lot of focus and discipline to get good at it. You don’t get bored with jiu-jitsu.

Is the focus and discipline side of it good for the kids who come to your gym?

Yes, definitely. I find that it is so beneficial for the kids. The kids want to win but if they want to win, they need to learn the moves. In order to learn the moves, they have to pay attention. So straight away it develops focus and concentration and discipline. If they do not pay attention, if they run around the place, they’re going to lose when they spar. It fixes itself. The guys who come in, pay attention, and it makes the others not want to lose so they pay attention and worker hard to learn the moves.

You can see the difference in the kids when they come here. We try to make them comfortable in uncomfortable situations so that when you take the child out of the jiu-jitsu class and they have a to deal with a hard subject in school, or a bully, they are mentally stronger.

I have witnessed that myself. I worked in security for many years and before I dedicated myself to jiu-jitsu, I found it easy to lose the head. But the more hours I put into the gym and training in jiu-jitsu, the more comfortable I became with frustrating situations. You’re able to remain calm. That’s a benefit of jiu-jitsu.

How important is size in jiu-jitsu?

That’s a tricky one. People say that size doesn’t matter. It definitely does. There’s no doubt about that. But the beauty of jiu-jitsu is that once you have the technique, you’re able to apply it against bigger guys. You know, the bigger guys have big muscles and bigger egos, but if the small guy trains hard he will be able to move the big guy’s body in a way that works against him. The big guy who goes to the gym, he’s used to pushing the bar this way (straight out), whereas the guy who knows jiu-jitsu knows that if he moves the bigger guys arms here (upwards), he’s not strong anymore. Now the bench press is worth nothing.

Bigger guys think they are unbeatable. The small guys have to work for it. I always motivate the guys here in the gym to be humble. You always have to consider yourself the second best, the guy who wants to be first. The moment you think that you’re bigger and better than everyone else, you stop working.

Tell me about your recent victories in London, Rome and Abu Dhabi.

Yeah, so I went to the UK and managed to win four golds at the London Open in the ‘Gi’, ‘A’, ‘No-Gi’ and ‘Absolute’ categories. (The ‘Gi’ is a uniform sometimes worn in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. There are categories in which the Gi is worn – ‘Gi’ – and categories in which it is not – ‘No-Gi’. The ‘Absolute’ is an open weight division).

Then a couple of weeks ago I travelled to Rome to compete in the European Championship. The day before that event, the Rome Open was on and since I was already there, I signed up for that too. I won the first fight, submitted the guy, but then in the final I lost. It was a good lesson for me. Coming from so many wins, I thought I was going to smash this other guy. I got a bit cocky. Losing settled me down and humbled me a little bit. I went back to my accommodation and analysed my mistakes. I hoped that the next day I would be able to play a strategy to win.

In the end I managed to win four fights and win the biggest European tournament – the No-Gi European Championship. It was my dream. I have been there twice before and got knocked out in the quarter-final, and came third in the Gi division.

It was really emotional for me. It was a great achievement. Even now when I’m talking, I feel emotional. I don’t train that much with No-Gi so to come first in Europe, it’s hard to believe.

It’s really hard to run and promote a club and also train and win tournaments, a lot of people say it’s not possible, but I’m putting a lot of hours into this and proving that it is possible. When you work so hard, with the help of my training partners, the results have to come.

And you weren’t finished yet. Where did you go next?

Yeah, to finish the story, after winning the European tournament on the Saturday, I flew to Abu Dhabi on Monday for the World Championship. I managed to go there and win three fights before losing the semi-final after getting beat pretty hard. I got my ass kicked by the winner. Then I had to fight to win the third place [match]. So, even though it’s only third place, it’s third place on the biggest podium in the sport.

Is it normal to compete in this number of events in quick succession?

No. It’s crazy to do so many competitions in a short period of time. I usually take a month or two months off before the next competition. It’s expensive too and I must thank Kevin Leahy [from the neighbouring Black Sheep Hostel] for sponsoring me. But after London, I had a feeling that there was no stopping me. I’m healthy. I’m not injured. Now is my moment and I have to take the chance.

It was hard enough to believe that I won the European Championship but to go to Abu Dhabi and fight against the best guys in the world… It’s a dream. Well, it’s not a dream now because it happened. It’s a reality.

Is this it for you now? Have you achieved all you want to achieve?

No, there’s more. Much more. I want to win the World Championship in California next year. For sure I would like to win the European Championship next year too.

But my goal is more than just winning championships, it’s to build champions. I want to teach people and share techniques that are proven to work. As I try to grow the gym, I will continue competing for as long as God blesses me with this health. That’s it.

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