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Time for O’Connor to pick his No. 1

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Ahead of the last round of the league, Adam Moynihan says Kerry manager Jack O’Connor must choose between Shane Ryan and Shane Murphy - and stick with them

A gritty win in Ulster. Another clean sheet. League final place secured. What’s not to like?

The mood around Kerry football is justifiably upbeat right now, but let’s not lose the run of ourselves just yet. As the saying goes, all that glitters is not gold.

The most obvious cause for concern at the moment is the fact that we are approaching the fourth month of the season and we still don’t have a goalkeeper. So far, Jack O’Connor has alternated between Shane Ryan and Shane Murphy, giving both candidates a fair crack at impressing him.

Ryan, the incumbent, has started four of Kerry’s nine games (pre-season and league), including the most recent victory over Armagh. Murphy, meanwhile, has started the other five. If O’Connor knows who his No. 1 is at this point then he’s doing a fine job of hiding it.

Considering the uncertainty around the position, it's not surprising that Kerry's kickout has malfunctioned at times.

Murphy, who was dropped by Peter Keane in 2019, has acquitted himself well in the early stages of his comeback year and, for me, his range of kicking just nudges him ahead of his rival. He also seems to spot the runs that little bit quicker, a crucial attribute to have when the opposition squeeze up in high-pressure scenarios.

If Kerry want to be the best, they will need a goalkeeper who is capable of being the best (or at least one of the best) in the country. Murphy has already proven himself to be the best as far as Kerry club football is concerned. Can he make that step up to elite intercounty level? We’ll never know unless he gets an extended run in the team.

MIDFIELD CONUNDRUM

Another lingering problem is the midfield pairing. Diarmuid O’Connor is steadily growing in stature and as things stand he is undoubtedly the first choice for No. 8. The question is: who starts at 9?

O’Connor’s Na Gaeil clubmate Jack Barry has filled the role in recent weeks with varying degrees of success. Barry has been an intercounty player for five years now and he has around 50 games under his belt - so he has experience - but it’s hard to escape the feeling that Kerry could do with a more impactful starter in this position.

The problem for Jack O’Connor is that up to this point his hands have been tied. David Moran hasn’t kicked a ball all year. Stefan Okunbor sparkled all-too-briefly in the McGrath Cup before sustaining a nasty shoulder injury on club duty. Joe O’Connor suffered a similar fate while playing for Stacks in the Munster final, although thankfully he has now recovered from his knee injury. The Kerry captain made a five-minute cameo last weekend.

Adrian Spillane is another midfield option but he has slotted in really nicely at half forward, providing a badly needed physical presence in tight situations. The manager will be loath to shift the all-action Templenoe man now that he is playing the best football of his Kerry career.

The only other option on the panel is newcomer Greg Horan, who will need more game time before he challenges the others for a starting berth. (Seán O’Shea might also be considered an auxiliary midfielder but we have more than likely seen the last of him at 8 or 9. His manager has made a point of insisting that the Kenmare star’s best position is centre forward.)

So, it appears as though Joe O’Connor is currently the only viable alternative to Barry - that is until Moran and Okunbor are back in contention. With that in mind it would be surprising if Jack doesn’t give Joe a spin against Tyrone on Sunday. As I’ve written many times before, the Tralee man offers a type of explosiveness that other nominees for the role cannot match.

Perhaps the most damning criticism that can be levelled at Kerry’s midfielders in recent years is that they have been passive. At times, games seem to happen around them. If the team is to achieve their ultimate goal in 2022, sitting back and reacting won’t cut it.

In his autobiography, Jack O’Connor talks about the need for every player on the field to be a “presence”. Bringing in the likes of Adrian Spillane and Dan O’Donoghue (and then Dylan Casey), as well as shifting Tadhg Morley to centre back, has made a difference.

Now it’s time to add a permanent goalkeeper and an aggressive, dynamic midfielder to the mix.

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Adam Moynihan: Culture of lawlessness is partly to blame for GAA violence

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Why are so many GAA matches turning violent and/or abusive to the point that they need to be abandoned?

In Kerry, two underage fixtures had to be called off this past month alone. One, an U11 hurling game in which scores weren’t even being kept, was ended prematurely by the referee who was apparently on the receiving end of persistent verbal abuse. Another, an U15 football match in Kilcummin, came to a halt after a Cordal mentor was allegedly physically assaulted. The man in question ended up in hospital.

The spate of violence has not been confined to Kerry. Far from it. Matches in Roscommon, Wexford and Mayo have also been blighted by attacks on match officials. And some referees are rightly saying, “no more”. After a ref was attacked at a minor game in Roscommon last month, referees across the county briefly went on strike in solidarity.

If GAA officials are not concerned about the same thing happening again, quite conceivably on a wider scale, they should be.

Where does it all come from, this abuse and this violence? Why is it so prevalent in Gaelic games?

While it’s true that there is invariably a negative public reaction to instances of violence at GAA matches, I actually think a significant percentage of stakeholders are too accepting of it as a phenomenon.

Take the Armagh-Galway incident from this past summer for example. When Armagh sub Tiernan Kelly waded into a melee and gouged Damien Comer’s eye, the video footage enraged the vast majority of people who saw it. Kelly was widely condemned for his actions, even by outsiders like media personalities and politicians.

But then came the counter-reaction from within GAA circles. They said that Kelly was being vilified. The response was over the top. He was a good guy who simply made a mistake. These things happen.

As a GAA lover I personally can’t stand it when people who don’t follow the sport weigh in on these issues (politicians especially) but, for me, most of what was initially said about Kelly was justified. Sticking your finger in someone’s eye doesn’t just happen. It’s a despicable act of violence. In the end he got a six-month ban, meaning he misses a grand total of zero intercounty matches. Does that punishment fit the crime?

Surely a stronger message needs to be issued that people who engage in violence are not welcome.

When it comes to anyone entering the field of play – be they a supporter, mentor or some kind of hanger-on – and physically assaulting a referee or a player or another coach, they must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms. I’m talking about lifetime bans.

As a further deterrent, clubs and teams who fail to control their members should be punished appropriately. This should include expulsion from competitions for repeat offenders. As long as violent individuals are getting away lightly thanks to disciplinary action that doesn’t go far enough, these things will continue to happen.

GAA rule-makers have to get serious about the scourge of violence before referees pull the plug. Or before someone gets severely injured. Or worse.

I can’t help but feel as though our broadly lax attitude towards the laws of the game is a significant factor also. I’ve written this sentence on numerous occasions before so you may be sick of reading it, but I’ll stop saying it when it stops being true: so many rules in the GAA are so poorly enforced, you wonder why they bothered writing them down in the first place.

You have to hop or solo after four steps, but you can get away with seven or eight. You have to wear a gumshield, but you can tuck it into your sock. You have to be 13 metres away from the referee when he throws in a hop ball, but two metres will do. Managers have to stay off the pitch, but five yards over the line is grand. You have to make a clear striking motion when executing a handpass in hurling, but you can throw it too.

Whatever suits.

There is a culture of lawlessness in Gaelic football and hurling that I don’t think exists in any other sports of their kind.

It makes the games impossible to referee “properly” because every participant and observer has their own interpretation of what’s allowed. The referee can’t be right in everyone’s eyes if the rules have multiple nebulous interpretations.

So, with that in mind, should we be surprised that referees are getting it from all angles? Is it any wonder that people who should never even dream of entering the field of play feel as though they can?

Handing down proper punishments for violent attacks is really important but we must also have far more respect for the rules on a wider scale. No more half measures.

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Golf fundraiser set to exceed expectations

By Michelle Crean  Good weather and 50 participating teams made for very successful charity days at Ross Golf Club on Friday and Saturday.  The final count of the proceeds and the presentations for […]

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By Michelle Crean 

Good weather and 50 participating teams made for very successful charity days at Ross Golf Club on Friday and Saturday. 

The final count of the proceeds and the presentations for St Francis Special School and Kerry Cancer Support Group will take place in the near future.

Captain Donie Broderick was amazed and delighted with the excellent response and wants to thank the main sponsors, Independent Irish Health Foods, Killarney Race Co and M D O’Sheas. He also wants to thank all teams and tee box sponsors and the sponsors of the prizes for the fundraising raffle.

“The big winners over these two great days are both charities who are so deserving and we are
delighted to be able to assist them,” Donie said.

The winning team was made up of Aidan O’Connor, Mary Cronin, Ger Lenihan and Dermot Roche.
The runner-up team was from Kilcummin PO included Muiris Healy, Philip O’Connor, Eugene Kennedy and Dermot O’Sullivan.

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