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Time for O’Connor to pick his No. 1



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.


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.


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.

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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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