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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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Survey reveals Kerry fans’ expectations for 2023

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A start-of-season survey carried out by the Killarney Advertiser has revealed Kerry supporters’ expectations ahead of the 2023 campaign, which gets underway on Sunday with a league match against Donegal.

Kerry enjoyed a perfect year in 2022 as Jack O’Connor led his team to glory in the National League, Munster Championship and All-Ireland Championship. It would be an incredible achievement to replicate that success again this time around, but some supporters seem to think that it can be done.

Around 73% of those polled believe that Kerry will reach another All-Ireland final, with the majority (42%) predicting that Sam Maguire will be staying in the Kingdom for another year at least. Just under a quarter of respondents (23%) think that Kerry will fall at the semi-final stage, however, with the remainder (4%) anticipating a quarter-final or round robin exit.

1. How far will Kerry go in the championship?

All-Ireland round robin – 1%

All-Ireland quarter-final – 3%

All-Ireland semi-final – 23%

All-Ireland final (runners-up) – 31%

All-Ireland final (winners) – 42%

That’s what supporters expect to happen, but what would they be happy with? When asked what would constitute a “good year” for Kerry in 2023, 54% stated that only an All-Ireland will do. A further 32% said they would be content with another All-Ireland final appearance. So, effectively, the vast majority of Kerry supporters (86%) won’t be happy unless their team at least makes it to the All-Ireland final on July 30.

2. Kerry need to ___________ for 2023 to be classed as a “good” year.

Reach the All-Ireland round robin stage – 1%

Reach the All-Ireland quarter-final – 3%

Reach the All-Ireland semi-final – 10%

Reach the All-Ireland final – 32%

Win the All-Ireland final – 54%

Neighbours Cork gave Kerry a real hiding in the McGrath Cup at the beginning of this month but it appears as though fans from this side of the county bounds are placing little stock in that particular result. Over 96% of supporters expect Kerry to win their provincial championship. A very small minority (3%) are fearing the worst, i.e. Cork winning Munster.

3. Who will win the Munster Championship?

Kerry – 96%

Cork – 3%

Someone else – 1%

Expectations are lower for the immediate future, however. With several players out injured and others – including star player David Clifford – being rested, most fans reckon Kerry will finish mid-table in Division 1 of the National League. Over half of the readers who responded to our survey (52%) think Kerry will finish 3rd or 4th in the eight-team pool, with roughly one-in-five expecting a 5th or 6th place finish.

Despite the lengthy list of absentees, 21% of supporters are still optimistic that Kerry can retain their Division 1 title. At the other end of the scale, around 1% think Kerry will be relegated.

4. Where will Kerry finish in Division 1 of the National League?

1st or 2nd (winners) – 21%

1st or 2nd (runners-up) – 8%

3rd or 4th – 52%

5th or 6th – 18%

7th or 8th (relegated) – 1%

When asked which opponent they are most wary of heading into the new season, the vast majority of Kerry fans singled out the same Division 2 team.

5. Which opposition team should Kerry be most worried about in 2023?

Dublin – 78%

Tyrone – 7%

Armagh – 6%

Cork – 3%

Derry – 3%

Mayo – 2%

Galway – 1%

Jack O’Connor’s side travel to Ballybofey on Sunday for their first competitive outing of the season. Throw-in is at 2pm with the match being televised live on TG4.

Follow @AdamMoynihan for all the latest Kerry GAA news

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“Argentina have Messi but we have the Messiah”

By Michelle Crean  Calls for full civic reception for David Clifford Superstar footballer David Clifford has been compared to Argentina’s Messi. At Monday’s full Kerry County Council meeting councillors were full of […]

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By Michelle Crean 

Calls for full civic reception for David Clifford

Superstar footballer David Clifford has been compared to Argentina’s Messi.

At Monday’s full Kerry County Council meeting councillors were full of praise for both the Fossa and Rathmore teams who won their respective finals a day earlier in Croke Park. Fossa became the All-Ireland Junior Football Champions when they beat Stewartstown Harps, while Rathmore secured the AIB All-Ireland Intermediate Club Football title.

Cllr Mike Kennelly said “we are currently witnessing the greatest footballer ever” as he called for a full civic reception to honour David Clifford.

“I think he’s the greatest inspiration to every Kerry person. We, as an authority, as a county need to acknowledge this. We need to acknowledge David’s greatness and inspiration on his unrivalled success over the last 12 months. Argentina has Messi but we have the Messiah and we’ve got to protect him and honour that. Most people will agree with us that he is the greatest we have ever seen.”

However, cautiously Cllr Cahill added that it’s better to hold a civic reception for both teams rather than single out one player.

“I’m not too sure about singling out David. Maybe talk to the family on that. Paudie got an All Star this year and last year and was Man of the Match at several games. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it but tease it out a little bit further.”

The matter was referred to the CPG.

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