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.
If Big Sam hates the present so much, why should we entrust him with Ireland’s future?
by Adam Moynihan
Yesterday, by complete coincidence, I consumed two pieces of media that focussed on brash, larger than life Englishmen.
For those unfamiliar with Brown’s work, “rude” is a very kind way of describing his frankly awful brand of outrageously offensive comedy. Many of his jokes cannot be repeated here but the narrator of the documentary sums him up well when he notes that, “on stage [Brown] uses themes that most other comedians discarded several decades ago”. He developed a significant following regardless, making millions of pounds off his live gigs, VHS tapes and DVDs.
I was struck by the many similarities between Allardyce and Brown, two controversial celebrities whose success has never been greeted with the acclaim they feel it deserves.
Allardyce is considered one of the leading candidates for the vacant Ireland managerial post and, when prompted by host Eoin McDevitt, he willingly threw his hat into the ring at a Second Captains live show in Dublin. The former Bolton, West Ham and England boss was initially given a warm welcome by the audience but McDevitt and co-hosts Ciarán Murphy and Ken Early subsequently pointed out that the atmosphere soured as the interview wore on.
Allardyce certainly has a tendency to rub people up the wrong way. He and Roy Chubby Brown have that in common. But that’s not where the parallels end.
Perhaps the most tangible link is both men’s aversion to foreigners. Brown frequently takes jabs at immigrants as part of his routine, while Big Sam is vociferously opposed to non-English managers and owners coming to the Premier League and, in his words, “pinching our jobs”. While Allardyce is obviously nowhere near as overtly xenophobic as Brown, that particular remark is exactly like one of Brown’s gags, albeit without the punchline.
Like Brown, Allardyce rails against modernity and refuses to accept that times change. He claims we have all been brainwashed into thinking that possession football is good in much the same way that Brown believes we’ve all been brainwashed into thinking that taking the piss out of minorities is bad.
In taking that stance, they both reveal how out of touch they are with the majority of the population. (The classic Principal Skinner line “no, it’s the children who are wrong” springs to mind.) Instead of adapting their approach and moving with the times, they remain devoutly true to their methods, however outdated the rest of the world deems them to be. Emboldened by a small cult following of Little Englanders, they lack the self-awareness to realise why they are out of favour with everyone else. And they’re not for changing.
Allardyce, who lost his England job after just 67 days due to alleged professional malpractice, favours a direct style of football. There may be a time and place for such an approach but most people prefer to watch possession-based football, and most players prefer to play it. It’s not a global conspiracy to do old-style managers like Allardyce out of a job. “Tippy tappy football”, as Big Sam calls it, is popular for a reason.
In the documentary, Brown (then 61) laments the fact that he hasn’t been on TV in 18 years. The audiences at his live shows are dwindling and the money coming in isn’t covering his expenditure. But, of course, he and his material are not to blame. Society is the problem.
(The Middlesbrough native is still performing, incidentally, although earlier this year a number of his shows were cancelled. His manager accused venues of “bowing to the woke/snowflake pressure”.)
Allardyce’s best days are more than likely behind him too. His career peaked in the mid-2000s when he brought Bolton all the way to Europe. That was a fantastic achievement but in football terms it’s a lifetime ago.
As I reflected on the interview and the documentary, it occurred to me that giving the Ireland job to Sam Allardyce would, in a way, be like giving The Late Late Show job to Roy Chubby Brown. What message would that put out? What values would it promote?
More importantly, why should we entrust the future of Irish football to someone who clearly despises the modern game?
If that’s how he feels about the present, imagine how he’ll feel about whatever comes next.
Fossa on cusp of history as club from ‘nine square miles’ eyes senior status
Kerry IFC Final
Fossa v Milltown/Castlemaine
Austin Stack Park
Never before in the history of Kerry football has an Intermediate final attracted so much attention.
On Sunday, two clubs go head-to-head with a trophy and promotion on the line – but this high-profile encounter has far more riding on it than that.
In fact, the consequences of the outcome of this second-tier decider are going to be massive. If Fossa win, they will graduate to senior for the first time in their 53-year existence. It would represent a monumental achievement for the club from the small parish to the northwest of Killarney; few, if any, believed it would ever be possible given their lowly standing as recently as a few years ago.
With two generational talents at their disposal in the form of the Clifford brothers from Two Mile, they have rapidly risen through the ranks. Now they are seeking their second successive promotion following on from last year’s extra time win over Listry in the Junior Premier final.
And if the idea of Fossa going out on their own in the Kery Senior Football Championship wasn’t intriguing enough on its own, there’s more. A Fossa win would mean that East Kerry, winners of four of the last five titles, would lose their Fossa contingent for 2024. Most notable amongst that cohort are Paudie and David Clifford, unquestionably the district’s two most influential players.
There is plenty of intrigue from Milltown/Castlemaine’s perspective too. The Mid Kerry side are aiming to get back to senior level for the first time since being relegated in 2016 following defeat to Kilcummin in a playoff. They were not considered to be amongst the frontrunners for this competition before a ball was kicked, and possibly not after the group stage either, so victory this weekend would be sweet.
Of course, a Milltown/Castlemaine win would also have a huge bearing on the 2024 County Championship. Mid Kerry (runners-up in 2020, 2022 and 2023) stand to lose five starters if Milltown are promoted: Pa Wrenn, David Roche, Gavin Horan, Cillian Burke and Éanna O’Connor. Such a loss would greatly weaken their hand and widen the gap that already exists between them and the reigning champions. Add to that the fact that East Kerry will keep the Cliffords if Milltown/Castlemaine win, and the significance of this game is magnified further still.
There is so much at stake for all the invested parties in East and Mid Kerry, and there is plenty to consider for the neutral fan as well. Many would welcome the weakening of East Kerry’s squad as it would potentially lead to a more competitive County Championship. However, there is serious concern amongst Kerry supporters that the Cliffords are in need of a rest after a long couple of years with club and county. If Fossa prevail they will advance to the Munster Championship and possibly beyond if they manage to keep on winning. This would likely interfere with their star players’ off-season.
There’s no doubt that the nature of Fossa’s matches to date have whetted the appetite for this final. They were involved in exhilarating extra time victories over Castleisland and Austin Stacks in the previous rounds and more excitement of that nature would be more than welcome after a largely disappointing County Championship.
Milltown/Castlemaine also bring plenty to the table and although the momentum from their own semi-final heroics against Legion may have dwindled somewhat over the many weeks between then and now, they can certainly take heart from that result against one of the pre-tournament favourites.
It’s all set up to be a fascinating match-up and a large crowd is expected in Tralee for this one.
The match will also be streamed live by Clubber.
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