by Adam Moynihan
Spa have been desperate to win Kerry’s Intermediate Club Championship, and earn promotion back to senior level, since 2010 when they were demoted at the first time of asking following their Intermediate final victory the year before.
With the other clubs in the parish (Dr Crokes and the Killarney Legion) operating at senior, and with a strong batch of young players coming through in recent years, returning to the top table as quickly as possible has been the club’s primary target. They came close on a number of occasions in the intervening years, losing three finals between 2012 and 2015.
They finally managed to reach the mountain top on Sunday last and there was one remarkable link between 2009 and their latest triumph. Cian Tobin’s last full season with Spa was in 2009. He then emigrated to London and later Abu Dhabi, before returning to Killarney this year and linking up with his club.
Tobin played a key role for Spa as they broke their hoodoo by defeating Beaufort in last Sunday’s decider at the Fitzgerald Stadium. The skilful corner forward bagged 3-1 in the 4-18 to 1-19 win, a tally which earned him the sponsor’s Man of the Match award.
As far as comebacks go, this one is fairly special. However, amidst all the celebrations, the fact that Tobin missed out on a decade of hard graft and tough losses has not been lost on his colleagues.
“The lads have been giving me an awful slagging this week,” the 30-year-old says with a smile. “They’ve been saying, ‘you are so jammy, you’ve been away for years and you come back and we win it straight away!’
“I missed a lot of the hard work in those winter months. I was joking with them that I was doing the warm weather training for the last 10 years while they were up in Spa in the rain.
“To be fair, I found it easy to fit in when I came back because the young fellas and the management team are outstanding to work with it.”
Beaufort, who are relative newcomers to intermediate having won the Junior Premier Championship in 2018, gave as good as they got in the first half of Sunday’s final, but Tobin’s opening goal in the 25th minute came at just the right time for Spa.
“I thought Beaufort were excellent,” Tobin reflects. “I went with Shane Cronin to watch their semi-final (versus Na Gaeil) and I was very impressed. Some of their kicking the last day was outstanding too. There was great forward play. Liam Carey got a point that was an absolutely scandalous score.
“It was tight in the first half until the first goal came. It just fell to me in the right position. I got lucky. Until then it was very close.”
Goals two and three followed in the second half. They were neatly tucked away by Spa’s No. 15, but, to his mind, the credit goes to his teammates for teeing him up.
“Shane Cronin is a machine when he gets going, he’s very hard to stop. He put [the second goal] on a plate for me. I didn’t really have much to do again. But yeah, once that went in there was a bit of daylight. In all our matches we have been pushing on in that third quarter, and that’s when we kind of pulled away again on Sunday.
“The third one was a great turnover by Ciarán Spillane and, again, he put it on a plate for me. It was one of them days… I know someone has to score them but the work was done out the field really.”
Guided by the management team of Ivor Flynn, Kieran Herlihy, Brian Gleeson, Neily Kerins and Arthur Fitzgerald, Spa powered to an eight-point win. Does the manner of their performance perhaps underline the fact that they deserve a crack at senior?
“I think so,” Tobin nods. “Everyone from No. 5 up, bar one, scored. That’s a massive spread of scorers. And then we have the full back line of Brian Lynch, Shane Lynch and Eoin Fitzgerald… In years past maybe we would have had a few weaker spots in the team but I think we’re strong all over the field now.”
The effect COVID-19 has had on the 2020 and 2021 GAA calendars means that the 2020 Intermediate champs now have a rapid turnaround ahead of their long-awaited senior bow. First up is a group phase match against their neighbours and fierce rivals, Dr Crokes, on Sunday.
“Nice introduction, isn’t it?!” Tobin jokes. “That’s where you want to be, though. Playing in those kinds of games in the Fitzgerald Stadium against the club kingpins in Kerry. Now that we’re there, hopefully we can do ourselves justice.
“It means a lot [to be a senior club]. We thought ourselves that we deserved to be there, and we’ve put in the work to be there, we just haven’t always got the rub of the green in recent years. It felt like, ‘are we ever going to get over the line?’
“The feeling at the final whistle on Sunday was just relief more than anything, I think, because we’ve been there so many times.
"Maybe not so much me because I’ve been away, but I think it was three finals we lost, and we lost some close games against Templenoe recently. We always thought we were good enough to get over the line but we just hadn’t been doing it.
“To be honest, it was fairytale stuff for me.”
Big weekend ahead in Kerry Club Championships
A tantalising 48 hours of club football lies ahead with key semi-finals or finals taking place at every grade of the Kerry Club Championship.
There are several exciting fixtures taking place across the county but the keenly anticipated senior final between Kenmare Shamrocks and Austin Stacks is surely the headliner.
Both finalists looked impressive throughout the group phase with Stacks in particular showing their strength by claiming victory in all three of their games. Legion, Rahilly’s and Dingle all fell to the men from Connolly Park and three late goals propelled them past Templenoe in the semi-final. That last four encounter was not of the highest calibre (the scoreline at half-time read Stacks 0-4 Templenoe 0-2), but the Tralee club came good in the second period to secure their progression to the finale.
Kenmare, meanwhile, topped a pool containing Dr Crokes, Spa and Templenoe and yet another Seán O’Shea winner sealed a one-point victory over Dingle in the semi-final. Remarkably, O’Shea has now scored a late winner in four of Shamrocks’ last six Club Championship victories across this and last season.
The fact that Kenmare and Stacks also met in the 2020 decider adds a significant amount of spice to Sunday’s clash. Stacks won last year’s game after extra time, and they are likely to be slight favourites this time around, but Kenmare will fancy their chances of causing an upset. If they manage to get over the line it will cap an incredible 10-year period for the club during which time they have also won the Junior Club Championship (2012) and the Intermediate Club Championship (2016).
Things are taking shape in the intermediate too as 16 clubs have now become four. Rathmore, who lost their senior status in 2019 after 20 years at the top table, are one step closer to promotion following a solid win over neighbours Glenflesk. Mark Reen (1-6, 5f), Chrissy Spiers (0-4, 2f) and Paul Murphy (0-3) accounted for the bulk of Rathmore’s scores as they ran out 1-18 to 1-11 winners. Aidan O’Mahony once again lined out in the full forward line and he chipped in with a point from play.
Rathmore’s opponents in the semis will be beaten 2020 finalists Beaufort after they inflicted a heavy defeat upon Kilcummin in Kilcummin. Liam Carey kicked 1-8 and Kieran Dennehy added 1-3 for the Mid Kerry side as they romped to a 2-21 to 0-10 victory. Coming so close to promotion just a matter of weeks ago before falling short (the 2020 edition didn’t finish until September) apparently hasn’t knocked Beaufort too far off their stride.
The other semi-final will see Na Gaeil take on Castleisland Desmonds after they accounted for Ballydonoghue and An Ghaeltacht in their respective last eight ties.
In the Junior Premier, Listry are on the brink of the final following their excellent 1-15 to 2-6 win over local rivals Fossa. The East Kerry club will take on Skellig Rangers on Sunday with Gneeveguilla up against St Michael’s-Foilmore in the other semi-final.
At Junior level, Firies will be hoping to move one step closer to promotion when they take on Reenard in Killorglin on Saturday. The winners will face either Cordal or Castlegregory in the final.
In the Novice Club Championship, Sneem/Derrynane play Ballylongford with Cromane up against either Asdee or Moyvane.
Senior Club Championship Final
Sun 3pm – Austin Stacks v Kenmare Shamrocks (Fitzgerald Stadium)
Intermediate Club Championship Semi-Finals
Sat 7pm – Na Gaeil v Castleisland Desmonds (Austin Stack Park)
Sun 1pm – Beaufort v Rathmore (Fitzgerald Stadium)
Intermediate Club Relegation Semi-Finals
Sat 4pm – John Mitchels v Currow (Castleisland)
Sat 4pm – Ardfert v Laune Rangers (Ballymac)
Junior Premier Club Championship Semi-Finals
Sat 4pm – Gneeveguilla v St Michael’s-Foilmore (Beaufort)
Sun 2.30pm – Listry v Skellig Rangers (Glenbeigh)
Junior Premier Club Relegation Playoff
Sat at 4pm – Finuge v St Pat’s Blennerville (Mountcoal)
Junior Club Championship Semi-Finals
Sat 4pm – Reenard v Firies (Austin Stack Park)
Sun 2.30pm – Cordal v Castlegregory (Strand Road)
Novice Club Championship Quarter-Final
Sun 2.30pm – Asdee v Moyvane (Asdee)
Novice Football Championship Semi-Final
Sat 4pm – Sneem/Derrynane v Ballylongford (Cromane)
Meanwhile, the times and venues for Round 1 of the County Championship have been confirmed. In one of the ties of the round, Killarney rivals Legion and Spa will face off in the Fitzgerald Stadium on Saturday, October 30 at 3pm. Later that evening at 7pm, defending champions East Kerry will take on Austin Stacks in Austin Stack Park.
Dr Crokes will get their championship underway against West Kerry the following day at 3pm. That match will form part of a double-header in Stack Park with Dingle and Mid Kerry squaring off at 5pm.
Lakers and Cougars take positives from defeats
Killarney’s two Men’s National League teams suffered opening round defeats last weekend but both sides can take plenty of positives from their first outings of the 2021/22 season.
The Scotts Lakers had a tricky first day at the office as they travelled to Limerick to take on the Celtics. Thanks in part to the offensive prowess of newcomers Emilian Grudov, Rui Saravia and Ben Miller and the defensive efforts of local lads Mark O’Shea and Paul Clarke, the visitors appeared to be in control of proceedings heading into the fourth quarter. Jarlath Lee’s team led by 86 points to 79 and a valuable road win was on the cards.
Credit to the hosts, however, who put together a remarkable 18-0 run to completely turn the game on its head. With Andre Wolford (who finished with 51 points) to the fore, the Celtics seized control and although the Lakers fought back admirably, they just about came up short. The final score at Munchin’s College was Limerick Celtics 111-104 Scotts Lakers.
Encouragingly, the Lakers’ imports all made an impression on the scoring charts with Grudov (31 points), Miller (30) and Saravia (12) combining for 70% of the team’s points total. Youngster Jamie O’Sullivan also made his mark by chipping in with an impressive tally of 18.
Next up for the Lakers is another away match, this time in Cork against Fr Mathews. Tip-off on Saturday is at 7.30pm.
In cup news, the Lakers have been drawn to play the Portlaoise Panthers at home over the October Bank Holiday weekend (October 23/24). This will be the team’s first home game of the season.
Lakers fans can now buy their season tickets with a ‘single’ costing €50. A ‘patron’ option (two adults) is available for €100, which includes a mention in the gameday programmes. The ‘family’ season ticket (two adults and two under 16s) is €120. This entitles fans to entry to every home league and cup game. Visit the St Paul’s Killarney Facebook page for details on how you can get your hands on these tickets through Eventbrite. Alternatively, you can contact any club officer.
In what was their first ever game in the National League, newcomers Killarney Cougars came up against a strong UCC Demons outfit in the Pres Gym. The Cougars started well and threes by Conor Flynn and Con O’Mahony contributed to an early 14-11 lead. The Demons have been tipped as title contenders, however, and they showed their considerable class thereafter, with Tala Fam Thiam in particular standing out.
The away team led by 45-30 at the half but a strong third quarter which included threes by Flynn, Justin Tuason and Mark O’Shea helped cut the deficit to just five.
But Demons regrouped and reassumed control thereafter, eventually running out 87-59 winners.
Next weekend the Cougars travel to Limerick to tackle the UL Eagles with a home game against the Portlaoise Panthers on October 23.
Team Garvey’s St Mary’s (Castleisland) were no match for hosts Glanmire when the sides met in the first round of the Women’s Super League on Friday last. It was always expected to be a tough challenge for the visitors considering Glanmire’s many years of experience at this level and the Cork women had a huge first quarter, hitting 28 points to Team Garvey’s 13.
Team Garvey’s Le’Jzea Davidson sustained an ankle injury in the early part of the game but to her credit managed to keep going. However, she went over on the same ankle in the dying stages. Glanmire continued to excel as the game progressed leaving the final score at 112-41 in favour of the Cork team. Killarney native Rheanne O’Shea chipped in with six points for St Mary’s.
The Kerry team’s next game is on Saturday against Fr Mathews. Tip-off in Castleisland Community Centre is at 6.30pm.
Pedestrianisation poll: Our readers have their say
By Sean Moriarty The question of pedestrianisation in the town centre has divided Killarney for years but a survey by...
National television exposure for local campaign
By Michelle Crean A local group hosting a life-saving information day tomorrow (Saturday) are to receive huge exposure on national...
Mountain Meitheal documentary to feature in KIFF this Sunday
By Sean Moriarty The volunteers behind Killarney Mountain Meitheal will be featured in a short documentary to be screened during...
Film fans will have plenty of variety this weekend
22nd Kerry International Film Festival launched Yesterday evening (Thursday) the official opening of the 22nd Kerry International Film...
Michael’s feeling great at 108!
By Michelle Crean It was yet another very special birthday for Ireland’s oldest man as Michael J O’Connor celebrated turning...