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Tobin hails Spa teammates following ‘fairytale’ final

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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.”

GOALS

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.”

INTRODUCTION

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.”

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Killarney girls rack up big score in Cork

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The Killarney RFC U18.5 girls team are in pre-season mode and they laid down a marker for the upcoming season with an impressive 54-24 victory over Ballincollig.

Killarney fielded a relatively inexperienced side in the challenge match at a sun-drenched Tanner Park but they started strongly with tries by Ali O’Donoghue and  Bronagh Dorrian.

Some excellent play by Orna Driver set up the score of the day by Katie O’Donoghue,  who went on a super run and fended off a number of opponents before touching down. The try was duly converted by Fia Whelan.

The try scorers were: Fia Whelan, Ali O’Donoghe, Bronagh Dorrian x 2, Lilly Morris x 2, Molly Jenkinson and Katie O’Donoghue with seven conversations from both Whelan and Dorrian.

“It was fantastic to have the girls back out playing a match,” joint coach Diarmuid O’Malley said. “Some of the rugby the girls played was of the highest standard.”

“We are very excited with the number of girls playing rugby at the club and we want to encourage anyone who is thinking of giving it a try to pop up on a Wednesday evening at 7pm. U14, U16 and U18.5 players all welcome.”

KILLARNEY: 1. Emer O’Keeffe, 2. Becca McGrath, 3. Lily Morris (Joint Captain), 4. Orna Driver, 5. Becci Fleming, 6. Clodagh Foley, 7. Katie O’Donoghue, 8. Ava O’Malley, 9. Robyn Landers, 10. Fia Whelan (Joint Captain), 11. Ellen Considine, 12. Bronagh Dorrian, 13. Ali O’Donoghue, 14. Marina Eagar, 15. Molly Jenkinson. Coaches: Diarmuid O’Malley, Josh Whelan, Liam Murphy. Team Manager: Jenna.

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New-look Lakers ready for big tip-off

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Last year the Scotts Lakers were left to rue a slow start when they missed out on the playoffs by a single basket. With that in mind, starting off on the right foot is sure to be a priority this time around.

The Lakers get their 2022/23 National League Division 1 season up and running on Saturday, October 1 with a home game against the Limerick Sport Eagles. When they take to the court at Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre there will be a new enough look to the team.

Foreign imports Godwin Boahen and Emilian Grudov have moved on during the off-season and have been replaced by American shooter Eric Cooper Jr, Dutch ball carrier Esebio Strijdhaftig and Ukrainian big man Dmytro Berozkin.

Cooper Jr is a graduate of Pepperdine University and his eye for a basket has been evident in pre-season. His 84 three-pointers in a single season is the third best haul in Pepperdine’s history. Bosman player Strijdhaftig plays point guard and he was very adept in defence and in taking the ball to the rim at his previous club Almere (Netherlands).

Berozkin will be endeavouring to use his 6’10” frame to his advantage in both offence and defence. He has represented his native Ukraine at U16, U18 and U20 level. Now based in Killarney, he will be looking to settle quickly into the pace of the league.

Rui Saravia – the Portuguese player who signed last season – is staying put and with local lads Mark O’Shea and Paul Clarke also committed (GAA commitments in the short term allowing), the Lakers are expecting to put out a strong starting five.

Teenagers Jamie O’Sullivan and Senan O’Leary will be looking to add minutes to their court time and, the more he played, David Gleeson improved immeasurably as a force at both ends last season.

The squad will be further boosted by the presence of Irish underage international Ronan Collins, who, like Gleeson, is a Gneeveguilla native. Collins had a very impressive record in the green of Ireland and once he settles into the league he will be a real asset to the squad.

Marko Benčić, the son of former Lakers coach Vojkan, contributed hugely to the scoring effort in the latter part of last season’s league campaign. He will be looking to push on again in 2022/23.

The club will, as always, be looking to harvest the potential of their outstanding underage structure and young guns Mark Sheahan, Jack O’Sullivan and Eoin Carroll – amongst others – will be involved with the squad. Another addition to the squad is Jamie Cooke who is well known for his basketball prowess with the Kerry Stars club.

That sluggish start in 2021 was mitigated somewhat by players being unavailable and the fact that their home venue was being used as a makeshift vaccination centre (their first four home games were staged at alternative venues).

There should be no such excuses this time around and coach Jarlath Lee will be hoping for a positive opening month that includes three home games here in Killarney. The other Limerick side, the Celtics, will visit the town on October 22 and Cork outfit Fr Mathews will cross the county bounds on October 30.

The sole road trip in October is to Waterford to take on the SETU Waterford Vikings October 8. The league is a little more arduous this season in terms of travel; with away days in Donegal and Dublin, a large, functioning squad is vital.

St Paul’s have once again expressed their gratitude to the team’s main sponsor, Maurice O’Donoghue of Scotts Hotel. The O’Donoghue family’s legacy in supporting Killarney basketball goes back over 40 years.

The club is also seeking additional support via the following initiatives: Season Ticket (€100) – Admission to all nine home National League and cup games; Patron Ticket (€150) – Admission for two adults to all nine home National League and cup games; Game Sponsor (€300) – Admission for two to all nine home National League and cup games, your business name featured on the front of your sponsored game programme, and your business name attached to all advertising for the game on social media, local written media and on Radio Kerry previews and reports.

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