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.”
Clifford and Moran start as Kerry name strong team for Mayo clash
by Adam Moynihan
Star forward David Clifford and veteran midfielder David Moran have both been named in Kerry’s starting lineup for Sunday’s do-or-die All-Ireland quarter-final against Mayo.
Clifford missed the team’s last match, the Munster final against Limerick on May 28, due to a calf injury he sustained in the previous outing against Cork.
The Killarney Advertiser understands that the Fossa native could have played in that provincial decider but Jack O’Connor and his backroom team opted to keep him in reserve, anticipating that he wouldn’t be needed. That proved to be a wise decision as The Kingdom coasted to a 23-point victory in Killarney.
Nevertheless, Kerry football’s gossipmongers are never not at it and speculation about Clifford’s status has been rife this past week. O’Connor confirmed on Monday that Clifford should be okay, although the somewhat unconvincing nature of his response gave some fans further cause for concern.
However, as was reported in today’s Killarney Advertiser, the three-time All-Star is, indeed, available for selection and he is set to reclaim his No. 14 jersey for Sunday’s crunch game in Croke Park.
Meanwhile, David Moran makes his first start for Kerry this season after recovering from a groin injury that ruled him out for the entirety of the league. Jack Barry misses out on the panel entirely, as does half forward Adrian Spillane. Their absence is likely due to injury, although this has not been confirmed.
There is also a place in the starting lineup for Dara Moynihan. The Spa player missed the Munster Championship with a quad injury.
Paul Geaney retains his place at corner forward with Tony Brosnan and Killian Spillane dropping to the bench.
In other news, Kerry will wear their traditional green and gold home jersey against Mayo for the first time since 2011. Both teams have sported their away kits whenever they have met in recent seasons but this time they opted for a toss of a coin, which Kerry won. Mayo will wear their black away shirts.
KERRY TEAM TO FACE MAYO
1. Shane Ryan (Rathmore)
2. Graham O’Sullivan (Dromid Pearses)
3. Jason Foley (Ballydonoghue)
4. Tom O’Sullivan (Dingle)
5. Brian Ó Beaglaoich (An Ghaeltacht)
6. Tadhg Morley (Templenoe)
7. Gavin White (Dr Crokes)
8. David Moran (Kerins O’Rahillys)
9. Diarmuid O’Connor (Na Gaeil)
10. Dara Moynihan (Spa)
11. Seán O’Shea (Captain – Kenmare Shamrocks)
12. Stephen O’Brien (Kenmare Shamrocks)
13. Paudie Clifford (Fossa)
14. David Clifford (Fossa)
15. Paul Geaney (Dingle)
Subs: S Murphy, T Brosnan, K Spillane, P Murphy, M Burns, J O’Connor, J Savage, G Crowley, D Roche, J O’Shea, S Okunbor.
St Mary’s respond to coach’s claims about disbanded team
St Mary’s Basketball Club Castleisland have refuted claims made by their former Super League coach surrounding the sudden disbanding of the team.
When the club decided to pull its Super League side citing a lack of numbers, coach Liam Culloty responded with a statement on Twitter saying that he and his players were “shocked and disappointed” with the move.
“Currently we have eight Irish players from around the county fully committed to playing Super League and we had hoped with the addition of one or two professional players along with some of the fantastic underage talent emerging in the county that we would have a squad more than capable of competing,” Culloty said.
“Alas, we were never given this opportunity to recruit further players to the squad.”
Culloty also expressed his dismay that he and his players were notified by text message.
“[There was] no effort made to meet the players and management informing them of the decision before it was released to the media on Saturday. The very least we felt we deserved was the opportunity to fight our corner and see could a solution be found to allow the team to stay in the league.”
The club issued another statement this week refuting some of Culloty’s claims, while also apologising for the manner in which the decision was communicated.
“Contrary to what is being portrayed by the statement on Twitter, St Mary’s is a local club and not a county set-up, i.e. not a Kerry team. It would appear from reading the statement that the coach had an ambition for this to be a Kerry set-up, yet this was something that was never brought up for discussion with St Mary’s who were financing the team.
“We are a club team, our first loyalties are to our club and club members. While we are, and always have been in the past, happy to welcome link players in, at no time during recent discussions had any individual player from any part of the county expressed to the club an interest to link or indeed transfer for next season. Conversations had been had with the coach regarding player numbers, the opportunity to recruit has been there since the end of the 2021/22 season.
“A phone call to the coach to inform him of the decision that had been made not to continue in Super League was placed on Friday, June 10. The call went unanswered and was not returned, due to the approaching Basketball Ireland deadline a text message was then sent. However, prior to this, the coach had been aware and involved in discussions and several club meetings were held around the issue.
“The club does regret that players were made aware of the decision by text message. The message thanked players for their dedication over the years and apologised that players were not being met in person. A committee member also phoned all players the following day.
“Team members have since been contacted again, apologised to for being told by text and have been given the opportunity to meet face to face if they wish.”
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