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Tralee teams will fancy their chances in final four of Kerry SFC

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Eamonn Fitzgerald reports on the Kerry SFC quarter-finals as the county’s premier football competition begins to take shape.

Now it is down to four teams left standing in the Kerry SFC after last weekend’s quarter-finals, three clubs and one district board side.

Going forward to the semi-finals on the weekend of November 20/21 are Austin Stacks, Dr Crokes, Kerins O’Rahillys and St Brendan’s Board. Out went South Kerry, Templenoe, Dingle and Legion.

The semi-final pairings are St Brendan’s v Austin Stacks and Dr Crokes v Kerins O’Rahillys. The two Tralee teams will fancy their chances of making it an all-Tralee final and the battle for bragging rights for the great town rivals. However, St Brendan’s and Dr Crokes will be bidding to scupper those ambitions.

Last weekend’s double bills both on Saturday and Sunday proved very successful for the Kerry County Board and for the fans starved of real live action for much of the past two years.

Unfortunately, all four winners won easily and the lack of real opposition left little championship bite in the games. Not that it will bother the semi-finalists. Job done, now for the semi-finals.

The structure of the championship this year suits the teams, the fans, Jack O’Connor and the new Kerry management team.

Have they seen any new prospects to deliver the Sam Maguire, not seen in this county since 2014? More specifically have they seen a solid full back, an even more solid centre-back and another option of a midfielder to partner Diarmuid O’Connor?

The jury is still out on that aspiration. By December 5 they should be capable of drawing up the new Kerry football panel. The current championship is the shop window for any aspiring panellists. More about that in the future. Now for a look back on last weekend’s games.

Austin Stacks 0-14 South Kerry 0-6

After their heroics in knocking out the three-in–a-row-seeking East Kerry team, Stacks were installed as favourites by the bookies and one can see why. They are still favourites to draw level with Dr Crokes as kingpins of Kerry football. They are extremely fit and can gallop all over the field for 60 minutes, and they do it with purpose. With the reliable Wayne Guthrie in goal - not that he spends too much time on the goal line - their defence is secure and very disciplined, rarely committing a foul. The Kerry team needs to learn that particular ploy.

Stacks break en masse on turnovers, usually by-pass midfield, deliver quickly up field and still keep travelling forward. On Sunday how many times did we see their two corner backs up in good positions to score? Midfield is also strong with Joe O’Connor catching the eye.

They applied this gameplan from the very start and it was noticeable that Kieran Donaghy did not position himself in front to the Lewis Road goal but hung on to the extremities of the terrace side line. This created acres of space down the middle and left the full back, Waterville’s Frank Clifford, in a pucker. Should he stay at home or move out sideways on Star?

Stacks didn’t score the goal they planned for but were content to kick six points in the opening period with Darragh O’Brien most prominent and not the expected Shane O’Callaghan. South Kerry didn’t get near scoring until Jack Daly kicked a point, even though the umpires deemed it wide. Éanna O’Connor, Jack’s son, pointed two frees and they were lucky to be only nine points to three adrift at half-time. 

South Kerry received a double blow and were down to 13 men at one stage following a black card for Niall O’Shea and two yellow cards to the influential Robert Wharton at midfield. Hamstring trouble for Kerry player Graham O’Sullivan compounded their difficulties when he had to retire. This defender was huge loss and one expected Stacks to run up a huge score.

Fair dues to South Kerry, they were at their best in adversity. Mark Griffin, the former Kerry player, showed the way with surging runs and South Kerry cut the deficit to four points, 0-10 to 0-6.

They lacked accuracy in the attack and really Stacks should have been out of sight. Shane O’Callaghan and Jack O’Shea missed goal chances, but one must credit Pádraig O’Sullivan, the South Kerry keeper, for depriving the Rockies.

Top scorer for the winners was Darragh O’Brien on eight points, six from frees. For South Kerry, Éanna O’Connor scored three points, all from frees.

Stacks will improve further in their bid for the ultimate success.

Dr Crokes 1-22 Templemore 0-6

Dr Crokes had a point to prove on home territory, seeking revenge for a five-point defeat away to Templenoe in the Club Championship. This was the opportunity to up their game, winning by 19 points and going into their sixth consecutive semi-final. It was a very convincing win for Crokes. They hit such a high tally and the margin could have been much greater only for splendid goalkeeping by the Templenoe netminder Mark Looney.

Crokes were always going to win this game as Templenoe really missed their top scorer, Killian Spillane. To confound their problems further they lost Teddy Doyle and Stephen O’Sullivan through injuries in the first quarter. This is a small rural club, fielding three Kerry senior players, and they didn’t have the supply or the quality on the bench to mount any real challenge to Dr Crokes.

Shane Murphy excelled in sending long kickouts beyond midfield and short ones when they were warranted. Fionn Fitzgerald and Gavin White anchored the central defensive plank. Johnny Buckley and Mark O’Shea dominated midfield and the forwards ran up that huge score.

Veterans Buckley, Kieran O’Leary and Brian Looney showed all the skills and craft that has garnered them several Kerry SFC titles. Their understanding of each other’s play was a delight to behold. Instinctively, each one knows where to be for that deft pass and a clinical score. Linking up with Buckley, Brian Looney kicked five glorious points in that second half.

Looney played his first Kerry SFC match in 2005 and has been an automatic starter for all of their championship games for the past 16 years. He leads the way in the county in terms of appearances, well ahead of Kieran Donaghy’s 61 appearances. He has been Crokes’ most reliable player. Mr Consistency.

In the opening minutes, Gavin White went on his customary searing run up to the Dalton’s Avenue end to open the scoring, and then they tacked on further points to lead by 0-8 to 0-2 by the first water break.

By half-time the result was never in doubt as Tony Brosnan was fouled in the square and fired home the resultant penalty. More of the same in the second half as Templenoe tried their best to keep out the torrent but Crokes had a half-time cushion of 1-10 to 0-5.

Crokes were able to run the bench and Jordan Kiely impressed scoring two points and only splendid goalkeeping by Mark Looney deprived him of a goal. He also prevented Micheál Burns and Mikey Casey from rattling the net in a spectacular display of goalkeeping.

A big win for Crokes, but plenty to work on to improve their performance in the semi-final versus Rahillys.

St Brendan’s 1-17 Legion 1-9

A blistering start by St Brendan’s which yielded 1-3 to no score in just nine minutes left Legion with a mountain to climb.

The divisional side has been their nemesis for the past few years, while the winners will wonder if they can break their three-year semi-final hoodoo.

The Brendan’s full forward line in particular dominated the opening period. Alan O’Donoghue, James Duggan and goalscorer Dan Goggin did most of the early damage for the divisional team with Kerry pair Diarmuid O’Connor and Jack Barry prominent. In defence, the Barry brothers did well.

Darragh Lyne got Legion on the scoreboard with a point in the 10th minute and they welcomed the first water break to plot a revival, trailing 1-5 to 0-1. Cian Gammell was black carded in the 23rd minute and Brendan’s piled on the attacks. They led at half time 1-9 to 0-2.

Legion’s best period was at the start of the second half, bagging a goal via Pádraig Lucey. The same player got the determining score of a goal against Spa which set them on the road to victory in the first round. Legion mounted several attacks and the experienced James O’Donoghue nailed four points from frees. All of a sudden, Legion were right back in the game.

Brendan’s responded to the challenge and added the points, especially when Legion lost Kieran Slattery, their best defender, who was black-carded late in the game.

In fairness to Legion they kept plugging away, but they could make no impression on a rampant St Brendan’s side who won 1-17 to 1-9.

Kerins O’Rahillys 2-16 Dingle 0-13

Kerins O’Rahillys are going great guns and ramping up high scores with Tommy Walsh and Jack Savage in splendid scoring form. They proved far too good for Dingle who were fortunate to snatch a late goal to oust Mid Kerry in the opening round.

Rahillys were hugely impressive and they dominated early on but Dingle came back, powered by Kerry star Paul Geaney, to tie the sides in the 36th minute. Then Strand Road exploded with a barrage of scores, hitting 2-7 by the 54th minute. The Tralee side put the issue out of the reach of struggling Dingle.

Dingle finished well by scoring four points, but the gap was too great to bridge as Kerins O’Rahillys marched confidently into the semi-final.

Rahillys were strong in defence and had a free-scoring full forward line. Tommy Walsh lorded the exchanges at number 14, playing the role of an assisting scorer, gaining possession and offloading to the impressive Conor Hayes (1-2) and Barry John Keane (0-3). Keane delivered the pass for Gavin O’Brien to score Rahillys other goal.

Dingle rued the loss of key defender Mikey Geaney who injured his knee early on and they were too dependent on Paul Geaney who scored seven points, four of these from frees.

So that’s it as Stacks go into the semi-final as outright favourites, but St Brendan’s, Kerins O’Rahillys and Dr Crokes will also fancy their chances.

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Relegation battle has town divided

By Sean Moriarty This is bigger than the county final itself – with the main prize on offer being bragging rights in the town. After an unprecedented run of events during this year’s Kerry Senior Football championship Killarney’s two biggest clubs, Dr Crokes and Killarney Legion are set to face off in a relegation battle […]

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By Sean Moriarty

This is bigger than the county final itself – with the main prize on offer being bragging rights in the town.

After an unprecedented run of events during this year’s Kerry Senior Football championship Killarney’s two biggest clubs, Dr Crokes and Killarney Legion are set to face off in a relegation battle that is sure to divide the town.

In sporting terms, the outcome of the big game, set for December 5, is simple enough. The winner stays in the Senior Championship next season and the losers will have to play in the Intermediate Championship.

Fans of the black and amber or the green and white face an anxious week. Winning the county title is one thing – consigning your cross town rivals to second division football in football is altogether a bigger prize.

Senior officials from both clubs are being very guarded on a potential outcome as both sides know the significance of this play off.

“It is a pity that two Killarney clubs, with a long tradition of playing football in the top tier, find themselves in the position of having to play off to avoid relegation,” Matt O’Neill, Cathaoirleach of Dr Crokes, told the Killarney Advertiser.

“Both teams will fight tooth and nail to stay in the senior ranks. I am confident that on Sunday week our lads will do themselves and the club proud, as always, and give their all in the quest to keep the black and amber to the fore.”

Crokes are based off the Lewis Road with Legion a short distance away on the other side of the bypass.

“Everyone has an opinion on this,” Legion PRO, Elaine O’Donoghue, told the Killarney Advertiser. “Both sides will be nervous – may the best team win. There are a lot of questions, are the Crokes suffering after defeat to Kerins O’Rahillys [in the semi-final]? Are our lads suffering after losing to St Brendan’s for the third year in a row?”

Every football fan will be keeping a close eye on next weekend’s Intermediate County Final too which takes place on December 4.

The winners of the match between Beaufort and Tralee side Na Gael will be automatically promoted to replace the losers of the Killarney play-off in the Senior Championship next season.

Should Beaufort prevail, a (relatively) local team could replace a town team in the top flight.

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68% of fans say penalty shootouts ‘not right’ for Gaelic football

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by Adam Moynihan

Local Gaelic football supporters are largely against the practice of deciding matches with penalty shootouts, a poll carried out by the Killarney Advertiser can reveal.

Over two-thirds (68%) of those surveyed said they don’t think that penalties are “right” for the GAA with the remaining 32% standing on the other side of the fence.

Traditionally exclusive to the game of soccer, penalty shootouts were first introduced to Kerry GAA competitions in 2020 as a method of settling fixtures “on the day”. This was deemed necessary as there was less time for replays due to the profound effect the coronavirus pandemic had on last year’s sporting calendar.

A number of high-profile Kerry club matches have gone to penalties since they were introduced, including last season’s County League final between Austin Stacks and Rathmore, last month’s Kerry SFC Round 1 match between Legion and Spa, and Saturday’s county semi-final between Stacks and St Brendan’s.

Stacks emerged victorious in that televised last four clash as former Kerry player Kieran Donaghy scored the winning kick to send the Tralee club through to the final.

Before penalty shootouts became the norm, drawn GAA matches either went to a replay or to extra-time and then a replay if necessary.

Sorting a match out on the day is now commonplace, although some observers have voiced concerns about introducing what is effectively a soccer exercise to Gaelic games. When asked for their thoughts on penalties, a number of respondents to our survey made the same or similar observations.

“Penalties do not encapsulate the basic skills of Gaelic football,” one reader said. “Kicking from the hand is the key fundamental skill of the sport so that seems a more fair and apt way to decide a game.”

Another fan commented: “Penalties are for soccer. Marks are for Aussie Rules. Can we come up with anything ourselves?”

On the other hand, some respondents said that penalties were “fine” and a few suggested that they be used for any game bar a final.

Kerry GAA have confirmed that the upcoming county final and relegation playoff will go to replays if the sides are level after 60 minutes. However, next Saturday’s intermediate final between Na Gaeil and Beaufort will go all the way to penalties if required.

OTHER OPTIONS

When asked to select the “best” alternative method of deciding a Gaelic football match from a list provided by the Killarney Advertiser, over 40% of the people surveyed opted for a free-taking shootout from 35 metres.

‘More extra-time’ was the second most popular option with 23.61% of the vote.

An additional period of ‘next score wins’ was next up on just under 20%, with a 1 v 1 ice-hockey-style shootout, which would see the kicker carry the ball in hand before shooting for goal, was selected by 16% of supporters.

Whether or not the GAA are open to changing things up is uncertain. For the time-being at least, it appears as though football matches will continue to be decided using this controversial method.

Killarney Advertiser Penalty Shootout Poll (carried out online on November 23/24)

Are penalty shootouts right for Gaelic football?

Yes 31.94%

No 68.06%

If a replay is not possible, which of these alternative methods of settling a match is best:

Free-taking shootout from 35 metres 40.28%​

More extra time 23.61%

Next score wins 19.44%

1 v 1 ice-hockey-style shootout (ball in hand) 16.67%

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