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Manner of victory over Tyrone proves that Kerry are a different animal now

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by Adam Moynihan

"There’s no one harder on Kerry than our own people." As assertions go, it wasn't quite 'Páidí in South Africa', but Jack O’Connor’s post-match comments regarding Kerry fans and their tendency to err on the negative side rang true.

Kerry had just demolished Tyrone in Croke Park. It was a commanding, double-scores win that underlined the reigning champions’ credentials as one of the frontrunners for the 2023 All-Ireland.

What Jack was alluding to was that few had predicted such an outcome, particularly at home in The Kingdom. While most pundits tentatively backed Kerry to get the job done, many of the fans I spoke to last week were worried that this would be their last day out of the summer.

The fact that it was Tyrone in the other corner did little to boost confidence levels. Memories of 2021 and that ambush in the rescheduled semi-final still haunted them.

There seems to be this perception in the rest of the country that Kerry fans always think their team is going to win, even when the odds are against them. I would actually say the converse is often true: a lot of Kerry fans think Kerry are going to lose, even when the odds are in their favour.

In the end, there was nothing to worry about. Kerry were brilliant and they dealt with Tyrone with relative ease. We will get one more day in Dublin out of them; Derry await in the All-Ireland semi-final on Sunday week.

MEANING

Oftentimes a blowout win can be facile and a bit pointless but this one was loaded with meaning.

Firstly, and most obviously, beating Tyrone in Croke Park and settling the score from two years ago is a relief. For many of the players, that extra-time defeat will have been a career low. It can be parked now. They can beat Tyrone. Next question.

Kerry also proved that they have made significant improvements in key areas. In 2021, they turned the ball over 30 times. They lacked composure and patience and they ran straight into Tyrone’s trap time and time again. When they lost the ball, their defence was weak. They lacked intensity and cohesiveness, and the three goals they conceded probably cost them the All-Ireland.

On Saturday, they showed how far they have come. When faced with Tyrone’s packed defence, they were smart about it. They minded the ball, they bided their time, they avoided contact, and they punched holes when the time was right. They gave up 14 turnovers, 16 fewer than they did in 2021. Chalk and cheese.

Defensively, Kerry were a different animal completely compared to the last championship meeting between the two teams. These days Tyrone are arguably more dangerous in attack with the emergence of the excellent Canavan brothers but, as we saw throughout 2022, Jack O’Connor and his coaches seem to have cracked the defensive code.

With everyone buying into the team’s solid defensive structure, with Tadhg Morley providing the cover, and with the exceptional Jason Foley and Tom O’Sullivan nullifying Darren McCurry and Darragh Canavan, Kerry limited Tyrone to just six points in each half. Crucially, they conceded no goals.

They hunted in packs, tracked runners, and generally displayed a level of aggression rarely seen in the years prior to O’Connor’s return. On more than one occasion, lads who are fairly relaxed and unassuming off the pitch – the likes of Gavin White, Diarmuid O’Connor and Tom O’Sullivan – fronted up to an opponent after a turnover or a Kerry score to let them know that this was Kerry’s day.

Everything about the team’s demeanour pointed towards a ferocious collective desire to stand tall and to not be bullied in the manner that Tyrone have sometimes bullied Kerry in the past.

Diarmuid O’Connor’s performance is deserving of special praise. Kerry’s midfield has come in for plenty of criticism this year (I have voiced concerns myself) but he arrived in a major way against Tyrone. The talk beforehand was that Kennedy and Kilpatrick would dominate but they were ones who were dominated. O’Connor, ably assisted by his Na Gaeil clubmate Jack Barry, was immense. It was the type of all-action, 70-minute display we knew he had in him.

It’s not realistic to expect a 10 out of 10 from him in every game but if he can consistently give Kerry an 8 out of 10, it would be transformative for this team.

NOISE

The Tyrone victory should also kill off this spurious notion that Kerry are a one-man team. We have been told that the defending champions would be mediocre without David Clifford – “nothing”, even. Clifford was present the last day, and he thrilled the crowd with a sensational improvised pass that led to Seánie O’Shea’s goal, but by and large he was quiet. And that was okay. His teammates made plenty of noise in his stead.

Seánie O’Shea – another player who faced criticism earlier in the season – looks like a new man. He took his goal really well and he appeared to enjoy his day in Croker more than most.

As I said last week, Tyrone was a tough draw but it was an opportunity to prove a point. O’Shea and his teammates grabbed that opportunity with both hands.

The Ulster champions, Derry, are next up with a place in the All-Ireland final on the line. It won’t come easy - Derry are a really good outfit - but confidence should be high.

Surely even the harshest critics in our ranks are feeling good after beating Tyrone by 12 points in an All-Ireland quarter-final.

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Ladies’ Semi-Final Preview: Armagh stand between Kerry and a third shot at glory

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LGFA All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final

Kerry v Armagh

Saturday 7.15pm

O’Connor Park, Tullamore

Live on TG4

The Kerry ladies are just 60 minutes away from their third All-Ireland final in a row but they will have to bring their ‘A’ game to overcome the challenge of Armagh at O’Connor Park in Offaly later today.

The Kingdom have been installed as competition favourites after beating Meath (and after champions Dublin lost to Galway) in the quarters and they should be in confident form following that victory over the Royals in Tralee a fortnight ago.

However, they are unlikely to have it all their own way against an Armagh side who have beaten them twice already this season, in the league in March and then in the league final in Croke Park in April.

Losing star player Aimee Mackin to an ACL injury in the Ulster final came as a tremendous blow to the Orchard County. Mackin scored 2-6 (2-5 from play) and 1-4 (1-2) from play in the two games against Kerry this year so her teammates will have to make up the difference in her absence.

Kerry, meanwhile, have been buoyed by the return from an ACL injury of Síofra O’Shea, who scored 0-3 off the bench against Meath. The skilful trio of Danielle O’Leary (1-28, 3f), Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh (2-15, 9f) and Emma Dineen (4-5) have accounted for the bulk of the team’s scores this season with Hannah O’Donoghue and team captain Niamh Carmody also capable of finding the target.

Managers Declan Quill and Darragh Long will be hoping that this attacking threat coupled with the teak tough defending of Eilís Lynch, Deirdre Kearney and Aishling O’Connell will be enough to see them over the line. With the dependable Ciara Butler between the sticks, Kerry have kept three clean sheets in their last four games which is a record they would love to improve upon today.

Armagh, who haven’t played in a senior ladies’ football All-Ireland final since 2006, arrive at the semi-final stage on the back of wins over Meath and Mayo. Eve Lavery is their top scorer to date with 0-11 (7f) to her name. Blaithin Mackin, younger sister of Aimee, has chipped in with 1-5.

Kerry v Armagh will be preceded at O’Connor Park by the other All-Ireland semi-final between Galway and Cork. The Rebels last made the final in 2020 while The Tribeswomen are aiming to reach their first decider since 2019. Both counties lost to Dublin in those respective finals.

Galway v Cork starts at 5pm. Both matches will be shown live on TG4.

Kerry team to play Armagh: C Butler; E Lynch, K Cronin, C Murphy; A O’Connell, D Kearney, A Dillane; M O’Connell, A Galvin; N Carmody (captain), D O’Leary, N Ní Chonchúir; H O’Donoghue, E Dineen, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh.

Armagh: A Carr; G Ferguson, C McCambridge (captain), R Mulligan; C Towe, L McConville, D Coleman; N Coleman, C O’Hanlon; E Druse, A McCoy, B Mackin; E Lavery, N Henderson, K Mallon.

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Jordan Lee vows to bounce back as injury ends 2024 Paralympic dream

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Killarney high jumper Jordan Lee is determined to bounce back stronger than ever after announcing his withdrawal from the Paralympic Selection Process due to injury.

The Killarney Valley AC athlete, who represented Ireland at the Tokyo Games in 2021, was hoping to wear the green singlet again in Paris in August/September but he was forced to pull out “due to an injury that had developed over the past couple of weeks”.

“[To say that I’m] absolutely gutted is an understatement considering the season that we’ve just had and being ranked number 6 in the world rankings on the lead-up,” Lee said via Instagram.

“This is sport at the highest level and unfortunately this is an injury that couldn’t turn right in time for Paris which is only a few weeks away.”

The local lad went on to thank Killarney Valley and his coaches Tomás Griffin, Alan Delaney and Shane O’Rourke for their support, as well as his sponsors PTSB, Puma, Toyota, Kellihers Garage and Output Sports.

“To my family and my friends, I’ve always repped that Irish vest with the utmost pride, not just representing myself and my beautiful country, but my amazing family and friends that I have too. I love ye all.

“Wishing my teammates within Paralympics Ireland all the very best in Paris.

“Roll on 2025 for the Europeans. I’ll be back better and ready for vengeance. Believe that.”

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