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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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Kerry Camogie vow to back players in shorts/skorts controversy

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by Adam Moynihan

The Kerry County Board will back their players if they decide to defy the rulebook and wear shorts after officials at the Camogie Association’s National Congress voted to keep the controversial skort.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, Kerry Camogie chairperson Ann Marie Russell confirmed that she is fully behind the players, the vast majority of whom want the skort to be binned.

“I know there have been calls for a protest, that they would all go out the first weekend of the championship and wear shorts,” Russell said. “If the players felt that was something they wanted to do, Kerry Camogie would absolutely support them.

“It should be up to the people who it affects. It doesn’t matter to me what the players wear or what they look like. They should be comfortable.”

The punishment for not wearing the correct playing gear is a yellow card which can be followed by a red card for dissent if not rectified.

Players say the skirt-like garment is not comfortable and they were hopeful that it would finally become a thing of the past when the issue was raised at Congress in Kildare last weekend.

However, a motion by Tipperary and Kerry to replace it with shorts was defeated by 64% to 36%. A similar proposal by Great Britain and Meath which would have given players the option to choose between skorts and shorts also fell well short of the two-thirds majority required (55% against, 45% in favour).

Voting was carried out by delegates from the various county boards as well as members of central and provincial councils. The majority of voters were female.

As one of Kerry’s two delegates, Russell confirmed that she voted in line with the players’ wishes, but she fears that delegates from some counties didn’t do likewise.

“Our job as delegates is to speak on behalf of the players and I definitely felt as though that wasn’t reflected by some of the other counties. I don’t know any girl in any age group at any level that goes to training in a skort. That, in itself, should speak volumes to the powers that be. Even the counties that wanted to keep the skorts, there’s no way their girls go training in skorts. I know they don’t.

“When camogie first started, women weren’t allowed to wear pants, so they had no choice but to wear skirts. They were longer at the time and things have evolved since then. The design is better. But there is a misconception that there are shorts underneath the skirts so ‘what’s the big deal?’ They’re not shorts, they’re compression shorts. That’s not the same thing.

“And look, I’m not wearing the skorts so it doesn’t matter to me. You have to listen to the players. That’s what I feel.

“We’re making decisions that really have little relevance to us, so we really have to take our players’ opinions into it. I’m not sure how many delegates go back and ask their players about these motions before they vote on them.”

Also speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, Kerry senior player Niamh Leen outlined the specific issues players have with the skort.

“If you went around the country, I guarantee you that you’d only find a handful of girls actually training in a skort,” the Clanmaurice woman said. “I’ve never been to a training session where someone was wearing a skort. We’re all in shorts.

“The practical side of it is that they’re really uncomfortable. They’re constantly rising up and I spend the majority of the match pulling the skort down instead of concentrating on the game. It shouldn’t be that way.”

According to Leen, the discomfort felt by players is not just physical. There is also a psychological discomfort involved.

“I am very paranoid about the skort, especially the length. You spend a lot of time bending over to pick up the ball and I am conscious of it. Even if you size up, it’s still too short. The only way to counteract it is to wear Skins (base layer) underneath which I don’t really like doing because that’s not overly comfortable either.

“It should be a players’ vote at the end of the day. We’re the ones who actually have to wear them and we should be the ones having the say. But, unfortunately, it’s not up to us.

“It’s very, very annoying. I could use harsher words but it is just frustrating, you know? We’ve wanted this motion to be passed for so many years.

“Nobody I know likes playing in a skort and it’s frustrating that our own organisation aren’t taking the players into account.”

This is not the first time a proposal to replace the skort has been rejected and players will have to wait another three years for the next Congress to try to alter the rules on an official basis.

Leen believes that she and her colleagues should not have to wait that long and questions the reasoning of those delegates who voted to keep the status quo.

“Honestly, I think it’s to keep the tradition and to keep us unique, and maybe they see the skorts as being more feminine, which is just mind-boggling for me. I just don’t understand how that could be a reason to keep something that’s making girls uncomfortable.

“I understand that it’s the tradition, but sometimes traditions have to move on.”

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MATCH PREVIEW: Kerry name strong team for league final showdown with Armagh

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by Adam Moynihan

Lidl National League Division 1 Final

Kerry v Armagh

Sunday 3pm

Croke Park

Live on TG4

The Kerry ladies return to Croke Park on Sunday hoping to retain their Division 1 crown and managers Declan Quill and Darragh Long have named a strong-looking line-up for their battle against Armagh.

Kerry mostly used the league for experimenting but they still managed to win five of their seven matches, enough to secure a top two finish.

Now almost all of The Kingdom’s big hitters are back in play, as evidenced by the team they have selected for this weekend’s Division 1 decider at HQ.

Eleven members of the side that lost to Dublin in last year’s All-Ireland final have been selected to start against Armagh. The four “new” starters are goalkeeper Mary Ellen Bolger, full back Deirdre Kearney, midfielder Mary O’Connell and full forward Emma Dineen.

Dineen has rejoined the panel following a spell abroad and has slotted seamlessly into Kerry’s full forward line. She will be flanked by Footballer of the Year Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh and the skilful Hannah O’Donoghue, who scored 1-2 against Galway a fortnight ago.

The only really notable absentee – apart from veterans like Emma Costello and Louise Galvin who haven’t yet featured for the team in 2024 – is Síofra O’Shea. The dynamic attacker, who heroically came off the bench in last year’s All-Ireland despite damaging her ACL in the lead-up to the game, is still rehabbing that serious injury.

Meanwhile, the return of All-Star defender Cáit Lynch bolsters Kerry’s back six. The Castleisland Desmonds woman has been used sparingly so far this year and she came on at half-time in that final regulation league game versus Galway.

Quill and Long are likely to call on substitutes Amy Harrington and Danielle O’Leary to make an impact if and when required.

Kerry’s sole loss in the league came at the hands of their final opponents, Armagh, who are looking to emulate what The Kingdom achieved last season by winning Division 1 at the first attempt after gaining promotion from Division 2 the previous season.

The Orchard County beat Kerry by 3-14 to 1-13 at the Athletic Grounds just over a month ago.

They flew through the regular phase of the 2024 competition, winning six games in a row before losing to Dublin in Round 7 with many key players being rested.

Star forward Aimee Mackin has been in blistering form. She has racked up 6-21 (4-15 from play) to date, including 2-6 (1-6 from play) in that meeting between the eventual finalists in March.

Armagh had not yet named their team for the final as this article was being published.

This match forms part of a double header with the Division 2 final between Kildare and Tyrone (1pm). Both games will be televised live on TG4.

Kerry team to play Armagh:

1. Mary Ellen Bolger (Southern Gaels)

2. Cáit Lynch (Castleisland Desmonds)

3. Deirdre Kearney (Na Gaeil)

4. Eilís Lynch (Castleisland Desmonds)

5. Aishling O’Connell (Scartaglin)

6. Ciara Murphy (MKL Gaels)

7. Kayleigh Cronin (Dr Crokes)

8. Mary O’Connell (Na Gaeil)

9. Anna Galvin (Southern Gaels)

10. Niamh Carmody (Captain – Finuge/St Senan’s)

11. Niamh Ní Chonchúir (Corca Dhuibhne)

12. Lorraine Scanlon (Castleisland Desmonds)

13. Hannah O’Donoghue (Beaufort)

14. Emma Dineen (Glenflesk)

15. Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh (Corca Dhuibhne)

Subs: Ciara Butler, Danielle O’Leary, Amy Harrington, Ciara McCarthy, Ciara O’Brien, Katie Brosnan, Aoife Dillane, Bríd O’Connor, Kate O’Sullivan, Eilís O’Connor, Fay O’Donoghue, Jess Gill, Róisín Smith, Siobhán Burns, Keri-Ann Hanrahan.

Follow Adam on Twitter/X for all the latest updates from the Ladies Division 1 final at Croke Park

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