Make like a monarch and don’t fret about taxes. The only two certainties in this life are death and Kerry jerseys.
The two combined in remarkable fashion this past week when a Ballybunion woman braved the 16km queue to pay her respects to the late Queen Elizabeth, who was lying in state in Westminster Hall. The Kerry native did what many Kerry natives tend to do when they attend large scale events: she wore her Kerry GAA jersey, in this instance the 2019-2020 version.
I suppose it was only fitting that Kerry’s green and gold shirt made an appearance. After all, Kerry is The Kingdom. Our players are Princes of Pigskin. Dick Fitzgerald, the Killarney man who starred for Kerry in their first five All-Ireland titles in the early 20th century, was known as a King in a Kingdom of Kings. There’s undoubtedly a kind of royal synergy there.
At this juncture a less civilised, more boorish writer might make a quip about the differences that also exist between the Kerry football team and the British royal family – something about how our royals actually contribute to society, or how they are able to sweat. But not me. (Or should that be ‘not I’? Or ‘not us’? God help us, after all this time we Kerry men still haven’t figured out the Queen’s.)
It's not the first time a Kerry jersey has popped up on television in a strange place. (Although, in fairness, it has scarcely popped up anywhere stranger.)
A recent one that springs to mind was also in England’s capital at another bastion of Englishness: Wembley Stadium. The event was the Euro 2020 semi-final between Italy and Spain. Two men - one wearing a 2020-2021 Kerry jersey and the other wearing one of Paul Galvin’s Keohane Athletic Club efforts - were seen arm in arm with the Azzurri faithful, maniacally celebrating Jorginho’s winning penalty.
It turned out the auxiliary Italians in question were Séamus and Niall O’Connor from Brosna. “The Italians were better craic when we went inside so we stuck with them,” Séamus later told Ian Dempsey.
For Irish people, no item of apparel – perhaps excepting Tiger Woods’ red Nike polo shirt – is more intrinsically linked to the lush parkland surrounds of Augusta National than the Kerry jersey. Kerry shirts have been spotted in the background at the Masters in Georgia on more or less a yearly basis for a decade.
The famous colours have also cropped up at Premier League grounds, at the World Snooker Championships in Sheffield, and even at the Super Bowl. Former player Kieran Donaghy wore his own No. 14 jersey at the 2013 NFL finale in New Orleans.
It’s a funny old trend and each new appearance is sure to create a stir, just as it did this past week in London. But why does it happen at all?
I suppose it’s a self-perpetuating phenomenon at this stage. Fans know that if they’re spotted wearing a Kerry jersey at some random global event it will get a good laugh back home, although I’m sure our Ballybunion sister was respectfully representing us at Westminster. The more it happens, the more it is likely to happen, and the more likely it is to happen at somewhere more unlikely.
But perhaps more importantly it is indicative of the sense of pride Kerry folk have in their county colours. Not many groups of GAA supporters are more passionate about their teams or more eager to tell people where they’re from than Kerry fans.
I mean, when you think about it, there’s a reason it’s the Kerry jersey that’s popping up everywhere and not the jersey of a smaller, less successful county, like Dublin.
It’s tip-off time for new-look Lakers
National League Division 1
Scotts Lakers v Limerick Sport Eagles
Saturday at 7.30pm
Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre
The 2022/23 National League tips off on Saturday evening and the Scotts Lakers will be hoping to get their campaign off to a flyer at home to the Limerick Sport Eagles.
The Lakers narrowly missed out on a playoff berth last time around, mainly due to a disappointing start to the season. Playing their first four home games at alternative venues probably didn’t help; the Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre was being used as a makeshift vaccination centre at the time. That’s all ancient history now, thankfully.
With that in mind, a fast start will be a priority, beginning with the visit of the Eagles this weekend.
It’s always difficult to tell until at least a few matches have been played but head coach Jarlath Lee appears to have made some good moves during the off-season.
Godwin Boahen will be missed but Dutch point guard Esebio Strijdhaftig has come in as a replacement, and Ukrainian big man Dmytro Berozkin – all 6’10” of him – has also come on board.
American shooter Eric Cooper Jr’s time here was brief; he has moved on already with Indiana native Jack Ferguson filling his shoes. Just like former laker Seán O’Brien, Ferguson played college ball with Colgate University.
The Lakers have retained the services of Portuguese player Rui Saravia, a skilled passer who has settled in nicely.
Just as essential as the imports are the local players who make up the majority of the squad. Mark O’Shea and Paul Clarke are important figures in the squad, although their involvement is likely to be curtailed by football commitments for the time being.
Youngsters Jamie O’Sullivan, Senan O’Leary and David Gleeson could well see more game time this season after exhibiting great promise in 2021/22, and other St Paul’s graduates like Mark Sheahan, Jack O’Sullivan and Eoin Carroll will also play their part.
A player to keep a close eye on is Ronan Collins, a Gneeveguilla native who has represented Ireland with distinction at underage level.
The club will be hoping for a healthy turnout for their season opener.
Meanwhile, the Lakers’ crosstown rivals the Killarney Cougars have an away fixture to get things started. They take on SETU Carlow (formerly IT Carlow) at the Barrow Centre on Saturday evening.
The St Paul’s women’s team (who are back in the National League for the first time since 2012) are also ready for their opening match of the new campaign. They travel to Kilkenny to take on the Marble City Hawks on Saturday at 7pm.
The team is managed by well-known local coach James Fleming and will be backboned by Killarney players like Lynn Jones, Rheanne O’Shea, Cassandra Buckley and current Ireland U16 international Leah McMahon.
Canadian Sophia Paska (formerly of the Limerick Celtics) and American Yuleska Ramirez Tejeda (ex-Limerick Sport Huskies) will add some recent league experience to the squad.
Paul’s first home game of the 2022/23 season will come next Saturday, October 8 against the Celtics.
Adam Moynihan: Culture of lawlessness is partly to blame for GAA violence
Why are so many GAA matches turning violent and/or abusive to the point that they need to be abandoned?
In Kerry, two underage fixtures had to be called off this past month alone. One, an U11 hurling game in which scores weren’t even being kept, was ended prematurely by the referee who was apparently on the receiving end of persistent verbal abuse. Another, an U15 football match in Kilcummin, came to a halt after a Cordal mentor was allegedly physically assaulted. The man in question ended up in hospital.
The spate of violence has not been confined to Kerry. Far from it. Matches in Roscommon, Wexford and Mayo have also been blighted by attacks on match officials. And some referees are rightly saying, “no more”. After a ref was attacked at a minor game in Roscommon last month, referees across the county briefly went on strike in solidarity.
If GAA officials are not concerned about the same thing happening again, quite conceivably on a wider scale, they should be.
Where does it all come from, this abuse and this violence? Why is it so prevalent in Gaelic games?
While it’s true that there is invariably a negative public reaction to instances of violence at GAA matches, I actually think a significant percentage of stakeholders are too accepting of it as a phenomenon.
Take the Armagh-Galway incident from this past summer for example. When Armagh sub Tiernan Kelly waded into a melee and gouged Damien Comer’s eye, the video footage enraged the vast majority of people who saw it. Kelly was widely condemned for his actions, even by outsiders like media personalities and politicians.
But then came the counter-reaction from within GAA circles. They said that Kelly was being vilified. The response was over the top. He was a good guy who simply made a mistake. These things happen.
As a GAA lover I personally can’t stand it when people who don’t follow the sport weigh in on these issues (politicians especially) but, for me, most of what was initially said about Kelly was justified. Sticking your finger in someone’s eye doesn’t just happen. It’s a despicable act of violence. In the end he got a six-month ban, meaning he misses a grand total of zero intercounty matches. Does that punishment fit the crime?
Surely a stronger message needs to be issued that people who engage in violence are not welcome.
When it comes to anyone entering the field of play – be they a supporter, mentor or some kind of hanger-on – and physically assaulting a referee or a player or another coach, they must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms. I’m talking about lifetime bans.
As a further deterrent, clubs and teams who fail to control their members should be punished appropriately. This should include expulsion from competitions for repeat offenders. As long as violent individuals are getting away lightly thanks to disciplinary action that doesn’t go far enough, these things will continue to happen.
GAA rule-makers have to get serious about the scourge of violence before referees pull the plug. Or before someone gets severely injured. Or worse.
I can’t help but feel as though our broadly lax attitude towards the laws of the game is a significant factor also. I’ve written this sentence on numerous occasions before so you may be sick of reading it, but I’ll stop saying it when it stops being true: so many rules in the GAA are so poorly enforced, you wonder why they bothered writing them down in the first place.
You have to hop or solo after four steps, but you can get away with seven or eight. You have to wear a gumshield, but you can tuck it into your sock. You have to be 13 metres away from the referee when he throws in a hop ball, but two metres will do. Managers have to stay off the pitch, but five yards over the line is grand. You have to make a clear striking motion when executing a handpass in hurling, but you can throw it too.
There is a culture of lawlessness in Gaelic football and hurling that I don’t think exists in any other sports of their kind.
It makes the games impossible to referee “properly” because every participant and observer has their own interpretation of what’s allowed. The referee can’t be right in everyone’s eyes if the rules have multiple nebulous interpretations.
So, with that in mind, should we be surprised that referees are getting it from all angles? Is it any wonder that people who should never even dream of entering the field of play feel as though they can?
Handing down proper punishments for violent attacks is really important but we must also have far more respect for the rules on a wider scale. No more half measures.
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