by Eamonn Fitzgerald
The group phase of the very competitive Kerry Club Championships were completed last weekend and the draw has now been made for the knockout stages.
For some, the road to Croker and the prospect of an All-Ireland title is the focal point. However, winning out in Kerry usually proves to be the hardest hurdle of all.
In 2022, Rathmore and Fossa had their moments of ultimate glory when they banished the January blues by winning the All-Ireland Intermediate and Junior titles. They were both promoted to the next grade up for 2023 and they have shown in the last three weeks that they are well able to compete.
Others will be fighting for their lives to avoid relegation. The top team in each group has the added bonus of a home tie in the next round, which takes place this weekend.
Spa v Dingle (Saturday 6pm, Tullig)
Spa have been catching the eye of late, scoring very highly in all three rounds of the group stage. They won last weekend by just about edging out Kenmare Shamrocks by a single point (1-14 to 1-13).
Kerry players Dara Moynihan (scorer of Spa’s goal) and ace free taker Seánie O’Shea played central roles in this game; O’Shea scored ten points but his side still lost.
Dingle have been the most consistent top senior club team in recent years and after losing to Crokes in Round 1, they bounced back by hammering Kerins O’Rahillys 2-18 to 0-14 in Round 2. (That result means that Strand Road lost all three of their games and they now face a relegation battle against Tralee rivals Na Gaeil.)
Barry Dan is a key man for Dingle, so Spa will need to be at their best i lár na páirce. Elsewhere the Geaneys pose the greatest dangers and it isn’t just Kerry star Paul. Mikey, in particular, is a trump card.
Tom O’Sullivan will line out at corner back as per programme but is well capable of moving up the wing to score two or three points as he does so regularly with Kerry.
Dara Moynihan is now showing his county form with Spa and Dingle will be keen to curtail his influence. Evan Cronin is top scorer for Spa. This will be their greatest test and a welcome win would catapult them onto the big stage. This game is too close to call, and it may not be resolved at the end of normal time.
Dr Crokes v Kenmare Shamrocks (Saturday 3pm, Lewis Road)
Dr Crokes remain unbeaten after a 1-15 to 1-11 win away to Rathmore on Sunday. It is never easy to win in Rathbeg where the home side were expected to call the tune. However, Crokes held off the challenge and copper fastened victory late in the game when Micheál Burns converted a penalty after being fouled himself.
Like so many other clubs, Crokes have been badly hit by long term injuries to key experienced players and great and all as last week’s win was, it may well be a Pyrrhic victory with the loss of Gavin White. Unfortunately, a damaged a hamstring will keep him out of action for the knockout stages of this competition, and it remains to be seen if he will be recovered in time for the County Championship.
This is a further blow to Crokes after top scorer Tony Brosnan was also ruled out of action. Former Kerry star Fionn Fitzgerald suffered a very severe knee injury against Kenmare in last year’s championship and he has yet to play a full game this year. He did come on as a late substitute in recent games.
Crokes - as table toppers - will have home venue versus Kenmare, who knocked them out in the closing stages of this competition last year.
Kenmare will be depending on Kerry stars Seánie O’Shea and Stephen O’Brien to win this one, but home venue may be decisive on this occasion, especially when Crokes will now be missing two of their Kerry players.
Last week they also had to go without the injured Neil O’Shea, but Mark Fitzgerald did very well on Kerry All-Star Shane Ryan. Goalkeeper Shane Murphy and forward Micheál Burns will be central to Crokes’ ambitions.
Home advantage would normally swing this one in Crokes’ favour but the loss of Brosnan compounded by the injury to White could be significant factors on the outcome.
Kilcummin teed up a home quarter-final against Milltown/Castlemaine (Sunday 4pm, Kilcummin) by defeating Legion at home on Sunday last (0-13 to 0-9).
Key to this win for Kilcummin was the manner in which the defence performed. It was a big win for the former All-Ireland Intermediate champions, who were missing their key player Paul O’Shea. He suffered an ankle injury in Round 2.
Young Cian Foley and Mark O’Shea impressed up front, each kicking two fine points in the first half to give them a half-time lead of 0-9 to 0-6.
Will Shine was a prolific scorer for Legion when they won their first two games in Group C but the Kilcummin defence kept a tight rein on him. Dara O’Callaghan and Seán O’Leary, who has battled back courageously after his horrific car accident, caught the eye.
Former Kerry star James O’Donoghue kept Legion in contention with three points from frees. For Kilcummin former Kerry goalkeeper Brendan Kealy was as assured as ever at number 1 and he scored a fine point from a 45.
Legion will be away to Beaufort in their quarter-final (Sunday 1.30pm) and that will not be an easy assignment against a team that missed out last year. The Mid Kerry team topped their group with Milltown/Castlemaine finishing second.
Gneeveguilla were the unlucky team to miss out on qualification from this pool, despite their game against Glenbeigh-Glencar very easily (3-10 to 0-9). They needed Beaufort to beat Milltown/Castlemaine in the other game if they wanted to advance but Fergal Hallissey kicked a late equalising point for Beaufort.
A very interesting game last week was Desmonds v Stacks, both former All-Ireland Club winners at senior level. Desmonds have struggled ever since but they came good last weekend with a convincing 2-11 to 1-8 victory.
Stacks won the County Championship in 2021 but were subsequently relegated last season. They bounced back to win their first two games and were odds on to get back to senior status until they were well beaten by Desmonds.
What is most remarkable is that Desmonds won this game even though they played with just 14 men from the 25th minute when Michael Walsh was shown a straight red.
The key score here was a goal by Rory Burke at the very end of the first half to give them their deserved 1-8 to 1-3 lead. They maintained their superiority throughout the second half, stunning Stacks who seemed to be on target to return to senior status.
Stacks won’t relish the next round away to Glenflesk (Saturday 3pm) with a young enough team who are going well. They racked up a huge score at home last weekend, 4-12 in all with goals by Luke Crowley, Darragh Roche, Patrick Darcy and Brian O’Donoghue.
Paudie Clifford (0-5) kept Fossa ticking over until O’Donoghue scored the late, crucial goal for Glenflesk. Emmet O’Shea had equalised for Fossa late in the contest, but Glenflesk upped their game once more to secure top spot.
Fossa now face an away quarter-final against Desmonds (Sunday 4pm). This will be a step up away from home. Rising tides lifts all boats and Fossa have proved that in 2022 when the prowess of the Clifford brothers boosted the rest of the team.
The whole team is playing much better now with the coincidence of winning the All-Ireland title in January. Look out for Emmet O’Shea. He showed his class at minor level and is now a key man at senior level. Away to Desmonds will test Fossa, but the Cliffords’ influence may still be the deciding factor in this one. Fossa to win.
The IFC relegation semi-finals will see Currow up against Glenbeigh/Glencar while Ballydonoghue face St Mary’s. Toss a coin.
In my view Listry were the best team in the junior ranks last year and they should have beaten Fossa in the best club of 2022. Only the magic of the great David Clifford denied them the Kerry title, which was a big disappointment for Listry and then manager Marc Ó Sé. Victory is within their sights and ambitions for this year.
They will be at home to Listowel Emmets in the quarters (Saturday 6pm) and even though the latter had a surprising win over Firies last weekend, Listry will prove too strong.
Firies had been going great guns but were surprisingly beaten by a single point 0-15 to 1-11, and that game was at Farranfore.
I also expect Ballymacelligott to win at home to Ballyduff (Saturday 4pm). I have been impressed by the quality of Ballymac’s style of play and expect them to have too much football nous against Ballyduff.
In the other quarter-final match-ups, Ardfert host Churchill (Sunday 1.30pm) and Annascaul travel to Dromid (Sunday 3pm).
The Street Leagues continue at Dr Crokes tonight (Friday) with games beginning at 6.30pm. The tournament concludes with a grand finale on Friday, September 8. A big club night is planned at the clubhouse after the games conclude.
Opinion: GAA violence is worse than UFC violence. Here’s why…
by Adam Moynihan
Back when Conor McGregor rose to prominence, around ten years ago now, the UFC became quite popular in Ireland. The Dubliner’s fights were big events. You’d go in for a pint and hear lads chatting about spinning back fists and rear naked chokes. (Eyebrow-raising terminology, especially if you were only half-listening.)
I never got into MMA. I couldn’t warm to McGregor (it’s nice being right every now and again) but the primary reason is that the spectacle is just too violent for me. I’m aware that some men have enjoyed observing other men getting their heads kicked in since Ancient Rome, and I’m sure long before that as well, so it’s not that I find the existence of combat sports surprising. It’s just that they don’t really appeal to me. I suppose I’m soft.
Give me a good clean game of Gaelic football any day, I would say to no one in particular, as my friends gleefully watched some Brazilian chap getting his face smooshed into the canvas in a blood-soaked flurry of fists and elbows and kneecaps to the nose.
Of course, the irony of my holier-than-though attitude is that the GAA is violent too, and arguably in a worse way. At least in the UFC you know what you’re getting. If you’re participating, there’s a good chance your arm might get ripped out of its socket or your skull might end up with more cavities than it strictly needs. If you’re sitting in the front row, you could get blood spatter on your shirt. You know that when you’re buying your ticket.
On the other hand, the violence in the GAA is a sneakier kind of violence. It’s always there, lurking in the long grass, waiting to show its angry head. Sometimes – in fact, a lot of the time – it doesn’t bother. But when it does reveal itself, things can get very bad, very fast.
Some of the harder bastards amongst you are probably rolling your eyes at this point. Sure, what would the GAA be without physicality, without a skirmish, without the odd belt?
That would be grand if it actually was just the odd belt. On the contrary, some of the violent acts we’ve seen on GAA pitches are far more serious than that. In fact, not only are they bad by GAA standards, they’re even bad by UFC standards.
Yes, some scenes that unfold in Gaelic football and hurling games are too violent and too dangerous for the most violent mainstream sport in the world.
Take the recent Johnny Glynn incident in the Galway hurling championship. The former county footballer was caught on video apparently choking an opponent with his hand fixed around his neck. The prostrate victim was visibly struggling for air. When he got back to his feet, the skin around his throat was badly marked. In typical GAA fashion both players were yellow-carded at the time.
But then, after the fact (no doubt prompted by the reaction on social media), the Galway CCC stepped in to investigate. Glynn received a one-match suspension – the same punishment he’d get if he was sent off for throwing a punch or for calling the referee a bollocks.
Grabbing an opponent around the trachea with the hand is illegal in UFC.
In January, during the All-Ireland Junior Club final at Croke Park, a Stewartstown Harps player aggressively grabbed Fossa’s David Clifford in the groin area. The referee didn’t see it but the TV footage is pretty clear. The incident sparked outrage but, as far as I can tell, no subsequent action was taken against the perpetrator.
Any attack to the groin area, including striking or grabbing, is illegal in UFC.
In 2022, when the championship match between Armagh and Galway turned into an all-out melee, Armagh panellist Tiernan Kelly, who was injured and not togged out, gouged Damien Comer’s eye. He received a six-month ban, but the timing meant he didn’t miss a single minute of intercounty football.
Eye gouging is illegal in UFC.
Also in 2022, shocking footage emerged from Roscommon showing a team mentor entering the field during an U17 match and physically assaulting a referee. The referee was knocked unconscious and had to be removed from the scene in an ambulance.
A 96-week ban – the maximum suspension allowable by the GAA’s current rules – was proposed at the time. I am assuming it was upheld, although I wasn’t able to find any confirmation online. As of July, the criminal case was still being processed by the courts.
A coach entering the octagon and knocking out a referee is illegal in UFC (and I have never heard of it happening).
As recently as last weekend, an amateur video from a Dublin hurling match brought the issue of GAA violence to the fore once again. Another ugly mass brawl turned uglier when some guy in plain clothes (it’s unclear what role, if any, he has with the team) smacked an opposition player in the side of the head with a hurley. The victim was not wearing a helmet.
‘Some guy’ entering the octagon and assaulting a fighter is illegal in UFC (and I have never heard of it happening).
These instances of violence that we have seen in Gaelic games are not just excessive for a field sport, they are excessive for the most vicious sport out there – a sport that is too bloody for a lot of viewers (myself included).
Does this bother top ranking GAA officials and the people responsible for handing out suspensions? Because it should.
This week the GAA launched a new ‘respect’ initiative alongside the FAI and the IRFU. “The three main sporting bodies in Ireland are working together to remind everyone within their games about the values of ‘Respect’ on and off the field,” the press release reads.
That sounds nice but the reality is that people who engage in violence on our playing fields exhibit a complete lack of respect to our games and “reminding” them of values is unlikely to change their behaviour. They need to face appropriate consequences for their actions – including permanent bans for dangerous assaults – not a slap on the wrist or some time in the bold corner.
Our leaders in Croke Park talk about players and coaches and supporters showing respect but by failing to properly punish violence, the association’s disciplinarians are showing a lack of respect to everyone else.
Almost impossible to look beyond East Kerry but Dingle are best placed to challenge
Adam Moynihan breaks down the groups and likely contenders in the 2023 Kerry Senior Football Championship
Group 1: East Kerry, South Kerry, West Kerry, Templenoe
Defending champions East Kerry are on the hunt for their fourth county title in five years and with a talented squad that’s looking as stacked as ever, only the brave would back against them.
Rathmore’s promotion back to senior level means that Kerry players Shane Ryan and Paul Murphy are missing from last year’s nine-point final victory over Mid Kerry but East Kerry’s strength in depth in all sectors means that no individual player is irreplaceable – excepting the obvious.
David Clifford’s performance for the ages in Fossa’s landmark intermediate semi-final win over Stacks provided a stark reminder of his awe-inspiring talents. Paudie Clifford was excellent too and this year the Two Mile brothers are joined on the panel by four clubmates – another glaring indicator of how far Fossa have come.
James O’Donoghue must be considered an injury doubt after only managing a cameo in Legion’s last outing but his clubmates Brian Kelly, Jonathan Lyne, Darragh Lyne and Cian Gammell are all likely to feature. Current Kerry senior panelists Chris O’Donoghue and Darragh Roche (Glenflesk), Ronan Buckley and Ruairí Murphy (Listry), and Donal O’Sullivan (Kilgarvan) would also be expected to play their part, with plenty of young talent from all seven clubs hoping to break into the starting line-up.
Realistically, the holders should navigate Group 1 with little fuss with South Kerry, West Kerry and Templenoe battling it out for second.
South Kerry and Templenoe played out a draw in the group stage of last year’s championship so there might not be much between them this year either.
West Kerry will be aiming to pick up at least one result after losing all three of their fixtures in 2022.
VERDICT: East Kerry and Templenoe
GROUP 2: Kenmare Shamrocks, Rathmore, St Kieran’s, Feale Rangers
Kenmare came mightily close in the Senior Club final and they should be able to carry that momentum through to the County Championship. Seánie O’Shea is obviously their one bona fide match winner but they’re also strong around the middle third where James McCarthy, David Hallissey and Kevin O’Sullivan put in the hard yards.
The fact that Feale Rangers reached last year’s semi-final indicates that they’re on an upward trajectory. The question now is can they repeat the trick? In 2022 the team was backboned by Listowel Emmets players (seven started that defeat to Mid Kerry) and those lads are coming into this competition in confident form having secured a spot in the still-to-be-played Junior Premier final.
Rathmore are always a tough championship team and the Ryans (Cathal and Mark at midfield and Shane at full forward) are sure to be a handful for any opposition.
St Kieran’s have troubled decent teams in the not-too-distant past – although they lost all three group games (including one against Kenmare) a year ago.
VERDICT: Kenmare and Feale Rangers
GROUP 3: Mid Kerry, Spa, Kerins O’Rahillys, Shannon Rangers
In 2022, Spa found the going tough in a Group of Death that included East Kerry and Dingle. The draw has been kinder to them this time around and they would probably expect to beat Rahillys and Shannon Rangers.
The wheels came off against Dingle in this year’s Senior Club Championship but they impressed the week before against Kenmare. Dara Moynihan, Evan Cronin and Cian Tobin will be important players in attack, with Dan O’Donoghue manning the midfield and Shane Cronin protecting their defensive third from number 6.
Mid Kerry, runners-up last season, will provide their sternest test in this pool. A lot of eyes (including those of Jack O’Connor) will be on Cillian Burke after his heroics for Milltown/Castlemaine in the semi-final of the Intermediate Club Championship. His clubmate Éanna O’Connor (son of the Kerry bainisteoir) will also play a crucial role at centre forward.
Rahillys are facing a relegation playoff if they fail to reach the final of the Kerry SFC and their form in recent weeks would suggest that making it that far is a long shot.
VERDICT: Mid Kerry and Spa
GROUP 4: Dingle, Dr Crokes, St Brendan’s, Na Gaeil
Breaking free of East Kerry’s stranglehold will not be easy but crafty Senior Club champions Dingle are surely best placed to wriggle loose. With four in-form Geaneys in the forwards – Paul, Mikey, Conor and Dylan – they have the tools to trouble any defence, and the return of their established AFL player Mark O’Connor adds solidity going the other way. They also have the incomparable Tom O’Sullivan pulling the strings. As things stand, they are easily the standout club team in the county.
Their Group 4 opponents Dr Crokes will be aiming to improve upon their showing in 2022 when they bowed out at the quarter-final stage. Naturally much will depend on the availability or otherwise of star players Gavin White and Tony Brosnan. White missed the recent Senior Club semi-final defeat to Kenmare with a hamstring injury. Encouragingly, Brosnan (who has been sidelined with a recurrence of a lung problem) was togged for that match, though he did not play.
The Killarney club will be fancied to qualify from their group alongside Dingle, although St Brendan’s – strengthened by the addition of an unknown number of Austin Stacks players to their ranks – could be dangerous.
The other team in the pool, Na Gaeil, are facing a relegation playoff against Rahillys once both sides are finished with the Kerry SFC. Reaching the final of this competition would spare them but Na Gaeil can count themselves unlucky to have been handed a difficult draw for the second year in a row.
VERDICT: Dingle and Dr Crokes
All things considered East Kerry and Dingle appear to be the frontrunners to capture the Bishop Moynihan trophy but there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way, starting this weekend with a full round of fixtures.
All eight matches will be either televised or streamed online. Dingle v Dr Crokes is on TG4. The remaining seven matches are on Clubber.
Friday 8pm Na Gaeil v St Brendan’s (Austin Stack Park)
Saturday 3pm Templenoe v West Kerry (Fitzgerald Stadium)
Saturday 5.30pm Rahillys v Shannon Rangers (Austin Stack Park)
Saturday 7.30pm East Kerry v South Kerry (Austin Stack Park)
Sunday 1.30pm Rathmore v St Kieran’s (Fitzgerald Stadium)
Sunday 2.15pm Dingle v Dr Crokes (Austin Stack Park)
Sunday 3.30pm Feale Rangers v Kenmare Shamrocks (Fitzgerald Stadium)
Sunday 4.15pm Mid Kerry v Spa (Austin Stack Park)
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