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Wide open Kerry Club Championships reach knockout stage

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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.

SENIOR SEMI-FINALS

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.

INTERMEDIATE

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.

JUNIOR PREMIER

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).

STREEET LEAGUES

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.

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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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