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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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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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