Week 2 was not quite as free-flowing or high-scoring as the first – the dismal weather saw to that – but it was certainly just as tense as no more than a kick of a ball separated the sides in all four matches in the Kerry Senior Club Championship.
Silverware is still on the cards for Dr Crokes, Kenmare, Dingle, Austin Stacks and Legion while for Kilcummin, Templenoe and Kerins O’Rahilly’s, the threat of relegation looms large. With so much at stake, it promises to be another cracking weekend.
After a solid Round 1, the predictions were less impressive by me last week. I got three of the four results right but the margins were tighter than I anticipated. I’ll blame the weather for that.
Let’s see how badly I fare this time out.
Kenmare Shamrocks v Dr Crokes
Tonight at 7pm
(This match is being streamed by Kerry GAA.)
The tie of the round is in Kenmare this evening as Shamrocks face Dr Crokes in a straight shootout for a place in the final.
With both sides level on two wins and four points apiece, it’s a case of winner takes all in Round 3, although their superior points difference (+13 versus +3) means that a draw will suffice for the Crokes.
A cursory glance at the Senior Club Championship tables suggests that all is going swimmingly for the Lewis Road club – they have scored more and conceded less than any other side in the competition – but they didn’t have it all their own way against Kerins O’Rahilly’s in Round 2. The Tralee outfit started much the brighter and were it not for Chris Doncel’s opportunistic goal in the 26th minute, Crokes may well have trailed at the break.
Even in the second half Crokes struggled to pull away from the visitors. It took the cool head of substitute Kieran O’Leary to give them the lead as the clock ticked into stoppage time before Tony Brosnan added the insurance point in the 65th minute.
With Brian Looney in particular catching the eye, the Crokes did well to right the ship but they will not be overly enthused by the fact that only one of their starting forwards scored in the second half. Conditions were difficult to be fair but you would expect more of a scoring threat considering the attacking talent on show.
For their part, Kenmare needed a very late goal from the boot of veteran corner forward Paul O’Connor as they secured a thrilling one-point victory over Templenoe. It was the second goal in two games for O’Connor and the Crokes will have to keep a close eye on the in-form forward tonight.
Seán O’Shea was uncharacteristically quiet against Templenoe (in part due to the fact that he was sin-binned early in the second half) and if Kenmare are to run up a winning score, one would imagine that the Kerry star will have a big part to play.
O’Shea’s Kerry teammate Stephen O’Brien is out of tonight’s match. He picked up and injury in Round 1 and although he featured last weekend, his name is not listed in the matchday programme.
Home advantage will naturally play into Kenmare’s hands but the Crokes should still have enough about them to advance to another final.
Verdict: Dr Crokes by two.
Kerins O’Rahilly’s v Templenoe
Saturday at 7pm
Rahilly’s must be wondering how it has come to this. The club from Strand Road could quite easily be heading into Round 3 with a final berth on their mind. Instead, they’re 60 minutes away from a relegation playoff.
William Harmon’s men came so close to beating Kenmare and they led against Crokes, but two tough-to-take defeats leave them needing a major performance and a result tomorrow night.
Jack Savage has shouldered a heavy load so far. The free-taking centre forward has been responsible for exactly two-thirds (16/24) of Rahilly’s points in their opening two games as the others have unfortunately been unable to find their shooting boots. The loss through injury of Tommy Walsh has been a huge blow; as we saw with Kerry last year, he can be the perfect foil for quick and skilful corner forwards, and Rahilly’s certainly have those in Barry John Keane and Conor Hayes.
On the plus side, half forward Seán Walsh (0-1) showed well against Crokes, as did inspirational midfielder David Moran who kicked two excellent scores from play. Karl Mullins was a one-man wrecking machine at centre back and he knocked over a point in each half in what was surely one of the performances of the round.
Rahilly’s were also boosted by the return from injury of Gavin O’Brien. He came on for the final 10 minutes or so and but for a great save by Crokes keeper Shane Murphy, he would have scored a potentially match-winning goal.
Templenoe are very unlucky to find themselves in this position considering how the match against Kenmare panned out but they will have no time to feel sorry for themselves. They will be desperate to win tomorrow and consign Rahilly’s to the playoff, and they probably deserve a break, but they will find the going tough in Tralee.
Verdict: Kerins O’Rahilly’s by two.
Kilcummin v Dingle
Saturday at 5pm
Three teams are still contention for the top spot in Group 2 but after last weekend’s results, Dingle are in a slightly better position than their rivals.
The men from the west were really good against Legion the last day, especially around the middle third where they exerted their dominance and took a stranglehold on the game. Conor Geaney grabbed the headlines with six super points but it was a real team effort from Pádraic ó Corcráin’s men and they now know that victory over Kilcummin will give them a great chance of qualifying for the final.
It is very tight, though. Dingle are currently level with Stacks on three points apiece and with an identical points difference of +2. Where Dingle lead the way is in the ‘points for’ category (+28 versus +26) so if Dingle match or better Stacks’ result against Legion, they will top the group.
However, if Dingle beat Kilcummin but Stacks beat Legion by a greater margin, Stacks will top the group. If Dingle and Stacks both win by the same margin, and Stacks score three (or more) more points than Dingle, Stacks will top the group.
Kilcummin have nothing to play for as such – they’ll be in the relegation playoff regardless – so it’s a lot to ask of them to challenge Dingle. Having said that, they won’t want to give up anything easy, especially at home. Stacks and Legion will be hoping that professional pride kicks in and they cause an upset, but realistically Dingle should do the business.
Verdict: Dingle by four.
Legion v Austin Stacks
Saturday at 5pm
(This match is being streamed by Kerry GAA.)
As discussed in the previous match preview, Stacks are still well in contention but whatever happens up in Kilcummin, they’ll have to do the business themselves down the road in Derreen.
Points difference may become a factor at some stage but in reality they’ll just be going out to win. They’ll worry about crossing that other, more complicated bridge if they come to it.
Unfortunately, things are not looking as promising for Legion. With star player James O’Donoghue out injured (barring a 15-minute cameo), they didn’t play well in their defeat to Dingle and now they need the underdogs, Kilcummin, to get a shock win to get them out of a hole. But you never know – stranger things have happened. Stephen Stack will, of course, be sending his charges out to hold up their end of the bargain and if they do that, they’ll give themselves a fighting chance.
Their opponents have the momentum, however, and with key men like Podge O’Connor and O’Donoghue struggling with injuries, the odds appear to be slightly against the Killarney side in this one.
Verdict: Stacks by one.