Gavin White (Dr Crokes) and James O’Donoghue (Legion). Artwork: Adam Moynihan/Pics: Eamonn Keogh & Don MacMonagle.

 

A town divided

Kerry SFC 1/4 Final
Killarney Legion v Dr Crokes
Sunday at 2pm
Fitzgerald Stadium

 

Is there a fiercer rivalry in football? Just 365 metres separate the Legion and the Crokes and in a town like Killarney where people are utterly consumed by Ireland’s national game, familiarity is sure to breed contempt. There is an animosity between the two that borders on hatred in certain quarters and on Sunday they’ll meet on neutral ground with a place in the county semi-final at stake. Things will get heated. You can be sure of that.

Since the turn of the 21st century, the Crokes have been the undisputed kings of Kerry football. Their haul in that period includes 11 East Kerry championships, seven county championships, five Munster championships and, the crowning glory, a much-coveted All-Ireland in 2017. It has been an unprecedented period of success for the Lewis Road club and everyone else in the county has been living in their shadow for the better part of two decades.

That doesn’t sit well with anyone but it’s bound to be particularly frustrating for their nearest neighbours who, despite going close on numerous occasions, have failed to secure a major trophy at senior level since 1993.

Impressive wins in the opening two rounds of this year’s championship have brought an air of cautious optimism to Derreen but, despite their recent hiccup against Rahilly’s, Crokes are the reigning champions for a reason. It’s a tough draw. I suppose the question on everyone’s lips is, “can this Legion team actually beat this Crokes team?”

I must admit that it’s tricky for me to write about Legion v Crokes when I’ve been Legion all my life and I’m a member of the current squad. I’m injured at the moment so I won’t be togging out on Sunday (much to Pat O’Shea’s relief I’m sure!). I faced a similar Catch 22 when I was playing for Athletic. Say something positive about my own team and I’m biased, say something positive about the opposition and I’m a turncoat. The bottom line is that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, so I’ve found the best bet is to just be as honest as possible.

In short, I definitely think this Legion team are capable of causing an upset. I always knew this crop of players were talented but since returning to the fold in June, I’ve seen up close how committed and hard-working they are; that’s not really something you can appreciate or understand unless you’re actually involved in the set-up. I couldn’t fault the lads’ attitude for one second and I have no doubts whatsoever about their ability either.

On the other side of the coin, this is the Crokes we’re talking about. They’re heavy favourites for this match and justifiably so given their track record over the past number of years. With dangerous forwards like Tony Brosnan, Kieran O’Leary and David Shaw floating around place, they’re always liable to score goals and it will take a massive performance from Legion, from 1-21, to dethrone them this weekend.

It is genuinely a tough one to call. Whatever the outcome, it should make for interesting viewing.

Verdict: A good game of football with plenty of flaking.

 

Can anyone contain East Kerry’s forwards?

Kerry SFC 1/4 Final
East Kerry v South Kerry
Sunday at 3.45pm
Fitzgerald Stadium

 

East Kerry are blessed with young, intercounty calibre forwards and they have been rampant in the opening two games of this year’s County Championship.

Jack Sherwood, Paudie Clifford, Dara Moynihan, Kevin McCarthy, David Clifford and Evan Cronin, as well as the returning Darragh Roche, all shone as the East racked up 10-36 in strikingly one-sided victories over St Brendan’s and Dingle in Rounds 1 and 2. It’s the type of form that has seen them earmarked as one of the tournament favourites and it also begs the question: can anyone in the county contain them?

They will undoubtedly come up against their toughest opposition to date when they play South Kerry on Sunday. The perennial championship contenders recovered well from their Round 2A defeat to Austin Stacks by making light work of Rathmore a fortnight ago, and they are particularly strong in defence. Full back Mark Griffin is in Australia but Killian Young could return, while dynamic half backs Rob Wharton and Graham O’Sullivan can have an impact at both ends of the field.

O’Sullivan scored four points against Rathmore and the midfield combination of Bryan Sheehan and Denis Daly accounted for a further 1-5. That’s 1-9 out of their 1-15 total from numbers 6, 8 and 9.

East Kerry will need to be strong in these areas but, worryingly, influential midfielder Kieran Murphy is reportedly struggling with an injury. The Kilcummin man has been in superb form this season, so much so that some pundits are tipping him to start for the Kerry seniors next year. His absence would be sorely felt and could force manager Jerry O’Sullivan to shift Sherwood to midfield.

South Kerry are never easy to shake but if East Kerry can hold their own around the middle third, they should have enough firepower to advance to the last four.

Verdict: East Kerry by three.

 

Rahilly’s and Brendan’s are capable of shooting the lights out

Kerry SFC 1/4 Final
Kerins O’Rahilly’s v St Brendan’s
Saturday at 7.45pm
Austin Stack Park

Kerins Rahilly’s and St Brendan’s meet under lights this evening in Tralee and with deadly finishers in both camps, it promises to be a straight shootout for the win. Churchill marksman Ivan Parker has been in devastating form in this year’s championship and Ross O’Callaghan will have to be at the very top of his game to keep him quiet.

Barry John Keane impressed for Rahilly’s in their memorable comeback victory for Crokes and, when he’s on his game, his shoot-on-sight mentality tends to pay dividends. Man-mountain Tommy Walsh was back to his menacing best against the defending champions and if the club side can keep Keane, Walsh and the accurate Jack Savage firing on all cylinders, they should rack up a big enough score to progress.

Verdict: Rahilly’s by four.

 

Stacks are the form team 

Kerry SFC 1/4 Final
Austin Stacks v Dingle
Saturday at 6pm
Austin Stack Park

Following a near-perfect league campaign (20 points from 22 in Division 2) and a perfect start to the Kerry SFC, Austin Stacks are unquestionably the form team in this year’s championship. They showed how potent they can be in attack by banging in four goals in a superb victory over South Kerry in the previous round and they are favourites to beat Dingle tonight and book their place in the last four.

Kieran Donaghy attended his brother’s wedding in Spain yesterday but he flew home this morning and the Kerry legend is expected to start.

Dingle tend to rely heavily on talismanic forward Paul Geaney and he will need to be at the top of his game if the men from the west are to advance.

Verdict: Stacks by one.

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