Senior Club Championship (Group 2)
Killarney Legion v Dr Crokes
Sunday at 3.15pm
Senior championship season is upon us and you couldn’t ask for a better opening weekend fixture than two great rivals, the Legion and the Crokes, going head-to-head in the Fitzgerald Stadium.
The latest instalment of Killarney’s fiercest sporting rivalry is sure to be as tetchy as ever, but Crokes’ imposing record in recent years has perhaps taken the shine off a derby that has traditionally been one of the most exciting in Kerry.
The Black and Amber put paid to Legion’s 2018 Kerry SFC aspirations by beating them by 14 points in the quarters and you have to go back five years to find the Derreen club’s last victory over Crokes in the championship.
Legion knocked their old adversaries out of the 2014 County Championship but Crokes had the last laugh when they triumphed in an all-Killarney Club Championship final in October of the same year. Legion reached the county final in 2015 but Crokes have dominated much of Kerry club football since.
That’s all in the past now, however, and Legion will be keen to start afresh under their new manager, former Kerry senior footballer Stephen Stack. This will be Stack’s first foray into championship action as Legion boss and while he could scarcely have asked for a tougher first assignment, he will take heart from his side’s recent victory over Dingle in the County League when they racked up an impressive tally of 3-11 in difficult conditions.
That opening day win was quickly followed by defeat to Spa but Legion were in a commanding position in that game too before losing players to cards either side of half-time.
The Crokes are also under new management following the resignation two weeks ago of former manager Pat O’Shea. Edmund O’Sullivan, who was a selector under O’Shea, has filled the vacant position for Crokes’ first two County League games and it is presumed that he will continue in the role for the rest of the season, although at time of going to print the club had yet to make an official statement on the matter.
For last weekend’s defeat to Rathmore, O’Sullivan and existing selectors Botty O’Callaghan, Vince Casey and Der Brosnan were joined on the sideline by recent senior players Luke Quinn and Jamie Doolan.
It was an unfamiliar Crokes line-up for that match in Rathbeg as Fionn Fitzgerald, Shane Doolan, Daithí Casey, Tony Brosnan and Kieran O’Leary were all rested after a long year of football.
They were also without Kerry players Shane Murphy, Gavin White and Micheál Burns, who were available for selection but kept in reserve in accordance with an interesting agreement with Rathmore. Paul Murphy and Shane Ryan would have been available to Rathmore had the game gone ahead as scheduled the week before the All-Ireland Club final but Rathmore agreed to put that match off – as long as Crokes agreed to leave their county players out of the rearranged fixture.
All of those regulars are expected to return for Sunday’s clash with Legion and as defending champions the Crokes are surely the team to beat again in 2019.
The Legion-Crokes clash will be Part II of Sunday’s double-header, with Liam Hassett’s Rathmore facing Kerins O’Rahilly’s in the first game at 1.30pm.
Rathmore looked pretty good in their 4-10 to 2-13 victory over the Crokes and they will be hoping for more of the same from their lively forwards, especially John Moynihan who was once again in devastating form.
The skilful corner forward always seems to pose Crokes problems and unless my eyes deceived me, he produced another remarkable bit of skill on Saturday when the game was in the melting pot. I would like to see the video to confirm what I thought I saw because the lads I was at the game with weren’t sure if they had seen the same thing, but here’s my account anyway.
There didn’t appear to be much on when a bouncing pass was played into Moynihan (about 20 metres out, towards the sideline) as the Rathmore man was being closely guarded, but he cleverly flicked the ball over his and his marker’s head before spinning and collecting possession on the other side. He proceeded to bear down on goal and he showed great composure to sit the keeper down before coolly applying the finish.
It’s only the start of April but you’re unlikely to see a better goal all year. When Moynihan is on form, Rathmore are always liable to find the net.
Key players George O’Keeffe and Mark Reen were second half substitutes and you would expect both to feature against Rahilly’s, while Kerry keeper Shane Ryan will also return to the fold.
Elsewhere, Kilcummin play their first match at senior level since 2017 when they take on Kenmare Shamrocks in Lewis Road on Saturday. The All-Ireland Intermediate champions have made a promising start to the 2019 campaign by defeating Austin Stacks and Templenoe in the County League and they will naturally be hoping to take that good form into the championship.
However, Willie Maher is sweating on the fitness of some key players heading into this month for clubs. Kevin McCarthy dislocated his shoulder in Kerry’s game against Roscommon and although he was deemed fit enough to start against Mayo, he went off injured again in that one. Kieran Murphy and Shane McSweeney are also doubts having picked up injuries last time out against Templenoe.
The availability of these important players is likely to be a major factor on Saturday.
In the other game in Group 1, Dingle play Austin Stacks in Annascaul That game throws-in at 2.30pm on Sunday.
Pic: Don MacMonagle.