Weeshie's Week

Trip to Tipp presents ideal Championship opener for Kerry

May 22nd, 2012
by Weeshie Fogarty

IT goes without saying that a convincing Kerry victory and nothing short of this will be expected as the Championship campaign begins in Thurles against Tipperary next Sunday.

Nevertheless, irrespective of who you are meeting there is always something different and exciting as the Championship begins. Thurles is, of course, the spiritual home of hurling and it was here also that the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded in 1884. While it is renowned as a hurling venue it is also a superb a surface for football. And this will suit Kerry down to the ground (pardon the pun).

I find there is always a special atmosphere when attending a game in Thurles and you're sure to bump in to some former greats in renowned Hayes Hotel in Liberty Square. It showed great initiative by the Munster Council to stage hurling and football on the same programme and I really can't recall having previously attended a Munster football championship game involving Kerry that doubled up with a Munster hurling championship fixture. Tipperary play Limerick following the football match. Well done to the Munster Council and our own Sean Walsh, chairman of the Council.

The Tipperary footballers have lost their first round game in the last eight seasons. Their last Munster SFC victory came in the first round in 2003 when helped by eleven points by Declan Browne, the Premier county defeated Waterford at Walsh Park by 0-18 to 1-12. Cork native Denis Walsh was the Waterford manager that day.

Since then Tipperary have had some great success at minor and Under-21 level and the All Ireland minor title win last year was a massive boost for the game in the county. Their U-21 side also performed well in recent years so it's obvious that football is making huge strides, helped, of course, by John Evans who has recently cut his ties with the county and is now in the Meath back room team.

Tipperary have had a very poor League run, but no way will Kerry underestimate them in the slightest. This opening game is a great opportunity for the Kerry management to have a further look at the continued development of the younger players and preparing for and playing in a Championship game is like chalk and cheese in relation to the League. As the legendary Paddy Bawn Brosnan remarked to me once in the dim and distant past, "leagues are for playing in, championships are for winning". Did you ever see or hear of a Kerry footballer being remembered for his displays in winning a National League? The year begins with this Munster Championship fixture.

I expect most of the late night management discussions will centre around the Kerry full-back line. With the always brilliant championship performer Tom O'sullivan confining his football future to his beloved Rathmore club, and the new rule in relation to the attacking player now permitted to plank himself under the crossbar, a brave decision on who will play at full-back will have to be made.

There are just two men to consider here. Daniel Bohan or Marc Ó Sé. If they go for Marc, then Killian Young and Shane Enright will be his corner men. If they go for Bohan then Marc will take a corner position.

It's great to have Tomas Ó Sé available too, the best and highest scoring half back I have ever seen. A real class act. Tomas is a wing back on my greatest ever Kerry football team, which will appear in a forthcoming publication. Eoin Brosnan and more than likely Peter Crowley will complete the Kerry defence.

Midfield and five of the forward positions are nailed down and the sixth forward position could go to any one of James O'donoghue, Patrick Curtin or Barry John Keane, the latter more experienced of the three. Form in training will probably decide the issue here.

This is a hugely beneficial outing for Kerry. Jack O'connor and his sideline generals can control most things, but not injuries or loss of form. This game will be the perfect pipe opener in preparation for what promises to be a mouthwatering clash in the semi-final against Cork. I expect to see a very comfortable victory for Kerry as they begin their efforts to capture the county's 75th Munster title and retain the cup with no name.

I saw my first Munster Championship match in the early 1950s while on holidays on the farm where my father was born in Hussystown, outside Cahir, Co Tipperary. My grandfather had a beautiful little pony and trap, which he took tremendous pride in tackling up every Sunday. He would dress in his Sunday best, spick and span, looking the real gent in the three-piece suit, including the mandatory waistcoat displaying the silver chain and football medal he had won with the Cahir FaughA-ballagh club in 1896 (which he left it to me when he died). He also wore a dapper little hat that helped frame his strong-featured, moustachioed, weather-beaten face. It would be early mass in Cahir, then a couple of pints in his local pub, Samsons.

Then, one beautiful Sunday, all my dreams came together when he informed me that he was taking my late brother Geni and I to a football match in Clonmel. And so off we went accompanied by the beautiful clip-clop of the little pony along the road – a road that back then was all but devoid of motor vehicles. Memories of the game are hazy, but it was the home side in the first round of Munster Championship and I recall my grandfather being as happy as Larry when Tipp won. A few names of that Tipperary side remain etched in the memory despite the passing of time: Tom O'dea, Paddy Gleeson, Seamus O'hanlon, Tony Newport in goal, Liam Boland and Leo Dooley. It was the first inter-county football game I had ever seen. A man named Willie Naughton was the referee.

The Munster Championship never fails to excite. It can produce some very one-sided affairs but it also throws up some absolute thrillers and classics. Games that are talked about years and decades after they were played. Next Sunday in Thurles could be quite onesided and the truth is it probably won't be remembered beyond this year. But it is the Championship and the excitement is already palpable, even before a ball has been kicked.

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