Preview of the 2013 Kerry County Championship Football Final

October 15th, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

Kerry county football final day means a lot of different things for a lot of different people and next Sunday's glamorous clash between the townies should generate a great environment and revive many memories for supporters from both sides. There has been mutterings from Tralee in relation to the game been played in Fitzgeralds Stadium as regards the atmosphere or lack of it generated in such a vast arena. Well one has to be honest and agree with those who argue that the Austin Stack Park generates a very special environment with its packed stand and terraces and indeed the hurling county final last Sunday and indeed every year encapsulates in the most wonderful way possible exactly what a smaller arena means when supporters congregate closely together. My own personal experience of playing and refereeing county finals (twelve in all) always in Tralee with just one notable exception bears this out. Fitzgerald Stadium packed to capacity as we saw this year for the Munster final is a magical experience and there is no place else in the world I would rather be than looking out on the magnificent scene as Cork and Kerry lock horns in the battle for Munster supremacy.

And then on the other hand Austin Stack Park has its own special place in Kerry's football story since it opened its gates back in the thirties. It reeks with tradition and having seen all the legendary Kerry footballers playing county finals there since I attended my first in 1956, South Kerry / Kerins o Rahillys, names that one particular day such as Mick o Connell, John Dowling, Denny o Shea, Mick o Dwyer Marcus o Neill, Johnny Foley, Ned Fitzgerald, Gerald o Sullivan, Micheál and Joe Kerins, the Raymond brothers all inspired young Kerry lads as they displayed their skills  before their own people in finals what the great Joe Keohane referred to me once as, "Kerrys Little All Ireland".  However despite the dissatisfaction from some quarters as to the venue for next Sunday democracy rules and the county board were left with no alternative but to toss for venue and any Killarney club worth its salt would have demanded a toss of the coin under the same circumstances.

I always find something very special watching our county finals, because you will learn more about the players here than at any other time in their careers. For the intercounty men on show next Sunday it will of course be an anxious time, however they are all well used to the hype and build up to the big day. Nevertheless there is a massive expectations on them and they in turn will want to demonstrate their intercounty status before their own supporters. On the other hand for the die hard "ordinary" club player it is a massive day. The biggest day in his football career. The build up, heading for the stadium, the tension in the dressing room, racing on to the field behind your caption, marching behind the band, soaking up the atmosphere and then the throw in. It's unforgettable, magical, memories to be cherished and appreciated for the rest of your life and if you win that prized Kerry county medal your career is more or less crowned. And where ever you travel through the world in later life and Kerry football is discussed, and have no fear it will, you can chip in and reminisce and evoke memories of your day, when, your club, your team mates became champions of the greatest football county in the whole wide world. 

But who will win next Sunday? Like everyone else in the county from the very beginning of what has been a very disappointing championship I have fancied in the strongest possible way Dr Crokes to edge closer to the Mitchels five-in-a-row and extend their amazing eighteen game unbeaten run in the county championship. They have not regressed one iota, in fact they have even improved in many areas of their play. Their tackling and turn over of ball and their general fitness especially in the last quarter of games has left opponents trailing and struggling in their wake as they coasted to victory. The are very close to the perfect football machine. Austin Stacks on the other hand have shown tremendous improvement under Steven Stack who has lifted them to new heights. They no longer rely on their more renowned players but are now playing a beautiful brand of fast, free flowing highly skilful fifteen man expansive football. And crucially their bench is much stronger with the likes of T J Hogan, Ciaran o Donnell, William Kirby, Darragh o Brien and others available to strengthen the cause when called upon. However and I have constantly stated this Noel o Leary has the six b best forwards in club football and his defence proved against o Rahillys that they too are primed for victory.  Lets hope we have a final that will go right down to the wire as they say and a Rockies victory might have to wait another year.

Fogra: You are invited to come along to the launch of the long overdue publication, 'The Legendary Casey Brothers' in the Sneem hotel next Friday 8 pm and meet the renowned Ronnie Delany who won gold in Melbourne in 1956. I spoke to him about his historic win last week as he prepares for his trip to Kerry.

"With just 180 meters to run, I made my decisive move. My natural speed carried me clear to breast the tape in a new Olympic record of 3.41.2. When I crossed the finish line with arms outstretched, I sank to my knees for a few private moments of prayer.

"Religion played an integral part in my life Weeshie and still does," he said. I did resort to prayer for comfort, to create confidence and assurance and I always prayed intensely before my races that I would receive the ability to perform to my level of capability."

In Melbourne in 1956, Ronnie Delany fulfilled his ultimate ambition. His Olympic victory remains one of the greatest of Irish sporting achievements.

Delany, whose brilliant athletics career included an unbroken string of 40 indoor victories and a several indoor world records, remains as unassuming but totally positive as he was on that famous day in 1956 under the Australian sky. And now you have a rare opportunity to have photograph and request an autograph with him.

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