Championship begins for Kerry in Ennis

June 17th, 2014
by Weeshie Fogarty

And so it is, the championship begins for Kerry supporters as Kerry set sail (on the Tarbert ferry) to take on Clare in Ennis next Sunday. As always in Kerry exceptions can be higher than the situation warrants and while one will forever meet the die hard supporter who fancies Kerry to go the whole way realistically but hoping  I will be proved wrong, like last year I don't believe we are ready to regain the crown. However a lot of water will flow under the proverbial bridge and we will learn a great deal about our progress before the big day in September dawns. So how will Kerry do this year? It's a pure guessing game now. I believe something similar to last season when they bowed out in Croke Park following that epic semi-final with Dublin. A quarter final place or if all players remain fit and well a semi final spot again might be attainable.  Clare are after two good hard games and they chalked up 2-13 last Saturday (all from play) against Waterford and that will definitely stand to them next Sunday. And also of course the fact that they and the other so called weaker counties have taken a strong stand in relation to scrapping the seeded draw, reminder they boycotted the Railway Cup and the Munster Championship launch so this might also be an added incentive for them to rattle the Kingdom cage a bit more that normal. Talk is cheap so now lets see if they can mix it in a some kind of a fair manner with the bigger boys.

I wrote here on numerous occasions last year that Kerry are in transition and Eamon Fitz and his back room team are certainly making good strides in bringing some younger players to the fore. However the loss of Colm Cooper, Eoin Brosnan, Paul Galvin and Thomas o Se have left a massive dent in the Kerry resources and it's simply impossible to replace these warriors. No way can you put an old head on young shoulders, only time and experience will rectify this. Also Kerry have not shown any great winning consistency in the past two league campaigns and when push comes to shove in the big games  leadership on the field will also be a huge factor. Have Kerry now got that person or persons? The Kerry injury list is well known by now and the loss in particular of the high scoring James o Donoghue on top of the Gooch injury will be sorely felt. Looking at the overall picture it is Dublins title to lose but only if they retain the hunger needed to win the ultimate prize. And they can't answer this question until they are out on the field of play. Hunger is the great sauce needed to copper fasten victory when all else is well and truly covered.

The defeat once again of our under twenty one side is still a topic for much debate and is being tied in with our senior building progress and Pat Spillane really put the cat among the pidgins when writing in a national newspaper he threw his hat into the ring as a contender for the under 21 manager's job. The county board now has the choice of accepting or refusing his offer. Any county would I believe jump at the opportunity of having the Templenoe man holding the reins. It's either a brave or foolhardy person that will come out and publicly criticize the handling of the under 21 teams, make up your mind on this. The simple solution, give him the job for two years and see can he deliver as he clearly believes he can.   

Kerry of course to advance next Sunday but Clare at home, if they strike a good day will test the bottle of our younger lads. However and I must add this, for me some little special part of my love for Kerry football died when they locked the gates last year during the Kerry training sessions. That connection, that appreciation of hard work, flat out sessions and fiercely contested practice matches we have been privileged to view since the fifties is now consigned to memory. Watching the lads from the hill or the stand, studying their runs, marveling at their skills in practice while under no pressure, admiring the dedication of those staying back afterwards to practice their shooting skills, penalties etc. Scrutinizing each player, their strength, their weakness, their running styles, comparing the training methods with all those gone before. Meeting and chatting with the passionate Kerry supporter who would travel from far and wide to simply study their heroes. These supporters who I always considered the real experts, you would learn more about football from these training sessions and die hard followers than you would any where else in a long days march. Analysis of games just played or yet to come, comparisons with the greats of the past, tracing the blood lines of individual players, picking up the new training methods, it all happened here.  That special atmosphere.

Of course there must be a very good reason for the lock out, and if it helps Kerry win an All Ireland well and good, and of course I believe some evenings are open. However I can only speak for myself, no one else. But that special connection I have always felt with "Kerry Football" fostered down through the decades has gone. The age old phrase Kerry followers have grown up with "how is the training going" is no more. I might be in a majority of one here but sadly from where I stand another part of the Kerry tradition has been consigned to history.

Fogra; The word came through from England last week on the death of the only remaining son of the former legendary Kerry trainer Dr Eamon o Sullivan. The good doctor who trained eight All Ireland winning Kerry teams during his years 1924/64 was the father of four boys. James, Eamonn, Anthony and Robbie the youngest, who died recently. Three of the boys had emigrated to England while the other son Eamonn had remained at home in Kerry. I had befriended these four exemplary men as I researched my book on their father's extraordinary life, "Dr Eamon o Sullivan, A Man before His Time", published in 2007 and conducted long and in dept interviews with each of them. The four boys had grown up in the shadow of their dad and they could recount great players they had met and  great games he had brought them to and they had vivid memories of Eamonn sitting by the fire at night in their flat in St Finans Hospital Killarney where he was RMS writing about and planning his victories. Another great link with golden era in Kerry football history has been severed with the death of Robbie o Sullivan and to his family we extend our deepest sympathies.

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