Film director J J Abrams would record far greater action at a South Kerry final than on The Skellig

January 5th, 2016
by Weeshie Fogarty

In the past I have often written here and praised the sheer passion, intensity and total commitment of players as they strive to win a medal in their own local divisional championships.  North, South, East, West, and Mid Kerry divisional championships are the heart and soul, the bed-rock, the foundation of football in this county. Without them Kerry would be a very poor place indeed as far as football is concerned. The passion, the intensity, the sheer never-say-die-attitude, the determination shown for the love of town and parish cannot in my opinion be surpassed in any other aspect of the game in this county.  So all the more is the pity that the powers that be continue to make no effort to help divisional boards in their efforts to play their finals before the dark bleak storm lashed days of winter set in?

I am not stating this now in hindsight to what has occurred over this past rain lashed wash out of a Christmas, I have said the very same for the last few years. The divisional championships so vital and important to the so called ordinary club player are consigned to the very tail end of the season. Intercounty and county championship fixtures and all other competitions get priority and will always come first. However it all seems to be tamely accepted as a done deal by divisional boards and as far as I can see this is the way it will remain for the foreseeable future.

And so again these past few weeks we see divisional finals, postponed due to the adverse weather, games rearranged, moved from venue to venue, unable to be played because a few Kerry players are on holiday and worse of all we see finals played in conditions that , and lets be blunt here, are a grave danger to player safety. It must be the proverbial nightmare for the ordinal club player, trainers and selectors keeping their lads some way fit and divisional boards seeking fields to play these games. Now that is the down side of divisional finals and you will hear plenty of excuses why this occurs but surly where there's a will there is a way.  But it appears to be for the clubs, take it or leave it.

But let's not begin the year all negative and look for the positives from what we have seen during the last few weeks and so it was St Stephens's day saw me head  for Portmagee where St Marys and Waterville were to battle it out for the South Kerry Championship and the Jack Murphy Cup. And what a magnificent and wonderful hour's football we witnessed in some of the most dreadful underfoot conditions imaginable. Maybe it's because I was a neutral or an outsider with no ties attached to any side but for me this one game played in Pairc Chill Imeallach Portmagee before a huge crowd roaring on their side for the love of town and parish typified not alone all the great and good of Kerry football but it exposed for those sixty minutes the real heart and soul of Kerry football.

What we were privileged to watch was two team's literally risking life and limb, contesting every single ball right up to the final whistle with frightening intensity, but all in the highest standard of sportsmanship.  It was heart-warming stuff and despite the terrible muddy conditions we saw some superb passages of play from both sides, embellished with wonderful point kicking, and while this superb St Marys side, one of the finest this great club has produced won their 32nd South Kerry championship Waterville came away with heads held high. And indeed if it was not for losing Stephen o Dwyer and Oran Clifford to injuries and Kevin o Dwyer to a black card they may well have shocked the fancied town side.   

It was heart stopping stuff from the word go, once again we watched in awe as Brian Sheehan lofted over some magnificent frees from miles out despite struggling to hold his balance in the fast deteriorating conditions. And something new and amazing I witnessed, when this wonderful player was kicking those frees a kind of hush and silence descended on the huge crowd, it was as if they realised and wanted to appreciate the free talking of one of the best we have ever seen in this aspect of Gaelic football.  Every player was a hero in my eyes but Niall o Driscoll on the forty for St Marys was my man-of –the-match.  He simply skipped like a gazelle over the muddy surface, kicking three superb points which decided the final outcome as he continually linked up with his other forwards.

Waterville are renowned championship battlers, Barry o Dwyer was superb for them as was Oran Clifford until the time of his injury and full forward Seamus o Sullivan won a huge amount of ball. But at the end of the captivating encounter the Marys had just too much scoring power and all their games in recent months helped then survive those hectic closing ten minutes.

But there was more to this memorable day that just the two participating clubs; there was a third club, the hosts, Skellig Rangers who did a magnificent job in staging the match. An army of stewards directed us on a one way system to the ground Pairc Chill Imeallach named after the parish where a lot of their players would come from, The Glen and Portmagee, and the first game played there was in 1981. Top class facilities for young and old, a beautiful stand which is unusual for the fact that it has both ample seating and up at the back standing room. 

There was no stone left unturned to assure the game would be played and where else on Christmas Eve would you have seen a body of men led by chairman Ger o Shea and long servicing Francie o Driscoll spending hours spiking the field in their attempt to drain the vast amount of surface water which fell over the previous days. Again we touch it here, the heart and soul of Kerry football.

Towering over the grounds is the beautiful mountain, Coomnaspig from where on a clear day you can see from Dingle to Beara and in the distance the historic Skelligs.  The whole country seemed to have been engrossed recently with the launch of Star Wars, The Force Awakens as some scenes were shot on Skellig Michael but I can tell you that there was not one mention of this film before, during or after the final. In fact one die hard Waterville follower remarked to me that film director J J Abrams "would record far greater action at a South Kerry final than on The Skellig". 

I was on commentary duty with Joe McGill for Christy Riordan C/R videos Caherceiveen and two hours following the game thousands of people were viewing the final as it was available on the net all over the world. A wonderful facility for emigrants who have such a longing and passion for their beloved clubs, Kerry football has no boundaries.  And so Maurice Fitzgerald continues his winning g way as manager of St Mary's and now the real big one beckons, the Intermediate All Ireland championship. His stamp is written all over this superb side, it could well prove to be the greatest year ever in the history of the club. . Waterville will be bitterly disappointed but with such exemplary, genuine passionate men in their ranks such as Darby Clifford, Paddy Fogarty, Brian Moran, Seamus o Shea, Niall Moran and Humphrey Shanahan they will always be a force in Kerry football, it's in their DNA. What a way to spend St Stephens Day.

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom