Memories of 2011

January 3rd, 2012
by Weeshie Fogarty

It was a year of economic gloom, international unrest and predictions that things are going to go from bad to worse. Between the press, radio and television we have been bombarded morning, noon and night with doom and gloom so thank God for sport and we really should ask the question, "without the safety valve of sport where would we be mentally and physically"? In a far worse place without a shadow of doubt. And once again sport both here in Kerry, nationally and internationally afforded all of us the opportunity to escape from the continuous debates, discussions and predictions of "things are going to get even worse".

However unfortunately for followers of Kerry football the defeat by Dublin in the All Ireland final was also a huge occasion of the afore mentioned doom and gloom. Seemingly coasting to victory and four points ahead with time running out a Dublin goal stunned a Kingdom. Worse was to follow as that Stephen Cluxton pointed free in injury time put the final nail in the Kerry coffin. It was a defeat that for me ranks with the 1982 five-in-a-row defeat by Offaly. It will be spoken about when all else sporting wise in 2012 will be long forgotten. And now I repeat here what I wrote following that final. Until my dying day I am convinced the awarding of that fatal final free which gave Dublin the title was completely and utterly wrong and shameful decision.

Speaking as a former player and referee the free awarded against young Barry John Keane was not in my view justified in any way what so ever. It was a terrible decision and such an awfully cruel way to lose an All Ireland.  The Kerry player stood solid, both feet firmly planted on the ground, arms outstretched, he never moved an inch. Kevin McManamon ran at him, literally tripped over the stationary outstretched Kerry left leg, he went to ground. No free in my book and I make no apologies for stating that loud and clear. It needs to be done. Two years of toil and sweat by a great bunch of Kerrymen ended in the cruelest possible way.

And so it was left to the Kerry hurlers to claim possible the highlight of Kerrys sporting year. When the outstanding Mikey Boyle was presented with the Christy Ring Cup on the Hogan Stand it was the culmination of many years dedicated work by the hurling men of Kerry and manager John Myler must take a major share of the plaudits for his leadership in all departments.  On the local front Ballyduff and Crotta served up a fascinating and absorbing Kerry county final and that whole day was one of my lasting memories of the past year. Ballyduff now have twenty three titles and went within a whisker of winning a longed for Munster hurling championship.

Dr Crokes continue to dominate club football in Kerry winning a second in a row title playing brilliant fifteen man football. They coasted through Munster and their awaited clash with Crossmaglen Rangers in February will be eagerly awaited. Sadly one of their greatest supporters and back room men Patsy Courtney (a good friend) passed away following their Munster win. St Mary's trained by Peter Keane who comes from a great Kerry GAA family captured the All Ireland Junior title in superb fashion while we now await the appearance of Dromid and Milltown/Castlemain on the All Ireland scene. I was in Dingle to see Austin Stacks defeat the home side in extra in a thrilling County League Final and a very emotional interview I conducted with the exemplary Kieran Donaghy following the final whistle remain etched in the memory. 

The Kerry ladies continue to strive to make that breakthrough to an All Ireland final and continue to improve each year. The under sixteen girls managed by Billy Mangan had a great win over Dublin in their final and surly these girls if properly coached and trained will go on to greater things. Two of my favourite Kery sports stars are Marie Daly and Ashley Prendiville. Two brilliant handballer they simply keep winning year after year against the best in the country. Marie beat her close friend Ashley in two All ireland finals and these two exemplary Ballymac ladies then teamed up to win the All Ireland 40+20 Doubles.  Two of Kerrys greatest sporting stars a credit to their families and county, lovely young ladies with no airs or graces.

On the soccer front Killarney Celtic stole all the lime light winning the Munster Youths Championship and then they followed this up with a first ever historic Munster League of Champions Trophy. As Ireland qualified for the European Championship here in Kerry Sean o Keeffe, chairman and John o Regan, secretary, continue to guide soccer fortunes in the county and are doing a tremendous job of work. Tralee man Billy Dennehy won his second League of Ireland medal with Shamrock Rovers and became the first Kerryman to play in a European club tournament. I have a passionate interest in rowing and to see Kerry rowers win a bucket of medals, gold, silver and bronze at the All Ireland Coastal Rowing Championships would gladden the heart. They are the unsung heroes of Kerry sport and behind them is a lady who in my opinion is one of the great organizers/workers in Irish sport, the exemplary PRO Mary B Teahan.

On the international stage our golfers reached the dizzy heights of winning both American and British Opens as Darran Clark and the hugely talented Rory McElroy gave us hours of captivating television viewing. Katie Taylor continues to dominate women's world boxing but now her biggest year is at hand and hopefully she will qualify and win the Olympic gold. Manchester United dominant in England winning the premiership again and Barcelona in my view are easily the best club side in the whole world since Real Madrid in the fifties.

We could go on reminiscing until the proverbial cows came home but space will not permit. So I conclude as I began. In today's troubled world engulfed by war, strife, economic doom and gloom sport is our last and only complete bastion of escape from the every day toil and trouble of today's world. So let's remember 2011 for sport alone. Where would we be without it?

Radio Kerry - The Voice of the Kingdom