National League

Kerry defeat Donegal in a bruising encounter

March 8th, 2016
by Weeshie Fogarty

October 13th 1956, The Austin Stack Park Tralee, the county football final South Kerry up against Kerins o Rahillys. It was the first time I attended this historic venue and while memories are dimmed with the passing of time the one vivid recall I do have is standing with my friends, faces pressed up against the high wiring which surrounded the pitch fascinated and captivated as we strained to watch through that rusty wire as South Kerry's Mick o Connell. Mick o Dwyer, Jerome o Shea, Ned Fitzgerald, Denis Baily, Gerald o Sullivan and other legendary but then very youthful players retained their county title.  My eyes were particularly focused on Donal "Marcus o Neill in goal for South Kerry and Johnny Foley in goal for Kerins o Rahillys, while Pop Fitzgerald, John Dowling, John "Walla" o Connor, Joe Kerins, and Mick Murphy were the other o Rahillys heroes who seemed like giants to us that day behind the wire fifty nine long years ago.

And so last Sunday as I entered the beautifully re-vamped Austin Stack Park for the Kerry/Donegal game memories came flooding back and while the renovations are a credit to the county board and the business people of Tralee it is the disappearance of that old rusting wire fencing that for me resonates most of all.  It's amazing the change that has occurred and lovely low perimeter railings around the superbly re-laid pitch surface will make a massive difference to spectators in the years to come. And the old hand controlled score board on which thousands of anxious eyes focused on down through the decades has now been re-placed by the modern electronic model.    Lot of work done, much more to do.

And the game itself has generated a massive amount of debate and rightly so, both managers will look back and readily admit that lack of discipline from their players left a lot to be desired. The series of unsightly scuffles which punctuated the first half were as bad as I have ever seen in this now re-vamped Austin Stack Park. It was always going to be a tough, hard, full blooded encounter but no one could have expected to see such behavior as this and really in my opinion the referee had an impossible task trying to control matters. If players decide to take matters into their own hands then events can very quickly spiral out of control, which they did.

Two red cards, two blacks and six yellows only tell a fraction of the story and really there could have been at least six more dismissals if the referee had followed the letter of the law.  The incident with Alan Fitzgerald and Neil McGee has received huge publicity and rightly so. Now while the actions of the Castlegregory man were outside the rules it is so easy to understand why he lashed out at his opponent. Human nature being what it is if pain is deliberately inflicted on you as McGee was blatantly doing as he bent the finger/wrist of the Kerryman then it was only naturel that Alan defended himself. The Donegal mans bloodied nose was as a direct result of his own actions, ( you reap whet you sow,) unfortunately he got away with it while the Kerryman was dismissed.  Let's see if retrospective action is now taken against the Donegal player.

It was a magnificent winning performance from Kerry. Their backs were to the proverbial wall, it was a must win game and they set out to meet fire with fire and nothing else but victory would be accepted. Their never –say-character was never more evident that at the beginning of the second half as Donegal had drawn level with the wind at their backs within five minutes of the re-start. Then  Brian Kelly made a superb save which proved crucial as shortly afterwards Kerry broke away and scored the goal that send them on their winning way.

Brian Sheehan whose leadership qualities both as captain and a person were shinning through showed superb awareness to take a quick free when Paul Murphy was fouled, his perfect pass found Kieran Donaghy another man who had a great outing, Star with a slick basketball hand pass found Peter Crowley storming through the unguarded centre and the Laune rangers man billowed the Donegal net with a bullet of a shot.  Sheehan curled over a wonderful point from the right, judging the wind at the Mitchels end of the ground with absolute beauty and perfection, this broke the Northerns resolve and the home supporters now in full voice cheered their team home.

The hard weeks of training are bringing on the lads in leaps and bounds, Donnchadh Walsh had a superb game and his three fisted points and huge work rate was one of the reasons why Kerry won. Mark Griffin, Darren o Sullivan, having a great start to the year, Paul Murphy and the six subs introduced all played a huge part in gaining these two valuable points. Unlike the loss to Dublin in the first game when the substitutions were of little improvement yesterday was completely different and as the team finished the out game in great style. Now with Killian Young, David Moran, Anthony Maher, Tommy Walsh and Jonathan Lyne yet to return from injury Eamon Fitz will be well satisfied how his squad is developing. Competition for place will be the big driving force as the year unfolds.    

Old foes Mayo await next Sunday in Castlebar, they got their first two points last Sunday away to Monaghan and are always difficult opponents for Kerry however the Donegal win will make training sessions a far better place this week and I expect the improvement to continue and a third victory is well within the grasp of the Kingdom.

Fogra; Kilgarvan lost one of its special sons recently with the death following an illness of Mort o Shea, a man who I had the great privilege of befriending some years ago. Always smiling always in great form Mort was a staunch GAA man and deeply involved in the affairs of his club. He had a huge interest in all sports especially boxing and his helpfulness to all who contacted him for help and advice in relation to sporting information was greatly appreciated far and wide. An exceptional and exemplary human being Mort's loss to his wife Martina, daughter Siobhan and sons Patrick and Mort is enormous. To them and his extended family we extend our deepest sympathies. We were fortunate to have known him.

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