National League

2009 National Football League Begins

January 27th, 2009
by Weeshie Fogarty

Every season as the National Football league is ready to swing into action I think of the words imparted to me many years ago by one of my great footballing heroes the late John Dowling, "leagues are for playing in and championships are for winning" he stated as we chatted at a college game in Macoom on cold February day back around 1971. This is certainly the case in Kerry anyhow whatever about the rest of the country. Ask any Kerry follower questions about the history of Kerry's involvement in the championship i. e. who was the Kerry captain when we won the All Ireland in 1975? 99% of the answers will be correct, Mickey Ned o Sullivan. The same goes for any other All Ireland winning skipper. Their names are written into the pages of our county's illustrious history. Now on the other hand pose the question, who was the Kerry captain when Kerry won the league final in 1971/72 and who were their opponents? As the American says, "I bet my bottom dollar that 99% of the answers will be incorrect".  Mick Gleeson was the man and Mayo was the vanquished.  This is the way winning and loosing is judged in this county. In my own involvement with Kerry as a player in league and championship the difference in the approach to both by one and all was massive. Everything was different. The training, travel arrangements, dressing room atmosphere, pre match talks, half time instructions, after match reaction, media reaction etc. was like chalk and cheese. To put it in a nut shell while the league was of course necessary and a great way of resting some players and blooding others the end result was never a case of "must win at all costs". I believe it will be a similar approach this coming season.

And so as Jack o Conner, Ger o Keeffe and Eamon Fitzmaurice set out on those first steps which they hope will lead them to the promised land of the Sam Maguire next Sunday the furthest thoughts from their minds will be "we must win the league". Of course they and the players will want to win every single game. This goes without saying. Nevertheless who they play, who they don't play, and who they discover as a prospective championship competitor during the games will ultimately determine their fate in the Kingdoms championship challenge. Their course is already now well charted. Jack o Conner is well known for his methodical approach and planning for every single match whether it be club, school or county. This is what has made him a winner with club, school, and county. The foundations are being carefully laid for the next Kerry winning team. I have watched them in a couple of trial games this year and the so called fringe players are certainly chomping at the bit as they strive to impress the mentors. The manager has stated and I heard him myself that he intended to have a good look at those players that might be of championship material. I believe there is such a person as a great league player but not of championship material. It's called "freshening up the panel".

Expect to see Ronan o Connor, (Ballyduff), Aidan o Shea, Daniel Bohane, Pat Corrigan, Brendan Keeley, Ger Reidy, Thomas Mac an tSaoir, (the afore mentioned three goalkeepers), David Moran, Anthony Maher, Damien Wallace Michael o Donoghue, Alan o Sullivan, Paul o Conner, Kieran o Leary, David Moran and others get plenty game time in the league ahead. Rumor has it that Kieran Cremin, (played 6 league games) and Own Brosnan who has gives magnificent service to his county (played 53 league games, scored 9gls-37pts) will not be available and Darragh o Se and Mike Frank Russell are still considering their options. No one deserves time and space more than these two great Kerry servants. Did you know that Darragh has played 94 championship games for his county scoring 1gl-26pts? And the three o Se brothers have played a total of 208 league games between them for Kerry. Thomas, 69 games, scored 1gl-22pts, Mark, 45 games, 1gl-26pts.  Mike Frank has played 54 league games being the top scorer of the present panel in league outings with a massive 9gls-107pts. Colm Cooper is next, 31 games, 7gls-58 points all in the league. Declan o Sullivan is next in the league ratings, 30 games, 5gls-27pts.

So the trick then is to mix the new with the old. Choose the players who will perform during the hot summer championship games on the hard ground, (that is if we get a summer). Those who have the mental strength for the big occasion, who possess the Kerry football skills and now with the new rules coming into force those who will be highly disciplined and not commit the yellow card foul which will see him send to the line. And most importantly those who will possess the necessary disciplined playing behavior which will restore that exemplary Kerry name which sadly has been lost in latter years.  These new rules are I have no doubt going to cause massive debate and we will watch them and their interpretation by the different referees with great anticipation. We are going to see a whole new ball game in the league and with a player send off for one yellow card offence the subs panel will play a major role in each and every match. Jack o Conner is a winner, nothing else matters to him. He has a great back room team with him; it promises to be a fascinating league as they strive to form that elusive winning mentality and display those winning performances. However at the end of the day all that matters is the last Sunday in September. On that will they be judged?

Fogra: My thanks to my great friend Kerry GAA historian Tralee man Tim Slattery for supplying me with all those fascinating historic facts on the Kerry player's league details.

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