National League

Let The Football Begin - Dublin visit the Kingdom

February 2nd, 2010
by Weeshie Fogarty

And so as the fellow said, "another year on the rig" as Dublin come to Killarney next Sunday to kick off the National League. One thing is certain and that is that you are guaranteed a cracking match, a great atmosphere and plenty controversy as the Dubs and the new rules start Jack o Connors attempt to retain the Sam MaguireCup. It's going to be a fascination campaign for Kerry followers and despite the fact that most managers will state that the league is not important each county will be giving their all to gather the points and from Kerry's perspective Division one status is highly important. And of course the finance  that is generated for the county board as a result of a league win or a long run in the competition is a god send. Kerry's recent record in the league has been hugely important and Jack o Connors record is as good as any manager/trainer that has gone before him.

However judging from the players who are not available (seventeen in all) its going to take some thing very special if our boys are going to retain their league title. I fail to recall any Kerry team setting out on the campaign having lost so many outstanding players following an All Ireland victory. Gone for good are Sean o Sullivan, Tadgh Kennelly, Tommy Walsh and Diarmuid Murphy, all men who have played a huge part in the county's victory last year and previous years.  The Dingle keeper is going to be a massive loss. I have always noted while in conversation with supporters on the topic players of the past some but not all are referred to and described as "great" players. When speaking about others the knowledge follower will remark "he gave great service to the Kerry".  A fair way of summing up our footballers. Well Kerry have produced some brilliant goalkeepers too numerous to mention and in my book Diarmuid Murphy enters the realm of one of Kerry's greatest ever goalkeepers. You can never say who was the greatest of all.  I have seen them all from as far back as Johnny Foley the man who guarded the net in that Jubilee All Ireland victories in 1953 as Armagh were put to the sword.

The loss of Murphy may yet prove to be far more significant that we imagine because now for the first time in over thirty years a rule which has protected the goalkeeper from inrushing forwards may well be deleted from the rule book. The experimental new rule states that a player can now be in the small square before the ball enters (not before it is kicked) and play that ball, except from a free kick. This means that the goalkeeper will be challenged as the ball drops in around or under the cross bar. It calls for a safe pair of hands by the man between the sticks, bravery as in keeping your eye on the dropping ball and the assurance of knowing how and when to punch clear. And punching to safety with good effect is in it self a special art. Picture the scenario. A high ball dropping from the sky under the cross bar the towering figure of Kieran Donaghy or some other six foot five forward rising with the keeper, there in accidental contact, the goalie finishes in the back of the net ball and all. Up goes the greet flag, the goal must now be allowed, no arguments with the referee or umpires. 

I expect Ger Reidy to become Kerry's no one in place of Diarmuid Murphy; he is the most experienced senior man in the county. There are others who will challenge here also. Having referred earlier to players gone from the panel we should also not forget that when Kerry started out last year Mike Frank Russell and Eoin Brosnan were also on the selectors minds. The turn over of players from Kerry's perspective is as big as any in the country and it is a massive tribute to the work being done in the county at under age level when we continuously see new young talent appearing on the horizons. Barry John Keane, Brian Looney, James o Donoghue, Brendan Kealy, Podge o Connor and John Buckley are just a few of the new boys on the block . Pat Corridan, Alan o Sullivan, Aidan Shine o Sullivan and Adrian o Connell are also tasting life under Jack o Connor.  The selectors have already cast their net far and wide and had a good look at the emerging young talent. It's far too early as of yet to determine with any degree of certainty or fairness who will or who wont make the cut from those mentioned. T he league will determine one way or another if players have the stuff to make the championship squad.

At the time of writing we have no idea what will be the starting fifteen against the Dubs. From what I can gather injuries will prevent Aidan o Shea, Daniel Bohane, David Moran, Anthony Maher and captain Brian Sheehan from being available. There have been some mutterings of a few players hoping to travel to America for the Super Bowel and Darragh, Thomas, and Mark o Se may well rest before they venture on to the National League scene. Mike McCarthy will probably remain at the soccer for a few more months like last year before he decides his future, that course of action certainly worked wonders for the Kilcummin man last year.  And the selectors may well feel a longer rest for Colm Cooper and Tom o Sullivan will be of massive benefit to him when the real action begins in the championships. It's all speculation at the moment. Nevertheless it appears to me that all focus is now on the championship and nothing else. And I would bet my bottom dollar the selectors, wise men that they are have their plans for the league and championship well and truly hatched at this stage. And of course we must not forget that there are at least three players involved with Spa and Castlegregory who will be chomping at the bit for a crack at the Kerry panel.   The selectors and the Kerry faithful will expect nothing but a win against the old enemy next Sunday and you can expect the following players to start, Ger Reidy Padraig Reidy, Tommy Griffin, Aidan o Mahoney, Killian Young, (captain), Michael Quirke, Alan o Sullivan, Seamus Scanlon, Paul galvin, Declan o Sullivan, Donnacha Walsh, Kieran Donaghy and Paul o Connor. Jack o Conner is proving himself to be one of the best managers/ trainers this county has ever produced, don't forget his work with his school. If he goes on and guide Kerry to an All Ireland victory this year in my opinion it will be his greatest ever achievements. It's a massive ask but one thing is certain with Ger o Keeffe and Eamon Fitzmaurice the rest of the counties will have to be up early in the mornings to out smart these Kerrymen. The long road begins in earnest next Sunday. Best of luck to one all all.

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