It's not such a long way from Clare to here
Last year Kilmurry-Ibrickane were caught at the death by Dr Crokes but this year they are waiting for them on home soil, writes IAN O'RIORDAN
ALL IS not quiet on the western front. For a county that rarely makes football headlines, Clare are going at it hard this weekend, targeting a great Kerry tradition, in a couple of ways, and one man caught in the crossfire is John Kennedy.
Whatever about the fortunes of the county footballers in 2013, it’s almost exactly a year now since Kilmurry-Ibrickane were left on the killing floor, struck down by the strength of Dr Crokes in the closing minutes of the Munster club football semi-final.
It ended 0-12 to Kilmurry’s 0-9, after Dr Crokes, a man down and two points in arrears, looked to Colm Cooper to steer them home – which is exactly what he did, whipping over the last four points of an intense contest.
They’d looked dead and buried, but at least partly inspired by the home crowd in Killarney, Dr Crokes somehow survived, and then went on to claim a fourth Munster club title.
None of this came as any great surprise to Kennedy who, although in his first year as manager of Kilmurry-Ibrickane, know all about the strengths and weaknesses of both Clare and Kerry football. An All-Ireland winner with his native county in 1984 and 1985 under a certain Mick O’Dwyer, he then managed the Clare senior team for three years, from 2003-05, before returning to Kerry as minor and under-21 manager in recent years.
“Sure, I remember going into Killarney last year, and being very familiar with a lot of the Dr Crokes players, having worked with them at Kerry minor, and under-21 level,” he says.
“And while we certainly matched Crokes for long periods in that game, I suppose it was the experience of players like Colm Cooper, and Eoin Brosnan, in those last 10 minutes in particular, that just got them over the line.”
Well, not yet a year on, and destiny couldn’t keep them apart. Last Sunday, Dr Crokes won a third Kerry title in succession, beating Dingle handily, while the previous Sunday Kilmurry-Ibrickane also retained their Clare county title with an equally convincing six-point win over St Joseph’s.
In fact that was their fourth county title in five years, having claimed historic Munster titles of their own in 2004 and 2009 .
“I think from the moment we won the county final, two weeks ago, all thoughts moved to Dr Crokes,” says Kennedy, “and that’s not just speaking to the players but the supporters too. They wanted Dr Crokes, in Quilty, this Sunday and now that’s what we have.”
“Because I think there is the feeling of some unfinished business, or at least players walked off the field a year ago, thinking ‘are we really good enough to beat them?’ That remains to be seen, but we’ve got that second chance now, and the hope is everyone can play to their potential, because if we don’t, there is certainly no better team in the country than Dr Crokes to expose your weakness.”
Indeed it remains to be seen whether or not Kilmurry-Ibrickane are actually a better team from last year. Kennedy is missing a few players from that team, including Stephen Moloney and Michael Hogan, while Mark McCarthy, who suffered a cruciate injury during the game a year ago, is only just back, with about a month’s training under our belt.