Jack Barry’s decision to step away makes things tricky for Kerry

Midfielder intending to travel abroad for most if not all of 2024

Jack Barry’s decision to slip away quietly for the football year was always going to be met with some considerable noise around Kerry. For the second successive year it places a “wanted ad” in the team midfield.

The news was confirmed by his Tralee club Na Gaeil on Wednesday, Barry intending on travelling abroad for most if not all of 2024. The decision was also made known to Kerry football manager Jack O’Connor, with Barry informing his Na Gaeil colleagues after helping them retain their Kerry senior status with a thrilling relegation playoff win over Kerins O’Rahillys last Saturday.

Barry, who turns 29 next month, promptly developed into a first-choice Kerry midfielder after making his senior debut in 2017 under Éamonn Fitzmaurice. He started both the drawn and All-Ireland final replay against Dublin in 2019 under manager Peter Keane, before winning his first senior All-Ireland last year, under O’Connor.

On that occasion Barry wore the number nine jersey alongside David Moran, who later announced his retirement ahead of this season. With that, Na Gaeil clubmate Diarmuid O’Connor joined him at midfield with increasing impact over the course of the year, before Kerry were eventually undone by Dublin in the All-Ireland final.


Barry’s battle with Brian Fenton was one of the standout contests of that game, and his absence for next year’s league and championship once again has Jack O’Connor looking at fresh options.

Barry also previously played minor for Kerry in 2012, and under-21 in 2015, with Na Gaeil chairman Conor Kavanagh pointing out that he’d been essentially playing without a break for his club in 20 years.

“Jack has been an absolute colossus for us for a long time,” Kavanagh told the Kerryman. “He’s played football non-stop for the last 20 years for us and for Kerry for the last few years and, we would wish him the absolute best.

“We’re not sure for how long he’s going, it may be a year, but we’ll obviously welcome him back with open arms whenever he comes back and wish him the very best with his trip.”

Since 2017, Barry made 78 appearances for Kerry, and was also a key player in Na Gaeil’s 2019 Kerry and Munster junior title and their All-Ireland win in 2020. The following year he was similarly pivotal in their Kerry and Munster intermediate success in 2021, before losing to Steelstown Brian Ógs of Derry in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Within a week of that loss, Barry and Diarmuid O’Connor were both back with the county, and O’Connor, still only 23 and an All Star nominee this year, is certainly poised to continue his grip in one half of the Kerry midfield.

Stefan Okunbor, of Na Gaeil, is hopeful of making more consistent appearances next year after periods of injury, while another Na Gaeil player, Damien Burke, has been showing improving form and with that got a call-up to the Kerry training panel.

Last year’s All-Ireland winning captain Joe O’Connor from Austin Stacks is also coming back into the reckoning after missing most of this season after tearing his cruciate ligament back in September 2022, two months after lifting the Sam Maguire along with Seánie O’Shea.

Sunday’s Kerry final, meanwhile, sees East and Mid Kerry meet for the third time in four seasons. East Kerry won by nine points last year, and by 12 points three years ago.

The 2021 Kerry finalists, Austin Stacks and Kerins O’Rahillys, and now both at intermediate grade, O’Rahillys coming down after the relegation playoff lost to Na Gaeil last Saturday, after extra-time.

Speaking after that game Na Gaeil manager Paul Fitzmaurice lamented the fact they were now the only Tralee club keeping senior status.

“O’Rahillys are in a position nobody wants to be in but they can’t come out and say this because they might be deemed sore losers. But I think it’s an absolute disgrace that after that performance today, that effort, everything they invested in not just this year but every year, that [O’Rahillys] are gone from the county championship, an established club.”

Weekend club GAA fixtures


Leinster SFC quarter-final: Éire Óg (Carlow) v Kilmacud Crokes (Dublin), Netwatch Cullen Park, 7.45pm – Live RTÉ 2


Munster SHC quarter-final: Ballygunner (Waterford) v Sarsfields (Cork), Walsh Park, 1.30pm – Live TG4

Leinster SFC quarter-finals (2.0): Blessington (Wicklow) v St Mary’s Ardee (Louth), Aughrim; Killoe (Longford) v St Loman’s (Westmeath), Glennon Bros Pearse Park; Naas (Kildare) v Summerhill (Meath), Hawkfield

Ulster SFC round one: Derrygonnelly Harps (Fermanagh) v Kilcoo (Down), Brewster Park, 3.45

Galway SFC final: Corofin v Maigh Cuilinn, Pearse Stadium, 2:0

Limerick SFC final: Adare v Newcastle West, TUS Gaelic Grounds, 2.0

Kerry SFC final: Mid Kerry v East Kerry, Austin Stack Park, 3.30

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics