Tuesday 20 February 2018

Billy Keane: O'Sullivan's troops are no sitting ducks

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Young Alan from Newmarket was selling ducks at Listowel horse fair. And hens too. And geese. The fowl were in steel cages and you'd swear the inmates were home-bred pandas or Tasmanian devils such was the interest from the horsey people.

"Whatz a hendo?" asked one of the onlookers. The question was directed toward your correspondent, it being a well-known fact I know everything.

"Some sort of religion," I replied.

"No," replied the quizmaster.

"He lays eggs."

Just over the Limerick-Kerry border in the beautiful village of Athea there is a draw to fund the feeding of the local ducks and swans. They reside in the little river at the back of Bat's Pub. Bat's is a bar without pretension.

The ladies is upstairs in the private quarters. There's only the one toilet. The gents go 'out the back' with the ducks and swans. There's a sliced pan on the kitchen table with a knife and butter if you feel peckish and there are only a couple of taps. The pub is a treasure. And the question all of Bat's are asking is who has their ducks all in a row?

Is it Mickey 'Ned' O'Sullivan or Jack O'Connor?

There was a time when the border areas such as Athea, Abbeyfeale and all along the Shannon Estuary were more Kerry than ourselves. The west Limerick people were torn between two lovers, but that has changed ever since the 2004 Munster final.

Kerry were accused of being too rough. More would say they gave as good as they got. There's also the fact Limerick now have a team well worth following.

Kerry still have support in west Limerick, but the rivalry is especially intense on the Limerick side. For Kerry, it's just another game; Limerick have not won a Munster final in 113 years.

Kerry still have the back door and as beaten finalists would have the benefit of a game before an All-Ireland quarter-final, which could be seen as an advantage.

The bookies have Kerry at 1/7. This is a mad price. The odds formulators use statistics more than gut feeling. Kerry have beaten Limerick in every Munster final bar one and that was a draw. Hence the short odds. This is not the bet to bail you out of negative equity.

It's not that we think Limerick will win. But they might. Kerry are still our fancy for Munster and the All-Ireland.

Limerick will go at them from the start. Last year they ran out of steam against Cork, but this time round Limerick have a much stronger bench.

There's talk JP might spring Tiger Woods, but he might be more of a hurler if he can sort out his drives.

In Conor Mullane, Limerick have an impact sub who will raise the tempo. Young Ian Ryan from Shanagolden is good enough for any team in the country. John Galvin and James O'Donovan are of north Kerry stock and will be hard to beat at midfield.

If Limerick win, it will be a shock only to those who know little about the game.


Back in 1992, the then Kerry manager warned his players time and again that Clare were capable of beating his team. Kerry knocked out a good Cork team a few weeks previously and were over-confident. Clare deservedly won the Munster title. The Kerry manager that day was one Mickey 'Ned' O'Sullivan who, along with fellow Kerryman Donie Buckley, now manages Limerick.

The two were sitting near us at the Cork-Kerry replay. We have been friends for a good few years. There was a chat at half-time and it looked like Cork would win. I'd say the two boys were greatly relieved, but then Kerry won and they have to face the county they love so well.

O'Sullivan and Buckley are honest men in thrall to the game of Gaelic football and they will give their all for Limerick. They will have a plan and it will be the right one.

They know Paul Galvin is a huge loss. As a Kerryman, I was proud of the way Galvin took responsibility for his actions, but I saw some of the intimidation the cameras didn't pick up.

One Cork player hounded Galvin in the last few minutes. Darran O'Sullivan had to position himself between Galvin and the Cork player who had lost control. Galvin admits he deserved his punishment. The injustice lies in that others got away with far worse.

They can do your head in at times, but this is one of the great eras of Kerry football -- the Platinum Years.

We would not begrudge Limerick a win, but they have to earn it.

Irish Independent

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