Kennedy unfazed by Crokes threat
A FOOTBALL fixture between Clare and Kerry teams often requires little in the way of analysis. Each has their place in football's hierarchy and the rule that Kerry win and Clare don't has usually been abided by.
Clare champions Kilmurry-Ibrickane will put that theory to the test tomorrow when they travel to Killarney to take on Dr Crokes. And they have happy memories of their last clash with Kerry champions, when they edged out Kerins O'Rahillys in Limerick in the 2009 Munster final to collect their second provincial title since 2004.
Add in the bitter experience of defeat in the 2008 Munster final and the in-depth knowledge that John Kennedy -- who won three All-Ireland medals with Kerry as a player before serving as the county's minor and U-21 boss -- has of football in the Kingdom, and the Clare men shouldn't be dismissed so lightly.
Kennedy worked with Crokes players Daithi Casey and Johnny Buckley, among others, during his four-year term as minor boss. He also has first-hand knowledge of Eoin Brosnan and Colm Cooper, having also served as a minor selector under both Charlie Nelligan and Pat O'Shea, and is aware of the task his side face against a team who are second only to Crossmaglen in the betting to win the Andy Merrigan Cup.
"They have some outstanding players and, obviously, Gooch is the one everyone talks about," said Kennedy. "He has so much ability and can see a move two or three moves ahead of everyone else. Ballinacourty were only points down at half-time (in the quarter-final), but Crokes came out after the break and got 2-2 to kill the game, and Colm got 2-1.
"But we can't just think about him -- there are inter-county defences who couldn't figure out a way of putting the shackles on him -- we have to look at the other quality forwards, too, and try cut off the supply as much as possible."
And while that 2009 win over Kerins O'Rahillys was tinged with controversy after Declan Quill had a goal ruled out late on, they proved the result was no fluke by reaching the following March's All-Ireland final against St Gall's.
Kilmurry retain much of that same side for tomorrow's trip and while Kennedy has warned that his side are "not just going to fulfil the fixture", he knows there are better reasons to visit Killarney than for a Munster semi-final in November.
"It's a big ask for us. They are capable of some lovely, attacking football. They have some excellent players and they have won back-to-back championships in Kerry, but we're there and our lads have been in this sort of situation before, so we're going there to give it everything."
Kilmurry are likely to be without Niall Hickey but Johnny Daly and Odhan O'Dwyer are expected to recover in time from hamstring strains. O'Dwyer could make his first appearance of the campaign having previously thrown his lot in with the club's intermediate side, who were beaten in the county final earlier this year.
The club's senior side have been idle for four weeks now, but challenge matches against the likes of St Brigid's and NUI Galway have helped with preparations.
"We think we made good use of the time and luckily for us, most of them have been here before so they know what it's about," Kennedy added.
This is Kennedy's second foray into Clare football (he spent three seasons as manager of the Banner footballers in the early 2000s), which only came about after Laois man Ger Lawlor, who had previously guided Monaleen to a Limerick title, was forced to step down shortly after being appointed due to personal reasons. He hasn't discussed his plans for 2012 with the club but has seen enough in Clare club football to suggest the county team can make real progress in the coming years.
"(Former Kilmurry manager) Micheal McDermott and his team are doing good work, you only have to look at how close they came to Down in Cusack Park," he said. "When I was here, for one reason or another, we didn't have all the best players in Clare but there is talent there. The senior final was a bit one-sided but both of the semi-finals were good, tough games.
"To transfer that to inter-county level is difficult, but they can be competitive. It's about getting the commitment and then maximising what you have to bring the best out of yourself and that's what we'll be looking to do this weekend."