Wednesday 24 October 2018

Different strokes as GAA clocks adjust to summer time

It hasn't been a bad week for the GAA. True, there is the prospect of gate receipts falling, but the organisation has survived and prospered in harsher times and will do so again.

Not only that but there will be a new emphasis on community and its importance, something that was lost with all the flash cars and foreign holidays.

Maybe it will mean too that underage football can be played in the summer again. With so many young lads going to the continent on family holidays over the last five years, there was hardly an underage game played in the summer months of July and August. Perhaps now the Gaeltacht will be the only problem for GAA clubs. And that's hardly a disadvantage -- a few weeks dodging the rain in Connemara and listening to the natives is far more educational than an apartment in Spain. Old friends are always best. The old advice to the settlers in America long ago still holds true, go west young man, go west.

And it appears too that a bit of democracy could break out in Cork; the last remaining Republic behind the iron curtain looks as if it could crumble under people power in much the same way as the Berlin Wall was torn down. While in Cavan, the locals as always are having the last laugh, the cash in the drawer is still the best bank.

The affairs of state are dominating headlines and those who were ignored for many years like to remind everyone they were right all along. It amazes me how those getting most prominence now are experts who never made anything, built anything, invested in anything or took a chance on anything. For better or worse, those who had a go and helped fuel the good times are now being hung out to dry. Something wrong there surely.

Anyway, some certainties remain, one of which is that Kerry are beginning to rumble again and the big clash today is themselves and another unbeaten team, Derry. The last time they met was in last year's league final, which Derry won and Kerry got a taste of what was to come in all the finals they reached last year.

The Derry championship challenge ran aground quickly, however, first to Fermanagh and then in the qualifiers to Monaghan. This seems to sum up Derry: a lot of potential but little achievement. Under Damian Cassidy, they seek to buck the trend of being a good league outfit who don't summer well. These things are hardly incompatible and two wins without Enda Muldoon, Niall McCusker and Kevin McCloy shows that newer players like Enda Lynn, Brian óg McAlarney, Chris McKaigue and Eoghan Browne must be doing something right.

However, the strength of Derry football should never be judged on the county team. In fact, the power of clubs and the internal competitiveness of club leagues and championships can be directly related to problems with the county side.

For many years, even going back to Eamon Coleman's time, the conflict between club and county has often had a negative effect on the Derry senior team in the Ulster championship. In general, the principle of catering most for club football as the vast majority play at that level is entirely sound but at the same time the greatest recruitment tool, as Tyrone would testify, is an All-Ireland win. Marrying the two together is something Derry have not been able to manage.

Not so in Kerry where the county side has greater prominence than anywhere else. When the All-Ireland is over, the serious club stuff starts, while there's plenty of league games to keep lads amused up to then. And it is games that players want; the status or standard is not that important so long as they are regular and well-planned.

Kerry are going to be either a little or a lot different this year but they certainly will be different. The first item on Jack O Connor's agenda was discipline. It was a case of rounding up the usual suspects for that class. Then it was on to personnel. The elephant in the Kerry room is Tyrone. Last year's team would not beat Tyrone, so they needed at least three additions.

The most interesting has emerged from the Sydney sunshine and is laying claim to the family silver. For many years, Tadhg Kennelly said he wanted to come home and win an All-Ireland. Many thought it was just a ploy to get a better contract with the Sydney Swans but I never doubted that the Kerry blood was much stronger than any lucrative

contract. No money can buy a medal with the Celtic cross.

The easy part was coming home, getting his place is another job entirely. It's a fair culture shock too, even if it is home and there must be many miserable, cold, wet, windy days in north Kerry when Kennelly must wonder if Bondi beach and training in the sun is not more appealing. Yet what does not kill you will make you stronger and the wind off the Atlantic will have quickly brought back the importance of home.

As it is, and this is early in the year to be making such a judgement, I would be very surprised if Tadhg Kennelly is not a huge asset to Kerry this year. He is the new player who could make all the difference, a man who can play and who has the engine to go with it. If Darragh ó Sé is not back to his best -- and he can't carry the load forever -- then a Kennelly, Moran partnership at midfield would take on the best. That may materialise sooner rather than later.

The old miners in America went west and north looking for gold. In this case, Tadhg Kennelly is searching much closer to home. A lot of Kerry may depend on his drilling too.

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