Fitz and O'Shea start again for Kerry
THE agony of Barry O'Shea's career-threatening injury ended yesterday when the big Tralee defender was named in the Kerry team for the first defence of their All-Ireland title against Tipperary on Sunday.
O'Shea is named at right corner-back in place of the injured Mike Hassett for the Munster SFC first round tie in Clonmel, while Mossie Lyons from Castleisland is given the berth in the left at the expense of Mike McCarthy, who was not considered either due to injury.
Also back after injury is top class corner-forward John Crowley, who has not been seen in a Kerry jersey for months. Kieran Scanlon and Enda Galvin were not considered due to injuries, but Pa Laide and William Kirby are back among the substitutes after lengthy absences from the championship.
This will be 24-year-old Lyons' first championship game which is very much in contrast to that of Maurice Fitzgerald who has been named at centre-forward for what will be his 40th encounter in a 14-year campaign. In his previous 39, Fitzgerald has notched up an amazing 12 goals and 196 points.
This will be the Caherciveen maestro's first starting role in a championship game since Kerry's defeat to Cork in the Munster final in July '99. It comes after the controversy surrounding his continued omission from the team last year, when he came on a substitute for all of Kerry's six games, scoring that magnificent goal and last-gasp free which brought the Munster side back from the brink of defeat against Armagh in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Fitzgerald leads the attack in place of the injured Liam Hassett while another member of the All-Ireland winning side of '97 Denis O'Dwyer gets in at wing-forward at the expense of Noel Kennelly who is relegated to the substitutes' bench. Yesterday, no-one had reason to be happier than O'Shea whose last game in the green and gold was all of 14 months ago in Killarney against Roscommon in a run-of-the-mill league clash. That day, though, a harmless-looking tackle resulted in severe damage to his cruciate ligament which necessitated an operation and 12 weeks on crutches.
"The knee seems to be fine but now it's a question of getting the rest of my body to catch up," was O'Shea's response yesterday. "It was a struggle at times but I'm thankful to get this chance and will obviously be going all out to make the best of it.
"I've been out for a long time and you think that you will never get a chance of coming back. The knee seems to be 100pc and a few trial games has helped me get used to the pace again."
O'Shea will be remembered for some of his sterling performances at full-back when Kerry won the All-Ireland in '97 and he came up with more during '98 before the selectors were left with a headache heading into last summer's championship and they came up with the inspired move of converting Seamus Moynihan into a full-back. It was a role the Glenflesk man filled with aplomb and one he retains for Sunday's clash.
"When you are on the sideline and knocking at the door to get back in you are not that choosy about where you play and it's a good feeling to be part of the team again," O'Shea added.
A number of the Tipperary players in action on Sunday will be seeking to make up for the disappointment of two years ago when Gerry Murphy's shot was declared a goal after clearly going wide.
Tipp survivors from disappointing occasion include Philly Ryan, Conor O'Dwyer, Niall Kelly, Liam Cronin, Sean Collum, Sean Maher and Peter Lambert.
Alan Quirke from Valley Rovers has been handed the goalkeeping position ahead of Kevin O'Dwyer on the Cork team to face Waterford in another Munster first round tie at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday. Quirke's inclusion is among a number of alterations which the Cork selectors have made from the side which lost to Westmeath in the recent Division 2 final with Podsie O'Mahony coming into their attack where Brendan Jer O'Sullivan and Fionán Murray are preferred to the unrelated Cronins, Micheál and Alan.
Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, who did not start against Westmeath, is named at corner-back with Graham Canty switched to centre-half with Owen Sexton moved to the right to the right wing.
Meanwhile, Derry's All-Star defender Kieran McKeever has quit football just weeks before his county's Ulster Championship clash with Antrim.
McKeever, 33, who has formed the backbone of the Oak Leafers defence for the best part of a decade, made the decision because of the pressures of combining a top-level career with raising a young family. The 33-year-old was also a prominent member of the hurling panel over the last few seasons, receiving an All-Star nomination for his role in Derry's Ulster Championship triumph last year. He did not win that particular award, but did pick up a football prize after another fine season with Eamon Coleman's team.
After taking a break from sport, he has decided to quit football and is mulling over what to do regarding his hurling career.
McKeever has already informed Coleman of his decision to hang up his boots, handing a defensive headache to his former boss.
KERRY (SF v Tipperary): D O'Keeffe; B O'Shea, S Moynihan, M Lyons; T O Se, Fitzmaurice, T O'Sullivan; D O Se, D Daly; D O'Dwyer, M Fitzgerald, A MacGearailt; M F Russell, D O Cinneide, J Crowley.
CORK (SF v Waterford): A Quirke; S Og O hAilpin, R McCarthy, A Lynch; O Sexton, G Canty, M Cronin; N Murphy, M O'Sullivan; B J O'Sullivan, C O'Sullivan, P O'Mahony; F Murray, C Corkery, A Dorgan.
KERRY (SH v Carlow): J Healy; H Twomey, C Flaherty, I Brick; J McCarthy, S Harty, WJ Leen; P Cronin, J Wharton; P Cronin, C Boyle, R Gentleman; M Slattery, T Maunsell, JM Dooley.