Laune Rangers victory over An Ghaeltacht not out of the question

ANY chance Kerry can get back to football? Don’t hold your breath, but if there are two GAA teams capable of serving up the best of Kingdom fare in tomorrow’s AIB county SFC final in Tralee, they are An Ghaeltacht and Laune Rangers (3pm).

Both place a heavy accent on slick, open football and are sufficiently sprinkled with quality attackers to suggest a cracking contest is in store.

Not that the resignation of Páidí Ó Sé is yesterday's news. Whatever way the final tilts, sub-plots abound.

If Rangers were to lift the title, it would strengthen the case for coach John Evans to be installed as the next Kingdom manager. That is, of course, if he's interested. Indications are that Evans, who has performed a remarkable turnaround in Killorglin in two years, has no plans to quit Killorglin.

An Ghaeltacht manager Fergal Ó Sé admitted yesterday that this week's controversy surrounding his uncle will hardly damage their search for incentives. Páidí Ó Sé may not be directly involved with the club nowadays, but he has three nephews starting and financed a two-day getaway for the team in Clare last weekend.

The West Kerry men have other points to prove. Notwithstanding their county final success of two years ago against Austin Stacks, they have developed a nasty habit of losing big games.

What frequently does them a disservice is the notion that they are a team of All-Stars; in truth, the six Kerry panellists mask a threadbare squad which can ill-afford injuries or withdrawals.

"It's one of the greatest misrepresentations in Kerry football," Fergal O Sé contests. "We are without our Kerry players for most of the season and, when they all return en masse, it's like starting out anew again revising tactics, slotting people alongside colleagues who haven't played with them all year.

"In fact, we are similar to a divisional set-up. The only times we have been together this season is for the Championship."

And they have not impressed there either, defeating Glenflesk and East Kerry before using up their quota of luck in the semi-final against Mid Kerry.

"We were very lucky," agreed O Sé. "We're looking for at least 20% more this time. We have not reached anywhere near the standards we set ourselves two years ago."

Rangers have had a more testing passage to tomorrow's decider. Their most impressive performance to date was the six-point defeat of Dr Crokes in Killarney in the first round.

They've also benefited greatly from tight tussles against Shannon Rangers, West Kerry and South Kerry in the semi-final, winning each game by two points.

"We've learned to dig in this season," Evans points out. "County Championships don't often allow for champagne football, but each game has made us more durable."

It is hardly a coincidence that the Killorglin side have steadied the ship since Evans returned to the helm at the beginning of last season, at which point they were in the unfamiliar territory of Division 2. Promotion and a Mid Kerry Championship followed. Victory tomorrow would complete an amazing transformation.

A lot will depend on Michael F. Russell, who had a frustrating season with Kerry, but who is now more focused and determined, Evans says.

Another young talent from Launeside, Colin O'Connor, doesn't make the starting 15, replaced by Adrian Hassett, who starts on the 40. His brother Liam will be at midfield, while Kerry defender John Sheehan mans the centre half back slot.

An Ghaeltacht will start as favourites and have slight injury worries over Cathal Ó Dúbhda and Aodan MacGearailt. However, there's every possibility of an upset. The final will be preceded by the U21 football final between Austin Stacks and South Kerry at 1.15pm

Verdict: Laune Rangers

An Ghaeltacht: Pat Healy, Fergal Ó Sé, Sean Sheehy, Marc Ó Sé, Daithí MacGearailt; Tomas Ó Sé, Muiris MacGearailt, Darragh Ó Sé, Pól Quinn, Cathal Dowd, Riobaird MacGearailt, Tomas Connor, Conal Crowley, Dara Ó Cinnéide, Aodhan MacGearailt.

Laune Rangers: Tony Lyons, Noel Lynch, Eoin Ferris, Brendan Fitzgerald; Paul Costello, John Sheehan, Jerry Coffey; Johnny Lynch, Liam Hassett; Seamus Foley, Adrian Hassett, Billy O'Shea; Brian Gannon, Pa Sullivan, Michael F. Russell.

Referee: T. Lynch (Kerins O'Rahillys)

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