Kennedy and Kilmurry up for Crokes challenge

JOHN KENNEDY is back on a familiar journey. During the three years that spanned his spell as Clare senior football manager earlier this decade, Kennedy was well-accustomed to the trip from his north Kerry home to the west coast of the Banner County.

And since taking charge of Clare champions Kilmurry-Ibrickane last April, he has quickly adapted to the route from Asdee to Quilty.

“The travel is no bother to me now. I was well used to it with Clare anyway. With the ferry from Tarbert to Killimer, it was very handy getting to training with Kilmurry-Ibrickane over the last few months, but the times changed recently for the winter schedule. I still use the ferry to get to training but coming back home every night, I go the long way around via Limerick city.”

He’s not complaining about the trip though. Kilmurry-Ibrickane have enjoyed an excellent season, picking up their third Clare SFC title in four years, and are preparing to face Dr Crokes on the provincial stage tomorrow. Once Kennedy’s involvement with the Kerry U21s ended with last April’s Munster final defeat to Cork, he jumped at the chance to get involved with Kilmurry-Ibrickane when they called.

“They had been in contact with me previously but I couldn’t give a commitment because of the Kerry U21s. But then their manager Ger Lawlor had to drop out because of an illness and, by the end of April, I was free to get involved. They’re a fantastic club, led by chairman Gerald Talty and the secretary Michael Considine, and there’s a tremendous community behind them. The family element means a lot of the players and club members are inter-connected, and that’s created a huge spirit.”

The fact Kennedy had worked closely with several of the Kilmurry-Ibrickane players during his previous stint as Clare manager was of considerable benefit.

“It always takes you a bit of time to get used to managing a new team and I started only a fortnight before we’d a key championship game against Kilmihil. But it was a lot easier to walk into a dressing-room and see a lot of the lads who would have been involved with the Clare senior and U21 sides. The three O’Dwyer’s, Odhran, Peter and Michael would have been there, as would Declan Callinan, Enda Coughlan and Evan Talty. So when you know the football style of players, it’s a big help.”

Kennedy’s acquaintance with players involved in tomorrow’s match is not just restricted to those on the Kilmurry-Ibrickane side. As Kerry minor boss between 2006 and 2009, and manager of the Kingdom U21’s for the past two years, the likes of David O’Leary, Fionn Fitzgerald, Johnny Buckley, Daithi Casey and Jamie Doolan have been under Kennedy’s tutelage.

“I’ve been involved with a lot of these guys with Kerry sides and I know how good they are. I know well how difficult it is for a club side in Kerry to win back to back counties, and this year just showed how good Dr Crokes are. I’ve seen a good few of their games this year and the manner in which they reacted when the pressure came on was very impressive. They play a fantastic brand of football and are a major challenge. But we’re looking forward to taking them on. The structures in Kilmurry-Ibrickane are very good and that’s a big reason as to how well this year has gone. The club intermediate team reached the Clare county final and lost to a Clondegad team who impressed in the Munster championship last week. The senior and intermediate management teams have worked together all year. Both sides train together and some night we’ve nearly had 40 players training. Those numbers have been a huge advantage and augurs well for the future.”

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