The pick of Templenoe and Kenmare came up short against Dr Crokes in Sunday’s Kerry senior football final.
Tomorrow, they fight out of separate corners, the county intermediate title at stake.
Lest anyone imagine an after-the-Lord-Mayor’s-Show vibe, Kenmare Shamrocks manager John O’Sullivan Morgan hammered the stakes.
“These lads probably won’t play many bigger games. We don’t think we’ll ever be a club that dominates like Crokes. So the likelihood is this is as big as it gets. And playing Templenoe makes it six times bigger.”
When the camps sundered district bonds on Tuesday night, Templenoe selector Paul Crowley — brother of manager Mike — is adamant the only healing needed was physical.
“We didn’t have to do anything special morale-wise to lift them. But we had two physios at training on Tuesday night and I think they were probably the two busiest women in Kerry for two hours. But mentally, the form was 100% excellent.”
Nor did O’Sullivan Morgan need to coax his bunch.
“They’ve played three knockout games after each other so the seven or eight players involved are tired. But I think they’re okay. Tuesday night, you wouldn’t be doing much, but they seemed to have come out of it, so we live in hope.”
Kenmare last won the Kerry intermediate crown in 1990. Templenoe made their only final — a defeat by Dingle — in 1988. This will be fierce, but not personal. O’Sullivan Morgan says: “There’s a huge rivalry, but nothing bitter. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had days where it got heated, but you get that anywhere. It’s different now anyway. All these lads are friends. They went to the secondary school in the town, Pobalscoil Inbhear Sceine. Before, some would have gone to the Sem (Killarney), some to Ballyvourney, but now they’re all here in town. It doesn’t happen in too many places. District v club. I’ve cousins up and down the country and they can’t understand it, but we’re used to it.”
Templenoe carry the war wounds. Patrick Clifford dislocated a shoulder against Dr Crokes, with Brian Crowley suffering the same problem the week before. Otherwise, the trickiest challenge posed by twin campaigns was minding those left idle in recent weeks.
“The hardest part was keeping the other players active,” says Crowley. “Realistically, we were only training 11 or 12. But none of our players sat back and said they’d join up again when the district was finished. They put in the same effort as if we’d a full squad.”
The Kerry championships are a reliable supplier of curiosity and intrigue and this clash throws up another debate: will the winner go senior and leave the district behind next season? Do they want to?
Last year’s Kerry and All-Ireland intermediate champions St Mary’s elected not to go up. But Kerry PRO John O’Leary confirmed that under new rules brought in last November, this year’s intermediate champions must be promoted. O’Sullivan Morgan isn’t sure that will happen. “It’s the last thing I’m thinking about. But that’s what everyone is saying. But I do think come next January, if the district looked for a meeting with the county board, I’d say the board would leave them (tomorrow’s winners) stay with the district.
“I would hope they would. You saw it last weekend, we lost fairly comprehensively to Crokes. Ten years down the road we might be stronger, but I don’t see an appetite in our club for it anyway.”
Last week, Templenoe legend Pat Spillane suggested his crowd might also be reluctant to complete consecutive climbs from junior through to senior, but Crowley banishes those fears.
“We’d love to go out and represent the club in the senior championship. I’m surprised to hear our neighbours may not be interested. But every club that ever played ball would love to go out on a field as an individual standalone club and represent their club at county senior level.
“We haven’t sat down and spoke about it. Don’t count your eggs before they hatch. But if we won the intermediate championship this Sunday, I think we’d be intending to go senior. Nearly 100%. You may never ever ever get the chance again if you don’t.”
Advantage Templenoe in the mind games?