Kerry SFC talking points: Untamable East Kerry, Mark O'Connor impact and under the radar Stacks 

Mark O’Connor, fresh from his Grand Final winning exploits with Geelong, landed back home in Dingle last weekend. He was among the first in the gate to training on Tuesday and will play a significant role in Saturday’s quarter-final against Dr Crokes.
Kerry SFC talking points: Untamable East Kerry, Mark O'Connor impact and under the radar Stacks 

BIG IMPACT: Mark O'Connor of the Geelong Cats will line out for GAA club Dingle this weekend. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

The untamable East Kerry monster 

Kerry’s new group stage format gave us very little by the way of final-round excitement. It also gave us very little by the way of surprise packages, save of course for Feale Rangers.

Those that were expected to come through did so. And outside of South Kerry in what was a fairly open Group 4, nobody got left behind that wasn’t expected to be left behind.

Such is the strength of East Kerry’s hand, that same sense of inevitability now hangs over the knockout stages.

Who, if anyone, can stop their march to a third Bishop Moynihan Cup in four years?

We went through the 27 players used by East Kerry manager Jerry O’Sullivan across their three group games and by our calculations 11 of them have played National League or Championship for the Kerry seniors. Starting from the back, the 11 are Brian Kelly, Shane Ryan, Pa Warren, Jack Sherwood, Paul Murphy, Jonathan Lyne, Ronan Buckley, Paul O’Shea, Paudie Clifford, James O’Donoghue, and David Clifford.

Two more, Cian Gammell and Dara Roche, played McGrath Cup earlier this year, while several others played U20/21 for the county and have at least one All-Ireland minor medal jangling around in their back pocket.

Feale Rangers, who hadn’t won a championship game since 2017 prior to last month, turned many a head in topping their group, but there’ll nothing match for shock this Kerry SFC ending with a team other than East Kerry atop the local summit.

Dingle’s AFL bounce 

Leading the chasing pack is Dingle, whose hand has been considerably strengthened by the return of two AFL exports.

Mark O’Connor, fresh from his Grand Final winning exploits with Geelong, landed back home in Dingle last weekend. He was among the first in the gate to training on Tuesday and will play a significant role in Saturday’s quarter-final against Dr Crokes. All that really remains to be seen is what level the 25-year-old can climb to after so long away from the sport.

Another Kerry All-Ireland minor winner Deividas Uosis, who was recently released by the Brisbane Lions, is also available this weekend.

O’Connor’s last county championship game for the club was the 2018 quarter-final, the gap for Uosis one year shorter. But as manager Pádraig Corcoran articulated to this reporter on Wednesday, Dingle - who ran East Kerry close in Round 3 - don’t need to wait until throw-in to know they’ve got a bounce from the returning pair.

Depleted Dr Crokes 

If Dingle’s panel has received a timely injection of quality, the opposite rings true for their quarter-final opponents.

Injury meant Kerry seniors Gavin White and Micheál Burns did not play a minute of county championship action for the Lewis Road outfit during the group phase. And it is outside the whitewash they will remain for the remainder of the season.

Crokes look to have been dealt a further blow ahead of their last-eight fixture with news that 2014 All-Ireland winner Fionn Fitzgerald will miss the Dingle game through injury.

While Crokes do have a flood of talented youngsters newly integrated into the senior set-up, the gaps left by White, Fitzgerald, and Burns would appear beyond covering at the knockout stage of the championship.

Templenoe’s waning graph 

Whatever hope Crokes have of progressing further without their trio of All-Ireland winners, Templemore have none without Adrian Spillane.

Having injured his ankle at the end of Templenoe’s final round group game, there is a small question mark over his involvement in Sunday’s quarter-final against Mid Kerry.

The tiny club situated along the N70 between Sneem and Kenmare are chasing a historic first county semi-final appearance. Their form, though, has been on the wane ever since securing involvement in the club championship decider at the end of August.

There was the letting slip of a six-point lead against South Kerry, an eight-point lead was almost thrown away second day out against St Brendan’s, before they lost by seven on home turf against Feale Rangers.

They’ll need more than a fit Adrian Spillane to rediscover their mojo at Fitzgerald Stadium. 

They haven’t gone away you know 

Given they wear the title of reigning county champions, Stacks would rightly take offence if we did not pay mention to them.

As alluded to above, Feale Rangers have been reborn in recent weeks, but you’d still expect the Tralee lads to get the job done on Saturday evening and return to the last four, even if Joe O’Connor, Fiachna Mangan, Darragh O’Brien, Dylan Casey, and Brendan O’Sullivan are all on the injury list.

One would venture a guess that Wayne Quillinan and his charges are quite happy to have the spotlight focused on East Kerry and Mark O’Connor’s Dingle return as they motor along at the back of the stage.

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