Those in the hinterland of North Kerry are billing it as the game of the year.
Repeat that, please. I couldn’t have heard right. Must be a crossing of wires. We’re exactly one week from Christmas and yet North Kerry officials are promising that tomorrow’s divisional football decider (Listowel, 2.45pm) will be “an open, free-flowing contest”.
St Senan’s chairman Aidan Behan is humming a similar tune. Looks like everyone got the press release.
His club, formed some 82 years ago, are contesting just their third North Kerry SFC final.
Their last was 16 years ago. That ended in defeat, as did their maiden final appearance back in 1980.
They’re one of the few remaining clubs in the division never to have lifted the Eamon O’Donoghue Cup. Their opponents, Ballydonoghue, are not part of this small group. They’ve enjoyed divisional success on seven occasions, albeit their last success was back in 1992. Both sides will arrive into Listowel tomorrow with extremely young teams not yet taken by defensive mentalities and well-woven blankets.
“They say it is going to be the best North Kerry final in a very long time,” Behan proclaims. “Two young teams who play an open game of football. The Kerryman (newspaper) went for Ballydonoghue. The Kerry’s Eye went for St Senan’s. No one is too sure how this will go, other than that it should be a good game. “Mountcoal, the area which feeds into St Senan’s, could hardly be described as being small in size and so with a decent playing population how is it that the club has yet to make the breakthrough?
“Tradition,” replies the chairman.
“Listowel, Moyvane, Beale and Finuge were always dominant. They had the tradition of winning it. We started off this year at 16/1.”
Moyvane head the roll of honour with 18 titles. That’s the home of St Senan’s manager Kieran Stack. This is his first year involved, but four North Kerry minor titles between 2011 and 2014 would have told him this was a club with a fairly strong conveyor belt of talent.
“I would have spent five years with the Kerry development squads from U14 to U16. I would have come across a lot of the players on both sides who will feature Sunday,” Stack explains. “I would have been involved with Sean T Dillon and David Foran from St Senan’s. For Ballydonoghue, there was Jason Foley, Brian Ó Seanacháin and Darragh Sheehy.
“On our side, there would be 10 U21s on the panel and seven of them are likely to be starting.” He added: “There’s a big pride of the parish element attached to winning a North Kerry championship. Moyvane have 18 titles. When you compare that to a club like Senan’s who don’t have any, it puts a bigger emphasis on achieving that little bit of history on Sunday. It is a big thing for St Senan’s. It has brought a community together. The lads now have an hour to bring it together.”
Oh, and if you’re travelling to Listowel on Sunday, get down early. Along with the game of the year, they’re predicting one of the biggest crowds of the year in the Kingdom. Apparently, they’re travelling from West Kerry, South Limerick and further afield. From a neutrals perspective, let’s hope all these declarations hold true. And the weather of course. It is the middle of December after all.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved