“Competing at the highest level is not about winning. It’s about preparation, courage, understanding and nurturing your people, and heart. Winning is the result.” Joe Torre
There will have been a spring in the step of our seniors these last few weeks following their deserved win over championship favourites Dr Crokes in round 2 but it will count for little on Saturday night next if the blues fail to master surprise packets St Brendans in this year’s quarter final.
Having reached the semi finals last year when lady luck deserted us in the one point loss to South Kerry, the team and management have been eagerly looking forward to this year and the hope of going a step further than 2017.
The wins over Feale Rangers and Dr Crokes have certainly shortened the odds of the Bishop Moynihan wintering in Strand Road but nobody knows better than this group of players that only their best will be good enough on Saturday and anything less than the form they showed against Crokes could see us depart the championship.
St Brendans have been slow starters and their first round defeat to East Kerry ( 4-20 to 2-11) carries the caveat of they having to line out without both Na Gaeil stars Jack Barry and Stefan Okunbar which certainly deprived them of much strength and athleticism around the middle eight.
Their recovery against Shannon Rangers was expected but it was the manner of their win over Mid Kerry, scoring 3-18 in the process, that marks them out as dangerous opponents.
Their team is backboned by Na Gaeil players Jack & Andrew Barry, Stefan Okunbar and Diarmuid O’Connor – the latter 3 are all All Ireland minor medallists in the last 3 years and all have progressed to the Kerry U-20 teams subsequently; the highly rated O’Connor is tipped for further honours and Okunbar recently picked up the Munster U-20 player of the year award for his outstanding displays at full back in Jack O’Connor’s team. They have won promotion from division 2 and will play in the premier division for the first time in their history next year.
Add in to that a Churchill team who have punched well above their weight in reaching the semi finals of the county junior premier championship being defeated only after extra time by division 1 side Beaufort – it was no surprise that they coasted through division 5 and were promoted as champions. In goalkeeper Eoghan O’Brien, centre forward Cillian Fitzgerald and full forward Ivan Parker, they have players worthy of competing with the best and all have worn the Kerry jersey at different levels in the recent past.
The likes of Seán Moloney, Patrick Kearney, Alan O’Donoghue and Niall Sheehy ( John Mitchels) have plenty recent experience against us in division 1 of the county league and local championships and will not be lacking in support from their colleagues from St Pats and Ardfert.
For us to win, a repeat of the form shown in Listowel against Feale Rangers and most recently in Killarney vs Dr Crokes is required; this would demand that we would hold sway at midfield through David Moran ( excellent to date) and which in turn would see enough ball inside to the likes of Tommy Walsh, Barry John Keane and Jack Savage ( 2-15 being their contribution vs Crokes) with this trio more than capable of making life uncomfortable for the divisional side. The likes of John Ferguson too and Gavin O’Brien with his attacking runs from deep and penchant for goals offer further threats.
Our defence too has been solid with Ross O’Callaghan anchoring the full back line and being ably assisted by the likes of Chuckie Carroll, Karl Mullins and Cormac Coffey – all 3 are dependable defenders who can get forward too if the need arises.
One of the more pleasing aspects of our win over Dr Crokes was the performance off the bench when all five players introduced made significant contributions to the victory and all will be pushing hard for inclusion from the beginning next weekend – its a headache that Micheál and his team will have welcomed for the past few weeks as guys will have been pushing hard in training.
In conclusion, in the belief that we continue to mature and develop as a team evidenced most recently by defeating Dr Crokes, having been 10 points down at half time, plus would appear to have a greater strength in depth, a cautious vote is given to our lads to overcome this stern challenge and advance to the semi finals for a second year in a row.