By Eoghan Cormican
Kerry GAA secretary Peter Twiss is concerned that the dominance of the East Kerry division will lead to Kerry teams becoming “very dependent” on a small pocket of the county.
With East Kerry having completed a three-in-a-row of county minor titles in 2018, as well as winning the U21 championship, the division went one better this year when managing a clean sweep of minor, U21, and senior county championship silverware.
This success has contributed to greater East Kerry representation in the county set-up, with over one-third of Kerry’s 26-man matchday panel for the All-Ireland final replay hailing from the eastern division.
Indeed, if you factor in the Templenoe quartet of Adrian and Killian Spillane, Tadhg Morley and Gavin Crowley, along with Kenmare’s Stephen O’Brien and Sean O’Shea, almost 60% of Kerry’s All-Ireland final matchday panel was pulled from just two divisions – East Kerry and Kenmare District.
East Kerry’s first county senior final win in 30 years last month, not to mention the county championship form of Dr Crokes forward Tony Brosnan, means this figure is likely to increase in 2020.
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“A concern I would have in looking at our present inter-county senior football team is the concentration of players involved from the eastern side of the county in comparison to the northern half of the county,” Twiss writes in his report to next week’s convention.
“Of the 28 players/subs (including the injured Peter Crowley) who were involved in this year’s All-Ireland final and replay, only six (just over 20%) represent clubs from the Tralee, Castleisland, and North Kerry areas. In contrast, 18 players (nearly 65%) represent clubs from the East Kerry, Kenmare, and South Kerry areas. Of those six players from the northern half, four were from Tralee town so that leaves only two players from the remaining clubs in that side of the county.
“When considering the population of Tralee and the number of clubs in those northern areas mentioned, I would be worried that unless some remedial action is taken, Kerry will become very dependent on a small geographical area of the county for its supply of players going forward.”
The county board secretary has recommended the establishment of a task force to tackle this worrying development.
“From administrative structures at district level, to clubs, to coaching, to schools, and dual players, all aspects should be examined to see if a plan of action can be formulated to address this situation.
“I would acknowledge some great work has been going on over the last number of years, particularly in the coaching side, but I fear that unless a more wholesome approach is undertaken it may not be sufficient.”
In relation to our own underage competitions, namely U21 and minor, the emergence of East Kerry as the dominant team needs to be addressed to ensure these championships remain competitive.
Elsewhere in his report, Twiss has labelled the decision to bring forward the All-Ireland U20 football championship to February/March as “a retrograde step”.
“Training and playing in the worst of conditions has no developmental value. It feels more like just ticking a box and getting the thing done with. For elite players coming out of minor, it should be all about development, practicing, and developing their skills at a far more appropriate time of year. This decision is a mistake.”
He did welcome, however, the earlier conclusion to the All-Ireland club championships.
“The long gap between the Munster club (completed in early December) and All-Ireland senior club final (played on March 17) was difficult to justify. With the new dates, a lot of time and needless costs in trying to keep teams in shape are reduced. For the inter-county players involved with the club, it also frees them up for the Allianz League.”