Killarney was electric on Saturday as Kerry welcomed old nemesis, Tyrone, to the picturesque town for an All-Ireland football qualifier game. The weather matched the atmosphere and the majority in the attendance of 25,000 were wearing the green and gold.
The Red Hand County brought a big following to Kerry and I met many who were in Killarney for the first time. It is a visit they are not likely to forget.
Kerry supporters were far from optimistic before the game. The general feeling was that the side was fortunate to overcome Westmeath a week earlier.
Even well-known local radio commentator Weeshie Fogarty, a former inter-county referee, accepted that the Kingdom received a few fortunate late refereeing calls. Like many a fellow Kerryman (and woman), Weeshie was hoping that the Kerry players could produce a big performance.
Tyrone has been a major thorn in the current Kerry side for years, depriving them of success in two All-Ireland finals and an All-Ireland semi-final. We have heard a lot of talk about the cynicism in Gaelic football and we saw plenty of that in Fitzgerald Stadium. It was infuriating to watch.
The game, while having lots of exciting fare, also showed the current ills of Gaelic football. I understand that the GAA has a high-powered group, headed by Eugene McGee, current reviewing the state of Gaelic football. A video of this game will tell them all they need to know.
Kerry has not lost a championship game in Killarney for 17 years. It was clear from an early stage that this record was not likely to be broken. The Kingdom was comfortably in control at midfield and that created the launching pad for many attacks.
The play during the first half was scrappy and ragged and was not helped by a very fussy referee. David Coldrick spent ages booking players and appearing to explain every decision he made. This appeared to frustrate players and supporters.
The Meath official dished out 17 yellow cards and one red, a statistic that once again underlines the current problems with Gaelic football.
One of the other unpleasant aspects was the attempts by the Tyrone players to slow down the game by feigning injuries. This added to the tension which was already heightened by a number of bone-chilling tackles.
The second half was much more enjoyable. A Tyrone goal looked to have opened up the game, but when Kerry responded almost immediately with a similar score the Northerners momentum was halted. Kerry dominated after that score as the Tyrone play became disjointed and ill-disciplined.
The Kerry players may have looked jaded one week ago, but when their character was questioned what better side than the Kingdom to respond in emphatic fashion. Now we hope the other famous ‘K’ respond in similar fashion on Sunday.
Kerry celebrated this victory knowing that they had finally laid the Tyrone ghost to rest. Tyrone headed home knowing that a major rebuilding job is necessary.
As for the game of Gaelic football, well Kilkenny people are not supposed to have an opinion on such matters. But even Kilkenny people know when the game has lost its soul.
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