Tarbert County Final 2023

Tarbert will play in a first county final since 1995 on Sunday when they face Reenard in the Kerry Junior Club Championship Final in Austin Stack Park with a 1pm throw in time. This is a special occasion for the club who in recent years have had plenty of success at under age level as well as a promotion to division 3 of the County League for 2024.

The last trophy to come through the gates of Shannon Park at Senior level was the North Kerry Championship in 2010. Tarbert have played very well throughout the year securing promotion from division 4 to 3 in the County League after a strong campaign. They also contested the North Kerry League Final only losing out by two points to Moyvane.

They have been under the management of Cathal O Connor and Jamie Diggins for the past few years and will have the experience of ex Kerry defender and All Ireland winner Shane Enright to call upon from the centre back berth on Sunday, this team has built there good form up by being very effective defensively and being efficient in attack when the chance arises.

It has been a long time between meals for Tarbert at county level but there are back in a county final and will look to put the icing on the cake by defeating Reenard. We have seen Listowel Emmets win a county title in the last 24 hours and both Tarbert and Duagh will get their chance to claim further glory over the next few weeks. It’s great to see North Kerry getting back to finals at different grades in recent times, long may that continue.

The work being done by several people over the past 10 to 12 years at underage level is beginning to pay divides. Looking to Sunday this is a great chance for a group of hard working players to put their names up in lights and join the great Tarbert teams of the past who won titles at county level.

Another thing will be having the chance to play in Austin Stack Park, this should help give the team the chance to go an express themselves on what will be a pristine surface. As I mentioned previously Tarbert have done well this year beating Beale in the semi-final of this competition in September.

Looking to Sunday, it’s a chance for everyone to come out and give the panel the support they deserve because they achieved one of the stated goals at the outset of the year and the year isn’t over yet !!!  Tarbert County Champions 2023 has a nice ring to it, Go well men and all the very best on Sunday…..

South Africa 2023 RWC Winners

South Africa were crowned the 2023 RWC winners after a tight hard fought contest with New Zealand on a 12-11 score line. This win was based on a never say die attitude in defence and a willingness to never bend in attack with a game plan that certainly won’t win any beauty awards but one thing you’ll get from any Rassie Erasmus team is effort and defiance.

Himself and Jacques Nienabar have been together for a long time coaching in SA at club and provincial level in SA before taking an opportunity to come up to Munster and they spent 18 months with Munster before returning to SA to take on the national job, Erasmus as Director of Rugby and Mr Nienaber as head coach.

Both men stuck to that task and turned the ship around in an extremely short space of time to help them win the 2019 RWC.

Fast forward 4 years, in that time you have had a B&I Lions tour in 2021 which was of course played during an extremely tough period worldwide due to the Covid 19 pandemic and the restrictions on travel that continued for a period beyond the initial 12 months.

That tour was a mess and we now know the three test matches were only a whisker away from being chalked off due to a number of constraints on both squads with large numbers of each party being ruled out due to covid restrictions, Since then though things have returned to normal.

SA have focused on retaining this trophy for the past 2 years since the series win of 2021 vs the Lions. They have shown you can win a number of ways and be successful. They have also re invented the way the bench can be made up although I still feel a 5/3 split will continue to be the norm, a few sides including Munster and even Leinster when tactics dictated went 6/2 on their match day bench selections.

There are of course a couple of Irish links with this win as well as in 2019 with Felix Jones as part of the coaching team but you also have a Kerry man, Partick O Sullivan who was a member of the Springbok technical staff. He played rugby with Killarney and Crescent RFC.

Both men will be able to toast a job well done and will enjoy well earned time off before Jones begins a new position with England. It will be interesting who might snap up the talents of Patrick O Sullivan.

South Africa can enjoy this win, the final wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it was a game that kept you invested for 80 minutes. Congratulations to South Africa on their record 4th RWC win. They will now look to the rest of the URC season as well as domestic competitions in SA in 2024.

Hopes and Dreams

You set out in life with hopes and dreams and sometimes they come through and in more cases it doesn’t happen for you… But you always strive to reach that goal you set out to reach.

Looking at how things have panned out for myself as I’ll only write of my own experience as I know that best. The past few months have shown me I should have done this earlier but that is the way life went and I of course knew better as a teenager in particular. This move to “independence” has done wonders for me, it has help my waistline as well as the other benefits.

I have the typical jesting you get in my situation, you have the pad now try and find the lady to go with it too. I am only out on my “own” just over two months but life has improved and I am so grateful to be in this position as I know in the current climate things are tough and tight for so many of my age group.

I was fortunate to be offered this chance and even more fortunate to accept the offer. It’s a privilege as well as a right of passage. For years as I have spoken of previously I have been told I was mollycoddled and minded. I won’t mention names but I know I can now look those people in the eye and say here I am, 33 out and free, take me as you now find me or take a hike !!

Time and space has given me the opportunity to think and reflect on past mistakes and success. Of which there are many of both but I am still here and that for me is a real success as I have spoken of many times, on more than one occasion I had thought of ending my life.

That plan was supposed to be executed on my 30th birthday but thankfully I didn’t think of following through on the idea that ending my life would help others, family or friends. I have been prompted to write this by seeing the anniversary yesterday of the closing of the last Magdalene Laundry in Dublin in 1996.

To think of those women, who had their lives ruined by church and states is a national disgrace and let’s hope those women that are still living will have the chance to see real change in Ireland. We are 27 years beyond that point and the wheel is slowly turning away from that period. As I say I am thinking of those women, young and old as I sit here and type.

I suppose my reasons for including that in this piece is that I have had the opportunity to have a life and make choices where those women didn’t have that option. What I am saying is, take any chance that comes your way and don’t sit back and wait for it to come to the door to you because as I realised only in the last couple of years it won’t come to you and ask you do you want to take the chance presented.

I am currently “between” opportunities myself and I am working on my next move. I have been lucky to have some of my dreams and hopes become a reality since I left school.

Having the chance to work in community radio and write for my own website, and then with the helping hand of the late Fr Pat Moore putting in a kind word with a man I know can call a friend John Herilhy to take me on board with the Radio Kerry Broadcast course in 2015.

 I broke his heart but the skills he managed to impart to that 25 year old who felt he knew plenty when in fact in all honesty I didn’t know anything gave me the tools to have something to fall back on when I am “between” chances. This is one of those periods and I am writing away and planning for a few interviews.

I have spoken to a number of sports people and also people in other industries and have been lucky to meet and interview many people including a few of my hero’s. What I am saying is if you have a hope or a dream go out and do what you can to achieve it because it will not come in the door to you….

RWC 2023 Final Preview

So here we are after 6 weeks, it’s down to two. South Africa and New Zealand will face off in the World Cup Final. 28 years on from the last time when South Africa defeated the land of the long white cloud in the 95 Final.

The renewal this year will be special, firstly not many would have predicted that in particular France wouldn’t be there on the last night and especially after beating the finalists New Zealand on opening night and then South Africa lost out to Ireland on a tight 13-8 score line but alas that is not how sport works and the cream always rises.

After 4 tight quarter finals and then in South Africa’s case a tough semi final, one feels we have the right pairing in another edition of the World Cup. It will again be a southern hemisphere winner and the northern hemisphere will have to wait another 4 years to see who might join England from 2003 as the next northern hemisphere winner.

Both New Zealand and South Africa will be looking to put their name on the trophy for a 4th time. For all the talk of France, Ireland or someone coming from the pack to challenge the pecking order has gone by the way side and even though people will say both teams came close to going out, New Zealand against Ireland in the QF winning by 4 points, 28-24 and South Africa kicking a late penalty to vanquish England.

The reality is that the defending champions and the previous winner of the competition are back where they feel they always will be and that’s in the World Cup final. It should be a good final and even if the weather dictates tactics it will still be a good game and hopefully one fitting of the biggest game in rugby union….

New Zealand have come from the apparent crisis of summer 2022 to first win the Rugby Championship of 2023 to signal there intent and now only 80 minutes away from another World Cup win. For a number of current All Blacks this will mark the end of their time in the black jersey, the likes of Beauden Barrett, Sam Whitelock and Aaron Smith to name three men who will end there time in black on Saturday evening.

A similar situation will of course be the case for a few wearing green also, like Duane Vermuelan and Deon Fourie. So there is a plenty to play for on both sides and this will be the ideal way to end their careers in their respective national jerseys.

Both coaching teams will have a few interesting choices to make when selecting the 23s for Saturday. Will Manie Libbock see off Handre Pollard for the 10 jersey and for the All Blacks will Mark Telea be in the number 11 shirt over Leicester Fainga’anuku, interesting choices on both sides.

Both coaching teams will also be leaving for pastures new post France with Ian Foster being replaced by Scott Robertson and Jacques Nienber will leave his role to come to Leinster. Will Rassie Erasmus continue his role or look for a new challenge. I feel that South Africa will look for a new direction to try and lead them to Australia in 2027.

For both sides, Saturday will mark the end of the road for a number of key people and no better way than to end that journey than with the William Webb Ellis Cup. I will now do what Rassie Erasmus did last week and I’ll select the 23s of both teams…. I predict a New Zealand win on Saturday….

South Africa XV :

15 Damian Williemese

14 Kurt Lee Arendse

13 Jessie Kriel

12 Damian De Allende

11 Cheslin Kolbe

10 Handre Pollard

9 Cobus Reinarch

8 Duane Vermuelan

7 Peter Steph Du Toit

6 Siya Kolisi

5 Franco Mostert

4 Eben Etzebeth

3 Frans Malherbe

2 Mbongeni Mbonambi

1 Steven Kitshoff

16 Deon Fourie

17 Ox Nche

18 Vincent Koch

19 RG Snyman

20 Jasper Wiese

21 Faf De Klerk

22 Manie Libbock

23 Canon Moodie

New Zealand XV

15 Beauden Barrett

14 Will Jordan

13 Reiko Ioane

12 Jordie Barrett

11 Mark Telea

10 Richie Mo’unga

9 Aaron Smith

8 Ardie Savea

7 Sam Cane

6 Shannon Frizell

5 Brodie Retallick

4 Sam Whitelock

3 Tyrell Lomax

2 Codie Taylor

1 Ethan De Groot

16 Dane Coles

17 Ofa Tungafasi

18 Fletcher Newell

19 Dalton Papalii

20 Luke Jacobson

21 Finlay Christie

22 Damian Mackenzie

23 Anton Leniert Brown

Earls – A Tribute

I just wanted to pay tribute to Keith Earls who finished up with rugby this past weekend after a career that saw him play 202 games for Munster and earn 101 caps for Ireland. He burst onto the scene in 2007 in Musgrave Park where he chipped the ball up to himself to score one of many famous tries in red.

He had lit the schools game up playing for St Munchins and winning a senior cup in 2006 before he was brought into the Munster academy system which was in its infancy at that stage. He has captained his country on last year’s tour of New Zealand.

His importance to both club and country has been seen over the past few months with the glowing terms in which his fellow players speak of him. He was the man for all positions in the early days playing wing, centre and full back. He debuted for Ireland in November 2008 in Thomond Park against Canada and he never looked back.

 He also toured South Africa in 2009 with the British and Irish Lions, he was the youngest tourist on that tour. He was rather unfortunate not to get more of a look in on that tour but has always looked at that tour with great fondness.

As I say when you speak to people and see the respect that is there for Keith you realise what he meant to any team he was on. He of course had now well documented injury issues and in recent years he has opened up about the mental health issues he dealt with at times in his career in particular in the early period.

He was a nervous wreck for the most part and it was only in the latter years of his time with Ireland and Munster that he began to enjoy rugby and also he credits his family with helping him gain perspective in life as well as on the field of play.

He brought out a book a few years ago and I encourage anyone to go a find a copy and read it because it isn’t your usual sports biography and doesn’t go down the well-trodden path of many sports books. It goes into detail of his real life issues and he credits his family and his wife Edel with helping him to stay on the straight and narrow and not to go down a bad road that a few of his friends have done so.

He is a man that came through the hard way, yes he played schools rugby but he got his grounding with Thomond and Young Munster. Of course he Dad Ger wasn’t bad with an oval ball in hand playing for Munster on a famous day in 1992 in Cork when they defeated Australia. His Mam’s family were good sports people also so as they say “it wasn’t off the ground he licked it”.

He exited the stage in perfect fashion maybe a week or two earlier than hoped but he slipped away quietly that was the hall mark of his career, he worked hard, tackled anything that moved and finished the chances he was presented with !!

Thank You Keith, enjoy family life and being Dad to your girls and husband to Edel….

RWC 2023- Ireland Review

So yet again it’s a quarter final exit for Ireland at another Rugby World Cup. But this exit seems different to many others because Ireland were in this game for 80 + minutes. A 28-24 loss to New Zealand is a familiar tale of the Irish tape at World Cup time. Unfortunately on this occasion Ireland were left counter punching and trying to find a way to turn around an early 13-0 NZ lead.

As I have said so many times here and on a few podcasts you can’t give a team like New Zealand a head start and then expect to keep counter punching and find a way past them. This time though Ireland did that three times and found scores that included a penalty try.

We were found wanting a scrum time and maybe Farrell should have called for Dave Kilcoyne earlier than 10 minutes from the end. Alas this didn’t happen and it might just have countered the impact of the replacement New Zealand replacement front row.

The past two years in particular under Andy Farrell and Co promised some much and a Grand Slam last March also suggested that lessons of previous tale offs in the months leading to World Cup time had been learned from.

Yet again though, it’s a story of If, But, Maybe and Could Have, Should Have, Would Have. This review will be as though if not harder than what went before.

Ireland worked a position late on and went to the corner took the line out and went over only for Jordie Barrett to use his 6”4 frame to get under Ronan Kelleher to deny Ireland a famous winning try.

This New Zealand side does not have the aura of other teams that had Carter, Mc Caw etc but what it does have is players with the right strong skill set to execute the game plan that is set out by whoever may be in charge at that point.

The impact of the assistant coaches, Joe Schmidt and Jason Ryan can be easily seen. Both men were assistants previously with Schmidt of course coaching up here with Leinster and Ireland and Jason Ryan was assistant to incoming New Zealand coach Scott Robertson at the Crusaders.

It will certainly be an interesting one to look to see with both men be kept on in the short term once New Zealand’s time in France ends whether that is on Friday on the following weekend.  

Back to Ireland, Saturday of course marked the end of Jonathan Sexton’s time as a professional rugby player. He played 118 times for Ireland, scoring over 1,000 Test points.

He burst onto the scene here with Leinster in late 2009. Having appeared during the Celtic League campaign that year it was his appearance against Munster in Croke Park that brought him really to people’s attention. His drive to succeed and win has to be mentioned and say it was unrivalled. Many Irish players tried to drive standards but only him and Roy Keane truly made that happen.

Of course people will look at his record at RWC’s and say not he never did it on that stage but that is only part of his story as he drove them to victory last March to win a Grand Slam, kicked them to win a crucial win against France in 2018 in Paris with “Le drop”.

So looking at his career on the whole it’s been very special and he will be recognised as one man who drove Ireland to huge heights maybe not on the RWC stage but his impact on the game in Ireland will be long lasting I have no doubt.

He will bow out now and fade into civilian life with ease and enjoy family life.

A word too for Keith Earls who it was quietly announced would also be stepping away from the International game after 101 caps and 36 tries. He is loved by all who follow the game in this country and will be missed by those who support Munster aswell as the Irish supporters if he confirms his retirement from the club game also.

These two along with I suspect a few more will make statements about there long term futures as one or two will have contract renewals to discuss in the coming months. We can leave that for another time.

Thank you to both Keith and Jonathan for their respective contributions in green. I was there the night Keith made his international debut in Limerick in November 2008. He scored after 2 minutes and never looked back….

So that elusive first semi-final appearance will have to wait until Australia in 2027… Time now to take stock of the last few weeks and reset the clock for 2024 and beyond.

Enjoy the rest of the RWC where England will carry the hopes of the northern hemisphere after Ireland, France and Wales were beaten this past weekend….

RWC 2023 QF

So Ireland again find themselves where so often they have been in another quarter final at a RWC. The performances of the past few weeks have shown a true consistent level of performance. They have gotten better as the weeks have progressed. From game one where they saw off Romania in empathic fashion, 82-8 to last Saturday evening where they dispatched Scotland 36-14.

This is the week where the wheels of an Irish RWC bid have come away previously but one really hopes that the ghosts of previous campaigns can finally be laid to rest and consigned to the history books. Like Japan 4 years ago its New Zealand for the 2nd  quarter final in a row and with the draw happening 3 years ago, It was almost lined up that these sides would meet again.

Since that game, Ireland have beaten New Zealand 3 times. Winning a 3 game series 2-1 in New Zealand in the summer of 2022 and also defeating them in Dublin in November 2021. So the RWC loss of 2019 has long since been consigned to the bin.

It’s an awful record in the knock out phase of World Cup’s that Ireland has, never being passed a quarter final since the first edition of 1987. It truly is a terrible record. But this group look even better equipped than the last squad tipped to really have a shot at breaking the RWC duck in 2007.

Andy Farrell has been there and done it in rugby league as a player and now in union as a coach with England, the B&I Lions and in recent years with Ireland.  He has created a real family atmosphere in the squad and it is great to see an Irish team play with smiles on the faces rather than the usual look of dread you see…

It’s time now for the poor RWC record to be ended for once and for all. Yes it’s New Zealand in another quarter final and of course New Zealand will be out to avenge the series defeat on home soil but Ireland have their own reasons for wanting to add another W in the column beside the name of New Zealand in the IRFU win/loss board.

Injuries have come up with a few players carrying knocks like James Lowe, Mack Hansen and James Ryan. The IRFU will provide updates on those available to Andy Farrell and his coaches during the week.

We saw Ireland playing with a real swagger and also a ruthless edge that has long been needed by those wearing green… Now we need to see it come out again against New Zealand. The aura of New Zealand being unbeatable is long gone contrary to what any New Zealand pundit may say. They still are a fearsome proposition for any side but South Africa beat them before the World Cup and France did likewise to kick start their own quest for RWC glory on October 28th.

It will be a tough assignment for Ireland but most certainly not mission impossible…. This woeful RWC record has to end at some stage and why not on Saturday evening in St Denis !!

The other thing that I wanted to touch on is this so called lack of support for the Irish rugby team. Not all Irish rugby supporters come from within striking distance of RTE studios in Dublin 4. There is plenty of support for them outside the “Pale”. I know only too well being from Kerry that rugby will always play second fiddle to the GAA or most other sports. This one upmanship and sniping has to end. This team is an All Ireland team with players from all four corners and contrary to this “Silver spoon” thinking, it really isn’t a sport played only by D4 schools. It is played again in all four corners of Ireland.

I could go on by let’s see can they do what others have failed and win a World Cup quarter final and make the much talked about step and make a World Cup semi final.  The game will kick off at 8pm next Saturday and as one man said last night it is a huge moment for Irish rugby. History beckons……