The 2011 Kerry County Senior Football Championship gets underway this weekend, and clubs throughout the kingdom are reeling from the effects of emigration. Already over a hundred players have left the county and many more are set to follow their paths in the coming weeks.
Local newspaper, The Kerryman, did a questionnaire amongst the twenty senior teams set to take part in this year’s championship and the results were startling.
Only two of the sides, Laune Rangers and Kilcummin, have not lost a player since last season’s campaign. Divisional team Feale Rangers are set to lose seven players for the summer months.
While some of these may return later in the year, others are planning on a longer stay abroad. The Rangers are made up of various clubs around the Listowel area in North Kerry.
On the other side of the county, St Michaels/Foilmore are resigned to being without eight of their players for 2011. The side have been one of the coming teams at intermediate and junior level and broke away from South Kerry a number of years back. St Brendans, a divisional side comprising of teams around Tralee, have been hit even harder and will be without ten of their footballers.
The bigger clubs have also been badly affected with current county champions Dr Crokes losing six players. Shane Doolan and Mike Moloney are long term absentees and are currently working in London. The pair lined out for London in the Connacht Championship last month. Ambrose O’Donovan,son of the legendary Kerry midfielder of the same name, is also absent for the summer although he is expected to return later in the season.Tralee team,Austin Stacks, are set to lose six of their panel.
With the economy looking unstable at present and no sign of an upturn, it is likely that the numbers emigrating will only increase in the coming years. Students are leaving the country as soon as their exams are completed and the lure of foreign cash is understandably more attractive than staying at home and playing football. Unless the GAA can offer players some form of payment for play, the drain of the best talent will continue for the foreseeable future.
London were unlucky not to beat Mayo in this season’s Connacht Championship and New York have also shaped well in recent seasons. With some of Ireland’s best footballers continuing to take the boat, it must only be a matter of time before one of the exiles cause a shock in the All Ireland series.
Sportsnewsireland.com will have live score updates on all GAA Championship matches over the summer.