The Longshot: It’s time to take it up to Mounthawk for Kerry football

League of Ireland return with City back  in the top flight and Cobh travelling down to meet new club Kerry FC in Tralee
The Longshot: It’s time to take it up to Mounthawk for Kerry football

Former Cork City player Billy Dennehy will be the manager of the Kerry FC senior squad for their inaugural season.

FOOTBALL returns to grounds up and down the country tonight with the League of Ireland kicking off.

Shamefully, I’ve never been a dedicated follower of domestic action. I have attended plenty of games down through the years, however this had more to do with living within a long throw of both Turner’s Cross during quite a few decent seasons for City and (while a student) Dalymount.

I’ve always put my indifference down to not ever really having a local team. Where I grew up in East Cork was admittedly a short enough drive from Cobh, and my neighbour managed them four times, but like most youngsters, I was more interested in kicking a ball than watching adults knocking it about.

I always maintained to those who gave out to me for my lack of interest that I was waiting for a Kerry (land of my birth and forebears) team to join the league.

Well, that time has finally arrived and so I thought I'd be heading to Mounthawk Park in Tralee tonight to watch Kerry FC make their national debut in Division 1 when they host Ramblers. Alas, it's sold-out (there's only half a stand) so I'll have to wait until a few poor results cause attendances to dwindle a bit.

We all know how precarious the domestic game can be so survival as a club will be the most important thing for the new outfit.

For a while there it looked like they might be becoming the Athletic Bilbao of the league as they only had Kerry players on their roster but that has changed since the turn of the year and even a Yank and a Croatian have been added to the squad now. They are 16/5 to win their opening game, while Cobh are 8/13 and the draw is 14/5.

Tonight also sees Cork City return to the top flight when they host Bohs at the Cross (both are priced at 6/4 to win and the draw is 11/4).

Colin Healy brought City up as champs last season and during this his third full season in charge he will be aiming to ensure they can settle in at the top table rather than challenge for the title (66/1) like they were regularly under John Caulfield during the middle of the last decade.

The Premier Division is being envisioned as a two-horse race between Shamrock Rovers (5/6) and Derry City again (13/8).

Rovers captured their 20th title last year when completing a three-in-a-row, while the Candystripes are going in search of only their third league win and first since 1997.

Former Preston midfielder Adam O’Reilly should bolster the Derry midfield this season.

When betting on domestic matches you should be able to do so in confidence that each player is giving it their all on the pitch. We all know that remuneration isn’t sufficient or even close to what it might have been even 15 years ago, but that should be no excuse for those attempting to line their pockets. Recent reports of match-fixing in the league might make you think twice before laying a bet. Only last month gardaí were preparing to send a file to the DPP concerning such shady practices.

It is alleged some former players communicated with each other and third parties about bets that should be placed on the likelihood of incidents such as throw-ins and yellow cards. More worryingly, some aspects of the inquiry have focused on betting patterns around goals and match results (involving the now-defunct Limerick FC) and 15 people have been arrested and questioned.

League players are now banned from betting on all games worldwide, nevermind those they are participating in. We always advise betting amounts well within your budget, but it’s worth reducing that again when there is even the slightest whiff of anything dodgy going on.

Plenty to chew over as Felix has the pundits purring

OUR 63/1 Champions League four-timer didn’t work out, however, it was still close enough for such a big price.

As advised, Milan and Benfica won, while PSG and Chelsea were unlucky not to grab equalisers in their fixtures.

Indeed, substitute Kylian Mbappe had the ball in the net twice after coming on in the second half at the Parc de Princes, but both efforts narrowly disallowed by VAR.

Before he came on we were treated to watching Messi and Neymar wandering around the pitch for most of the game doing their own thing.

Argentina had enough athletes around their genius to be successful in the World Cup, but do PSG think they can carry two players who don’t run at all and emerge from an away second leg in the Champions League?

They are lucky that the Bavarians look to be at their lowest ebb in a few years.

Chelsea had plenty of chances in Dortmund and you couldn’t fail to be impressed by Joao Felix. The young man arrived on loan last month from Atletico Madrid after falling out with their boss — what was Diego Simeone thinking?.

He is just wonderful to watch and as Cork’s own Damien Delaney in the co-commentary seat on Wednesday evening said: “He is biting his teeth here at Chelsea.” I don’t know what that means, but I think I agree.

- Man City have been reinstalled as favourites to win the Premier League after their win in North London on Wednesday evening.

They are now both on 51 points,while the Gunners have a game in hand, but City are 4/7 to retain their title, while Arsenal are 7/4.

Their next meeting will be at the Etihad on April 26.

Man United, five points behind, are 20/1. If United could string a few results together they are certainly in with a chance of making it a three-horse race as both City and Arsenal have both shown they are vulnerable.

Things are at last looking up for Snyman

MUNSTER are back in action tonight, hosting the Ospreys at Thomond as the Six Nations takes a break for the weekend.

It was reported this week that South African lock RG Snyman would soon be returning to full-contact training and may make it back to gameday action sometime in March.

The 6’9” South African 2019 World Cup winner arrived in the province in May 2020 but after two serious knee injuries, he has been limited to just four games and has only been in the headlines for the last two years when charting his misfortune or to hint at possible return dates.

While it is frustrating for fans to see such a fine prospect curtailed, it must have been an incredibly trying period for the player himself, having uprooted his life in the middle of Covid and then been unable to show exactly what he could offer to the Reds.

Hopefully, he is about to turn that corner now.

Graham Rowntree’s men are expected to make short work of their Welsh visitors this evening and are 1/16 to win or 5/6 -15 points.

The Ospreys are in decent enough form but are unlikely to become the first non-Irish team to win here in this competition since Edinburgh beat the Reds 18-16 at Musgrave Park in 2019.

Kerry-Mayo is usually close

MAYO and Kerry clash in the standout game of this weekend’s Allianz Football League Divison One action. The Westerners have home advantage but are 11/8 outsiders for tomorrow evening’s televised clash, with Kerry 4/5.

The Kingdom bounced back form a narrow opening-day loss to Donegal to defeat Monaghan with some ease a fortnight ago in Killarney and are 7/4 favourites to win thier fourth league in a row (2021 was shared with Dublin).

Mayo are next in the betting at 4/1. They have drawn their opening two games — being reeled in when five points ahead in Armagh the last day. Roscommon host Kieran McGeeney’s sode on Sunday. The Connacht side (6/4) top the table after two wins, with Armagh (8/11) behind them in second on three points.

Dubs roll into town in the league

THE recently mighty Dubs will be in town this weekend and will undoubtedly offer a stern test for John Cleary’s men, who enter the game having impressed when last time out beating Kildare by 13 points away.

Dessie Farrell’s men top the Dividion 2 table alongside Meath and Derry and are 1/4 to win on Sunday afternoon, while a home win is 7/2 and the draw 10/1.

Billy Morgan guiding UCC to another Sigerson win after extra time in the rain (will someone buy the TG4 cameramen some decent cloths) against UL on Wednesday shows there is plenty of promise out there, but a good display against the Dubs (and a narrow win maybe) would be a great boost as the county tries to rebuild after too many unmemorable years.

The Bet

DERRY can stop Rovers this season and we’ll advise getting on Dungiven man Jamie McGonigle to be top scorer in the top division at 11/1.

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