Treaty United Opposition Watch: Kerry FC

The best news of 2023 was confirmation of the addition of the Kerry FC to the League of Ireland. After many years of speculation and work behind the scenes, Kerry’s arrival was confirmed in late November 2022. Former Cork City, Shamrock Rovers and St. Patricks Athletic player Billy Dennehy is the club’s manager and it is his first sojourn into the league as a coach.

Manager: Billy Dennehy

Home Stadium: Mounthawk Park

Captain: Matt Keane

Squad: Matt Keane, Sean McGrath, Robert Vasiu, Sean O’Connell, Alex Ainscough, Sean Kennedy, Andy Quaid, Kalen Spillane, Leo Gaxha, Cianan Cooney, Togor Silong, Wayne Guthrie, Shane Guthrie, Kevin Williams, Ryan Kelleher, Callan Scully, Nathan Gleeson, Cormac Buckley, Aaron O’Sullivan, Kennedy Amechi, Cian Brosnan, Graham O’Reilly, Trpimar, Vrilicak, Mark Carey, Johnathan Hannafin, Stephen McCarthy, Ronan Teahan, Junior Ankomah, Samuel Aladesanusi

Billy Dennehy in action during his time with Limerick FC. He will manage Kerry FC in their inaugural season at LOI level

Kerry FC will play their homes games at Mounthawk Park in Tralee. It is a sizeable astro turf surface and will be sold out for the visit of Treaty. Kerry often took part in the now defunct Eircom League Cup and one of my earliest memories of following Limerick senior soccer was when they took on a Kerry League XI at Hogan Park. Kerry have produced so many successful players at LOI level including Billy Dennehy and his brother Darren.

Limerick FC often benefitted from a strong Kerry contingent particularly under Noel O’Connor and Mike Kerley at the beginning of the millennium. The likes of Stephen O’Mahony and James Sugrue were integral members of the 2003 play-off run.

Over the Christmas period, Dennehy was busy assembling a squad from scratch. Matt Keane was the flagship signing from Treaty United and he will captain the side in their inaugural season at this level. There are plenty of Limerick connections in the squad as Billy had played for Limerick FC under Tommy Barrett in 2018. Furthermore, former Limerick and Regional United defender/midfielder Andy Quaid has signed along with former underage goalkeeper and Tipperary native Callan Scully.

Matt Keane in action for Treaty United Photo by Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

Up until last week, Dennehy was still adding to the squad and sprung a surprise when announcing the arrival of 38 year-old centre-back Shane Guthrie who hasn’t played at League of Ireland level since leaving Limerick in 2012. He has been partnered by Kalen Spillane who was part of the Cork City team who won the First Division in 2011. Unsurprisingly, it has been a tough start for Kerry in their opening two games. At a packed Mounthawk Park on the opening night, Cobh Ramblers left with a 0-2 win. Their first away game in the League of Ireland was against Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds with the home side running out 3-1 winners.

Key Players:

Sean McGrath: The former Cobh Ramblers man was the second official signing and has played in the opening two matches for his hometown club. A tidy attacking midfielder, McGrath will be key in creating attacks for Kerry. Due to the Kerry formation of 4-2-3-1 or on occasions 4-5-1, McGrath will need to support the lone striker in order to prevent the attacker becoming isolated.

Matt Keane: As previously mentioned, Keane will captain the side and is one of the more experienced players in the squad. Keane was a pivotal member of the Treaty squad who reached the 2021 promotion/relegation play-offs. He was also a member of last season’s team but fell out of favour and lost his place to Willie Armshaw and Dean George.

Keane has played the first two matches for Kerry in a defensive midfield role where he played for Killarney Celtic. During his time with Treaty, he was preferred on the right side of a front three for his defensive capabilities in aiding his full-back. Keane isn’t the most technically gifted midfielder but his defensive discipline and work rate will be important for Kerry.

Leo Gaxha: The attacker arrived back to Ireland following a spell with Sheffield United and there are big hopes for Gaxha in 2023. He wrote his name into Kerry folklore as he scored the first competitive goal for the county against Bray Wanderers last week and looks to have the dribbling ability and movement to cause trouble for the opposition.

Soccer Scene Prediction: Both Noel and I have predicted a tough season for Kerry FC and expect the Kingdom outfit to finish 10th.

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