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Kingdom ‘phenomenon’ Luke Crowley shining in both codes as he looks to help Kerry to U-20 football final


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Crowley was playing in Croke Park in the biggest spectacle for secondary school football but he might as well have been out in the back garden as he nonchalantly rolled the ball behind his back before hopping it out in front.

It was a clip that went viral, with many saying the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and it was clearly a sign of things to come. In an era where many reckon individual flair is being coached out of the game, he still shines bright.

Crowley, son of Kerry’s three-time All-Ireland SFC winner Johnny, has added plenty more to his highlights reel in the meantime, with two crucial points in Kerry’s Munster U-20FC final victory over Cork last year.

He also bagged the all-important goal, when again introduced off the bench, as East Kerry successfully defended the Kerry SFC title last year, and they are just some of his big-ball exploits.

To paraphrase the legendary Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, his native Glenflesk is not a hurling stronghold, to say the least, but his passion for the small ball has allowed him to break the mould.

Not only is the 19-year-old lining out at corner-forward for the Kerry U-20s in today’s All-Ireland semi-final against Meath but he is also juggling commitments with the Kerry senior hurlers.

He plies his club hurling trade some 15km away with Rathmore, with whom he fired over 0-14 (0-7 from play) in last year’s Kerry JHC triumph, and he is an integral part of Stephen Molumphy’s Kingdom plans.

Molumphy describes a player with “no fear” and he only knows one direction to go, and that’s forward, while U-20 football boss Tomás Ó Sé lauds a “very direct” style of forward who complements their team ethos.

That comes as no surprise to those who have helped to shape his career, with Glenflesk chairman Jerry Mullane, who has coached him at club and district level the whole way through the underage ranks, branding him a “phenomenon”.

“I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him develop from a very young age and he has always been full-on, high intensity. He’s a terror on any defenders coming out with a ball,” Mullane explains.

“His work-rate is off the charts. If you look at his stats in any games, he’ll be top of the pile in terms of possessions, maybe to a fault in a way because he takes on an awful lot himself, but his results are proof that he knows what he’s doing.

“He’s always someone you’d want in your locker. He’s totally unpredictable, which is a lot of what is great about him. There’s all these systems now trying to combat the normal kinds of forward but that never seems to work with him.

“He always seems to find a way and there are numerous examples over the years of him changing the course of big games. I couldn’t speak highly enough about him. The sort of live-wire you see on the pitch, he’s quite reserved off the field and it’s like chalk and cheese really.”

Crowley, a fresher in UCD, is definitely taking the road less travelled in south Kerry when it comes to his hurling talents, and the small ball is firmly the main priority in his mind at the minute.

“If you’re to listen to him certainly, that’s the vibe anyway,” Mullane says. “Here in Glenflesk obviously we’d prefer if he modified that position but whatever floats his boat.

“You’d often see him down in the pitch there and some nights he’d have a bag of balls, another night he’d have a bunch of sliotars and a hurley depending on what he’s training for.”

Limerick native David O’Dea worked as a hurling development officer in south Kerry during Crowley’s primary school years and he views his rise as a huge success against the grain.

“Unfortunately, hurling loses out to football in Kerry when a choice has to be made between the two so it’s a huge boost to see a fella like Luke actually make it on to a Kerry panel coming from that area,” O’Dea says.

They say there’s no rest for the wicked but there’s certainly no rest for the wickedly talented like Crowley, who is in his final year at the U-20 grade, amid a taxing schedule.

He has featured in seven championship games since April 10 – four football and three hurling – with Mullane insisting the explosive attacker is “bucking the trend” for dual players.

Should Kerry defeat the Royals today in Semple Stadium, Crowley could face a difficult choice the following week with the U-20 All-Ireland decider fixed for Saturday and Kerry’s crucial Joe McDonagh Cup tie against Offaly a day later.

It’s tough at the top but that’s the hectic life of a modern-day dual star.

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