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Kerry diaspora doing things the Kerry way

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by Eamonn Fitzgerald

In Part 1 of his exploration into the GAA abroad, Eamonn Fitzgerald tells the story of Kerry Middle East, the Dubai club with strong Killarney connections.

Tomorrow Austin Park, Tralee will be packed to capacity with Kerry and Dublin supporters as the age-old rivalry between the Jackeens and the Culchies will be played out under lights. Jack O’Connor and Dessie O’Farrell will be keen to garner league points, while the spectators will look for even more, especially the bragging rights.

Nothing less than a win tomorrow will appease the supporters, who look to Jack on his third coming to deliver Sam. Jack eile did it when Ireland held its breath during the golden Charlton years. These past number of years have been annoying and frustrating for Kerry, knowing they should have won at least two more All-Irelands. Some of it was our own fault.

Will tomorrow night’s game on home soil provide credence to the high hopes that the famine will be overcome in July?

DUBAI

At home, spectators will wonder, but so too will the Kerry diaspora. Where better to start than in Dubai where the green and gold of Kerry is featuring so prominently. Kerry Middle East (KME) is the name of the newest club founded in 2018 and there is a strong Killarney connection.

Galen Carroll, Jamie Wrenn and David Leacy grew up together in Woodlawn. They attended the local primary and post-primary schools and had the benefits of third level education. Like so many others, they played games. All three Woodlawners loved sport, but they left it all and settled in Dubai.

Of course, most people have family members or friends who emigrated over the years. Now the big attraction is not the Bronx or Kilburn. It’s Sydney and increasingly so Dubai.

The main differences between emigration of over a century ago and that of the present day is that the young Irish of today are highly educated and most of them are graduates with academic degrees. Secondly, many are not leaving Ireland because they have no job. Unemployment was 5% prior to COVID; it has grown these past few years to 7% - still way better than other eras when it approached 20%.

Everywhere the Irish went they took with them their native customs: their music, culture and sport, predominantly Gaelic games, and that has hardly changed over the past 100-plus years. So now, instead of Gaelic Park in New York or McGovern Park, Ruislip, the music, songs and games are thriving in places like Dubai.

The GAA has an international section to deal with overseas and of course Larry McCarthy the President of the GAA emigrated to New York, but has relocated to Ireland for the duration of his term of office.

Kerry Middle East play their games as part of the Middle East GAA club circuit, somewhat like our county board, and it has 16 clubs in its remit across the Gulf Area, mainly in the United Arab Emirates.

Notwithstanding the strong Kerry base, KME are extremely proud to have players from all four provinces as well as the United States and the UK, welcoming people of all backgrounds and skill levels. It is an inclusive club with a strong focus on enjoyment and the social aspect of club membership.

It’s a win-win for members who join KME club, who are one of the only GAA clubs worldwide that do not charge a membership fee. They provide all players with match jerseys. They train one night a week and members only pay for individual training sessions on a “pay as you play” basis.

THE KERRY WAY

Interestingly, this fledgling club aims to train and play "The Kerry Way" with an emphasis on skill development and total football. Many Kerry supporters will be delighted with that and will wonder what other elements must be included in The Kerry Way, the fast highway to title No. 38 in Croke Park.

If KME keep that up, will we see the day when an immigrant MEK player will be flown home for a weekend to slot straight into the Kerry team, having played in Dubai?

KME  had their first tournament game last weekend in temperatures of around 25 degrees. We would term that a heatwave in Ireland. The temperature at the Kerry v Dublin game tomorrow night will be about 4 degrees. Brrr!

Dubai is mostly of the Muslin religion so match/tournament days are usually on Saturday/Sunday to avoid the Muslim Sabbath, which is Friday.

KME have set out their stall with lofty aims. They do not confine membership to Kerry women and men.

With the ever increasing number of young Irish women and men emigrating to the UAE, it  doesn’t surprise me in the least that there are more women playing GAA in the UAE than men, because most of the expats there are teachers and here in Ireland the profession is dominated by females.

There are 35,518 female teachers in national schools and just 6,494 male teachers. At post-primary level there are 15,367 female teachers and 6,991 males.

Too many of the talented teaching graduates find it difficult to be appointed to a permanent teaching post after graduating in Ireland so a significant number emigrate, especially to places such as Dubai, an exciting city in the UAE.

As of December 2021, the Middle East GAA has 1,478 Irish members and a further 199 from other nationalities. Breaking the Irish members down further there are 710 playing ladies football, 23 in camogie and 129 dual players. Compare that to the cohort of active male members: out of a total of 775 players, 549 play football and 117 play hurling. There are 109 dual players.

Does it surprise you in light of the statistics shown above that the top occupations of the immigrants are 1,318 for teaching? And you can be sure that the majority of these are females. IT/professional services/sales (89), engineering and construction (59), banking and finance (39), healthcare (38) account for the rest.

The top 3 home counties of these Irish are Cork (90), Kerry (60), and Dublin (54). Is it any wonder that the drain on Kerry GAA players, male and female, to the Middle East and elsewhere, makes it hard to compete with the Dubs?

It has a population of well over a million, making those five-or-six-in-a-rows extra hard to achieve for Kerry and other counties. Food for thought for Kerry sport and indeed for our politicians.

But enough statistics for this week. Part 2 of GAA in Dubai and elsewhere in our next edition on February 11.

Idir an dá linn I expect Kerry to beat Dublin tomorrow night even without the service as of their most valuable defender Gavin White. He will be lucky if the mighty physio Jimmy Galvin has that hamstring injury cleared up by Round 3 of the National League.

ALL-IRELAND FINALS

Best of luck to Kilmoyley hurlers in their bid for a first ever All-Ireland club title. The same goes for Gneeveguilla in Croke Park. Four goals in the first half of last weekend's semi-final showed what the Sliabh Luachra men are capable of. But tabhair aire. Rosie did climb those hallowed steps for Sam. So, too, can you, but All-Ireland finals are never easy to win.

The cows may not be milked for days if you do it. Give Tim Joe and Jimmy O’Brien a reason to take out the rosary beads. Prayer does work. Good luck.

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Glorious weather for Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships

It was a day of glorious sunshine yesterday (Sunday) as Flesk Valley Rowing Club hosted the 2022 Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships for the very first time in beautiful Castlelough […]

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It was a day of glorious sunshine yesterday (Sunday) as Flesk Valley Rowing Club hosted the 2022 Kerry County Coastal Rowing championships for the very first time in beautiful Castlelough Bay on Lough Lein.

Hundreds flocked to the Valley shore to see the coastal clubs of Kerry race in crews from Under 12 to Masters. As well as clubs from around the Ring of Kerry, there was a strong representation from the Killarney clubs with the Workmen, Commercials and Fossa wearing their colours with pride. The atmosphere, colour, fun and fierce competition produced a spectacular day that will live long in the memory.

The event was opened by the Councillor John O’Donoghue, vice chair of the Killarney Municipal District who congratulated Flesk Valley on their centenary, which occurred during 1920, and wished all of the clubs a successful day’s racing.

The first race was preceded by a special blessing of the boats by Fr Eugene McGillycuddy, who also remembered Brendan Teahan of Cromane Rowing Club in his prayers.

Afterwards John Fleming, chair of Flesk Valley, expressed his immense pride and satisfaction with the success of the regatta.

“It’s our first time ever hosting a regatta, but we wanted to do something special to mark our 102 years in existence,” he said.

“It was a lot of work, but we have a fantastic hard-working committee in Flesk Valley who really pulled out all the stops to make it happen, and we received fantastic support from our members, parents, other clubs and local businesses.”

John also thanked the Kerry Coastal Rowing Association, in particular Mary B Teahan and Andrew Wharton, and the staff of the Killarney National Park for all their support and encouragement in hosting this event.

This was a qualifying event and the Kerry clubs will be heading to Wexford next weekend to complete for honours at the All-Ireland Coastal Rowing Championships.

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Live referee mics should be the norm – swearing concerns be damned

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by Adam Moynihan

I was disappointed to learn that the GAA are preventing TG4 from using their live referee mic in this Sunday’s Wexford hurling final.

(And not just because I had already written an article saying how great live referee mics are and how they are sure to be implemented across the board. Ctrl + A. Delete.)

TG4’s GAA coverage is superb and they raised the bar once again when they mic’d up referee John O’Halloran for the Kerry hurling final between Causeway and Ballyduff.

Pinning a microphone on the referee is standard practice in televised rugby and judging by the positive response to Gaelic games’ first foray into this territory, I was expecting it to become the norm.

It still might but, explaining their decision to The 42, the GAA said that they were not aware beforehand of the ref mic being trialled in Stack Park on Sunday.

“They believe such a development will require more discussion and education if it is to be implemented on a more regular basis in live TV coverage and could possibly need a policy change,” Fintan O’Toole reported.

The image of the Association is surely the primary concern here.

Players and managers – usually the worst behaved participants when it comes to things like swearing – will be among those who get “educated” on the subject. Some verbal abuse that might otherwise be muted for television viewers will, in all likelihood, be picked up by the referee’s microphone. You would imagine that the teams involved will be reminded of this the week of a televised game.

It also makes sense from Croke Park’s point of view to speak to referees and give them guidance on how to conduct themselves when the mic is on.

In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if senior GAA figures are currently fretting over the possibility of an agitated ref making headlines for something they say in the heat of the moment. And make no mistake about it, some match officials can eff and jeff with the best of them.

A friend of mine (a Wexford man, funnily enough) recalls an incident when a teammate was unceremoniously taken out of it by an opponent.

“Ah ref, for f***’s sake!” the victim complained.

“I gave you the f***ing free,” the referee replied. “What do you want me to do, slap him in the face with a wet fish?!”

The GAA might think that a referee swearing like that would leave all of us red-faced. In reality the clip would be a viral sensation and the general public would probably call for the official in question to run for Áras an Uachtárain. (He’d get my ****ing vote.)

The odd swear word from someone involved is bound to sneak through every now and then but you’d hear the same – and plenty more – at any match you attend from Cahersiveen to County Antrim.

Implementing the referee mic on a wider scale is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t appear to take a huge amount of effort or expense for the broadcaster to set it up and, more importantly, it offers a wonderful insight into the unknown.

Listening to referees explain their decisions in real time will clear a lot of things up for commentators, analysts and the media. We will no longer have to speculate about what they did or did not see, or what specific rule is being cited, or why.

Viewers, especially those who might be casual followers of the sport, will appreciate it too and become more educated; I know that’s how I feel when I watch rugby, for example.

It just leads to greater transparency and understanding.

Well done to TG4 and the Kerry County Board for being the pioneers. I’m sure others will follow their lead – as soon as the GAA allow them to do so.

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