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Kids make long-awaited return to sport

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Eamonn Fitzgerald offers some sage advice to the youth of Killarney as GAA academies resume after a lengthy lockdown

They were up this morning waiting for the day when they could join their friends in the academies of the local GAA clubs, learning the skills of hurling, football, camogie, and doing it all with their friends.

It has been a long time for young boys and girls of primary school ages to be denied access to the playing pitches, not just in Killarney and surrounding districts but nationwide, as the government ruled it out based on the health advice from NPHET.

While I agree with the government’s reluctance to give permission to the sports clubs to re-open, I believe that it has been far too conservative a timeline. These young sports-children have been meeting up in big class groups indoors at school since Easter and now they will be operating in smaller pods in the wide expanses of the local GAA pitches and elsewhere.

Neither can it come half soon enough for parents, often demented by their children, who are so full of energy that modern technology will only partly suffice.

PREPARATION

The clubs have been very busy preparing for today's return to play, particularly the workers in the juvenile sections of the clubs.

There is an awful lot of red tape involved in following the protocols so that everyone is safe and endless paper trails to be followed; registering, checking in, sanitising, and getting into pods before the coaches take over. They too have been active during lockdown, mainly through Zoom or Team meetings, completing courses on safeguarding with children and updating their garda vetting status.

Parents or guardians must also play their parts, ensuring their children have individual water bottles with names on them, and while COVID protocols are still in place make the trip to your local club pitch with the mantra of ‘Arrive, Drop, Go and Return to collect’.

It all seems very onerous, but it will work out and everyone will return home safely.

What no one wants is opening up and then lockdown once more.

FIRST DAY OF SUMMER

Today, May 1, is the first day of summer 2021 and best of luck to all those young boys and girls who can’t wait to run on those green fields. For a very small number, it may well be the first steps on the road to glory to wear the coveted green and gold of Kerry. For the majority, it will be the opportunity to sample the games on offer, learn the skills and have fun. Some will progress through the juvenile ranks and go on to spend the best years of their lives proud to represent their clubs at senior level.

Others may sample the GAA, but find out it is not for them and that is perfectly alright too. They may like other sports in Killarney, in other codes and clubs that are well organised and have proud traditions. I think of rowing, Killarney’s oldest sport, soccer, basketball and many more.

My heart goes out to the latter. As I outlined in this column some months ago there is a great tradition and success of basketball in Killarney. The local clubs cater for so many young people and crucially it serves males and females.

As a sport played indoors for the most part, they have a low priority in the eyes of the government in the roll-out of opening up the country. Basketball and several other indoor sports could go ahead quite safely now, following the guidelines.

Juvenile academies start today, but already in action since Monday last are outdoor sports for people up to the age of 18 and for adults tennis and golf, which also got the go-ahead.

SCARAVEEN

The sun is streaming down today as this column goes to print and that splendid good weather spell has been with us for the past 11 days. However, one swallow never made a summer yet, even the few that have returned to Killarney within the past few weeks, but I am mindful of Scaraveen. ‘Scara-what?’ you may well ask.

Many readers may not have heard of that term, but the farmers are mindful by nature and are their own forecasters, ever before the meteorologists inform us on radio or TV.

Scaraveen runs from mid-April to mid-May and is an Anglicised term for Garbh Shíon (rough weather), or, to give it its full title, Scaradh Shíon na gCuach meaning the rough weather of the cuckoos.

The cuckoo winters in sub-Saharan Africa and returns to Europe in early spring. She is a solitary bird, more often heard than seen. The familiar "cuck-oo cuck-oo" call heralds late spring/early summer, when the cuckoo returns to Killarney.

The cuckoo is a parasite, living off the state as it were, but in this case living off of nature. She lays her eggs in the nests of small songbirds with precision timing. Once hatched, the cuckoo chicks eject the true occupants and are then fed by the unsuspecting foster-parents. The cuckoo chick is already a true master of deception.

Folklore has it that Scaraveen is nature's way of exacting retribution on the cuckoo for the havoc she causes in the bird world and that is no piseóg. From about April 15 to May 15, mild spring weather has been known to revert to cold, wet miserable weather, which is more typical of winter. Unfortunately, we all pay the price for the cuckoo's misdeeds. I wonder if any of our readers heard as yet the 2021 ‘cuck-oo’ call in the Killarney area. I must check out the first call of the cuckoo in 2021 with Killarney’s great environmentalists, who are always out and about: Peter O’Toole and Risteárd Clancy.

It was a much-prized claim to fame in our early days in the Old Mon to claim to have heard the cuckoo in The Demesne, Ballycasheen, Woodlawn, or wherever.

How do such connections stray into the stream of consciousness advising parents and young children about the opening up of the academies tomorrow?

In years past academies did not exist in Killarney, but with the lengthening hours of daylight and the long evenings of mid-April onwards, the outdoor games got underway in Killarney, the Half Moon, the Cricket Field, Fossa, Spa, Firies, Glenflesk and elsewhere.

I was fortunate to be a son of a father who encouraged me to go kick a ball with my friends, but there was always one proviso, a nugget of ageless wisdom. Be sure to wear two geansaís and a woolly cap in Scaraveen weather. During Scaraveen you can get the 4 seasons in the one day, rain, storm, hailstone, snow and a false sunshine.

He was a wise man, a man for all seasons and all weathers.

SNOW-CAPPED MOUNTAINS

I well remember the snow-capped Carrantuohill in late April, enticing such great landscape photographers such as Valerie O’Sullivan to capture it all for the newspapers. Nowadays she doesn’t even have to do the long early morning trekking. Drone photography provides the technology, but her trained eagle eye is still necessary to capture that magical unseasonal majestic miracle of nature.

And so it will be for the young ones today, come hell or high water, they won’t mind the Scaraveen weather. All they want is to run out on the verdant green grass of their local pitches and have fun with their friends.

Children are great imitators and the good coaches will know tomorrow that showing the skills in a fun way to the eager boys and girls in the company of their friends will prepare them well for life.

That will be a life of respect for all, encapsulating diversity and inclusivity.

Even if you cannot get the hang of cutting the sliotar from the side-line, dribbling around several players like Messi, or perfecting the punt kick that you had practised endlessly against the back-garden wall during lockdowns, the academies will demonstrate for you the way to shimmy your way to future success, whatever obstacles life puts in your way.

Have fun and hopefully tomorrow the sun will shine brightly.

SCARRED

We are halfways through Scaraveen, mostly sunshine filled, so there must be rain, cold and wind on the way, or even a sprinkling of snow on the mountains. Maybe not such a bad idea to hide the shame and the anger one felt last weekend, when fire, whether started deliberately or accidentally, scarred our beautiful mountains, not to mind the incineration of too many little creatures.

Mindfulness? No. More like needless mindlessness.

 

Main Photo: Firies U11 boys awaiting instructions during their first training session back after the latest COVID-19 lockdown. Pic: Firies GAA.

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Tobin hails Spa teammates following ‘fairytale’ final

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by Adam Moynihan

Spa have been desperate to win Kerry’s Intermediate Club Championship, and earn promotion back to senior level, since 2010 when they were demoted at the first time of asking following their Intermediate final victory the year before.

With the other clubs in the parish (Dr Crokes and the Killarney Legion) operating at senior, and with a strong batch of young players coming through in recent years, returning to the top table as quickly as possible has been the club’s primary target. They came close on a number of occasions in the intervening years, losing three finals between 2012 and 2015.

They finally managed to reach the mountain top on Sunday last and there was one remarkable link between 2009 and their latest triumph. Cian Tobin’s last full season with Spa was in 2009. He then emigrated to London and later Abu Dhabi, before returning to Killarney this year and linking up with his club.

Tobin played a key role for Spa as they broke their hoodoo by defeating Beaufort in last Sunday’s decider at the Fitzgerald Stadium. The skilful corner forward bagged 3-1 in the 4-18 to 1-19 win, a tally which earned him the sponsor’s Man of the Match award.

As far as comebacks go, this one is fairly special. However, amidst all the celebrations, the fact that Tobin missed out on a decade of hard graft and tough losses has not been lost on his colleagues.

“The lads have been giving me an awful slagging this week,” the 30-year-old says with a smile. “They’ve been saying, ‘you are so jammy, you’ve been away for years and you come back and we win it straight away!’

“I missed a lot of the hard work in those winter months. I was joking with them that I was doing the warm weather training for the last 10 years while they were up in Spa in the rain.

“To be fair, I found it easy to fit in when I came back because the young fellas and the management team are outstanding to work with it.”

GOALS

Beaufort, who are relative newcomers to intermediate having won the Junior Premier Championship in 2018, gave as good as they got in the first half of Sunday’s final, but Tobin’s opening goal in the 25th minute came at just the right time for Spa.

“I thought Beaufort were excellent,” Tobin reflects. “I went with Shane Cronin to watch their semi-final (versus Na Gaeil) and I was very impressed. Some of their kicking the last day was outstanding too. There was great forward play. Liam Carey got a point that was an absolutely scandalous score.

“It was tight in the first half until the first goal came. It just fell to me in the right position. I got lucky. Until then it was very close.”

Goals two and three followed in the second half. They were neatly tucked away by Spa’s No. 15, but, to his mind, the credit goes to his teammates for teeing him up.

“Shane Cronin is a machine when he gets going, he’s very hard to stop. He put [the second goal] on a plate for me. I didn’t really have much to do again. But yeah, once that went in there was a bit of daylight. In all our matches we have been pushing on in that third quarter, and that’s when we kind of pulled away again on Sunday.

“The third one was a great turnover by Ciarán Spillane and, again, he put it on a plate for me. It was one of them days… I know someone has to score them but the work was done out the field really.”

Guided by the management team of Ivor Flynn, Kieran Herlihy, Brian Gleeson, Neily Kerins and Arthur Fitzgerald, Spa powered to an eight-point win. Does the manner of their performance perhaps underline the fact that they deserve a crack at senior?

“I think so,” Tobin nods. “Everyone from No. 5 up, bar one, scored. That’s a massive spread of scorers. And then we have the full back line of Brian Lynch, Shane Lynch and Eoin Fitzgerald… In years past maybe we would have had a few weaker spots in the team but I think we’re strong all over the field now.”

INTRODUCTION

The effect COVID-19 has had on the 2020 and 2021 GAA calendars means that the 2020 Intermediate champs now have a rapid turnaround ahead of their long-awaited senior bow. First up is a group phase match against their neighbours and fierce rivals, Dr Crokes, on Sunday.

“Nice introduction, isn’t it?!” Tobin jokes. “That’s where you want to be, though. Playing in those kinds of games in the Fitzgerald Stadium against the club kingpins in Kerry. Now that we’re there, hopefully we can do ourselves justice.

“It means a lot [to be a senior club]. We thought ourselves that we deserved to be there, and we’ve put in the work to be there, we just haven’t always got the rub of the green in recent years. It felt like, ‘are we ever going to get over the line?’

“The feeling at the final whistle on Sunday was just relief more than anything, I think, because we’ve been there so many times.

“Maybe not so much me because I’ve been away, but I think it was three finals we lost, and we lost some close games against Templenoe recently. We always thought we were good enough to get over the line but we just hadn’t been doing it.

“To be honest, it was fairytale stuff for me.”

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Late drama at exciting Celtic Golf Classic

The last team out at the Killarney Celtic Golf Classic carded 106 points to overtake all who went before at an entertaining fundraiser staged over two days at the pristine Beaufort Golf Club. From Friday to late Saturday afternoon, the imposing tally of 101 points registered by the O’Donoghue Ring Hotel Group team of James […]

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The last team out at the Killarney Celtic Golf Classic carded 106 points to overtake all who went before at an entertaining fundraiser staged over two days at the pristine Beaufort Golf Club.

From Friday to late Saturday afternoon, the imposing tally of 101 points registered by the O’Donoghue Ring Hotel Group team of James McCarthy, Brian McCarthy, Cian Harte and Gavin Murray looked like being a winning one. The got a scare when the Spa GAA team almost caught them; Seánie Kelliher, Donal Cronin, John Cahill and Seán Devane ultimately carded a great score of 100 points to go second.

With the O’Donoghue Ring Hotel Group quartet hanging on for victory, it was all down to Kissane Meats and Pat O’Neill, John England, Tony Sugrue and Donie Brosnan snatched first place by hitting a weekend high of 106 points.

The Nearest to the Pin was won by Aaron Jones of the Dawn Meats team while the Longest Drive came from the club of Mark O’Shea who was representing Tom Meehan’s team.

Speaking at the prizegiving, Killarney Celtic Vice Chairman Paul Sherry thanked all involved for contributing to another hugely successful fundraising day for the club.

“Killarney Celtic is indebted to its members who volunteered over the two days,” he said, “to those who sponsored the prizes, entered teams, took signs, provided the fruit and chocolate and of course, most importantly, played on Friday and Saturday.
“We also must thank the staff at Beaufort, both working on the course and those in the clubhouse.

“A sign of a good golf classic is the number of returning teams and sponsors and already a number have committed to join us again in August/September 2022.”

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